Plot of 6 cyanide deaths revealed? Woman, who 'poisoned' hubby, in-laws for property, in police net

Koodathay family death
(L) The probe team exhuming the mortal remains of the family members at the St Mary's Forane Church, Kodenchery, and Lourde Matha Church, Koodathay, on Friday. Jolly Thomas, wife of late Roy Thomas, who was taken into custody.

Kozhikode: The mysterious deaths of six members of a family at Koodathayi in Kerala's Kozhikode district took a new turn on Saturday with the police taking into custody a couple, who are close relatives of the deceased, and the woman's kin who allegedly supplied cyanide to her.

Jolly Thomas, wife of Roy Thomas, who died in 2011, is being questioned by the probe team in connection with the suspected murders of the six people. Jolly's second husband and Roy's cousin Shaju Skaria, was also taken into custody on Saturday.

The other detained youth is also a close relative of Jolly and he was earlier employed with a jewellery, from where he allegedly got cyanide. (Goldsmiths use cyanide to extract the yellow metal). The case hit headlines due to the eerie similarities of all the six deaths in a span of 14 years. Retired educational department officer P Tom Thomas, 66, his wife Annamma, 57, son Roy Thomas, 40, Tom's brother's daughter-in-law Sily Shaju, 44, her 2-year-old daughter Alphine, and Annamma's brother Mathew Manjadiyil, 68, had died under mysterious circumstances during the period from 2002 to 2016.

Foul play was suspected after a part of the family property was allegedly grabbed by Jolly over a fake will.

The case came to light after Tom's second son and Roy's brother Rojo, who is settled in the USA, filed a complaint to the police, alleging foul play after the property was taken over by Jolly.

The probe team on Friday exhumed all the bodies for a re-examination to confirm whether they were poisoned. The cops picked the graves of Sily and her daughter first because they were the most recent deaths (Alphine in 2014 and Sily in 2016).

Koodathay family death
The probe team on Friday exhumed the mortal remains of two of the members for examination.

After the death of her relatives, Jolly allegedly tried to fabricate a fake will and take over the property. This prompted the police to make inquiries and asked her to undergo a lie-detector test. She refused and the police decided to exhume the bodies to get scientific evidence. Allegations have also risen that attempts were made to dissuade Rojo from filing a complaint. Rojo and Jolly had apparently sorted out the property dispute after negotiations.

The police had earlier said the presence of Jolly was noted at the time of the all the six deaths.

Koodathay family death
Sily Shaju, Alphine and Jolly.

Jolly's marriage with Shaju, first cousin of Roy (Tom's brother's son) and husband of Sily, also raised suspicion.

Traces of cyanide were found in the body Roy. A probe later led to the other five deaths in the family. All the deceased had complained of uneasiness and fell unconscious before breathing their last.

Police had stated that all of them collapsed after having their food.

Koodathay family death
The cemetery where the members of Ponnamattam family were buried (R). Tom Thomas's house in Koodathay (R).

Retired teacher Annamma had died first in 2002 after having mutton soup. Her son Roy Thomas had also died after having food in 2011. The family said that Roy had died of heart attack. During an examination at a private hospital, traces of poison were found. However, the family suspecting it to be a case of suicide, did not reveal it to anyone fearing disrepute to the family.

Annamma's husband Tom Thomas died in 2008. Her brother Mathew died in 2014 and then Sily's daughter in the same year. Sily died in 2016.

Graves opened

The graves at St Mary's Forane Church, Kodenchery, and Lourde Matha Church, Koodathay, were opened on Friday.

"It needs to be ascertained whether the poison entered their body through food, leading to the death. That’s why the bodies were exhumed and mortal remains sent for tests. The forensic test results would shed more light on this," the police said.

Koodathay family death
The graves at the St Mary's Forane Church, Kodenchery, and Lourde Matha Church, Koodathay, were opened on Friday.

Vatakara rural SP K G Simon and team arrived at the graveyard of St Mary's Forane Church by 10am on Friday and a team, comprising forensic experts and doctors, opened the graves.

The graves of Sily and toddler daughter were opened first. Within an hour, they collected the non-decomposed mortal remains of Sily and her daughter.

Both the police and forensic experts examined the remains.

The Crime Branch and the team then headed to the Lourde Matha Church in Koodathai by 11:40am and the graves of the other four were also opened and checked. Their relatives and people's representatives were also present when the graves were opened.

The Crime Branch has already collected crucial pieces of evidence, the officers said.

Timeline of the deaths

Six members of the family, including a two-year-old girl, had died in a span of 14 years between 2002 to 2016 in Koodathayi village in Kerala's Kozhikode district.

1) Annama Thomas, 57. Dies on August 22, 2002

A retired schoolteacher, Annamma collapsed after consuming mutton soup. She was foaming at the mouth and died before reaching hospital.

2) Tom Thomas Ponnamattom, 66. Dies on August 26, 2008

After consuming mashed tapioca, Tom Thomas vomited and collapsed. His son Roy's wife Jolly was the only person in the house at the time. Neighbours, who rushed to help hearing the cries of Jolly, found Tom lying on the floor and foaming at the mouth. They took him to hospital, but he died on the way.

3) Roy Thomas, 40. Dies on September 9, 2011.

He had food soo after returning home and rushed to the washroom, where he vomited and collapsed. At the time, his wife Jolly and daughter were the only ones with him in the house. Neighbours broke the washroom door to take him out. He died before reaching hospital. Autopsy report says there were traces of cyanide in the body.

4) M M Mathew, 68. Dies on February 24, 2014.

He was alone at his home (since his wife had left home after she raised suspicion over the death of Roy) as he died. At 3:30 pm that day, he collapsed. Jolly, who stays nearby, alerted neighbours who found Mathew lying on the floor and frothing at the mouth. He died before reaching hospital.

5) Alphine Shaju, 2. Dies on May 3, 2014

She consumed meat and bread on the day of her brother's holy communion and lost consciousness. She was taken to a private hospital nearby and later to another private hospital in Kozhikode. She died on the third day.

6) Sily Shaju, 44. Dies on January 11, 2016.

Sily, mother of late Alphine Shaju, had reached Thamarasserry along with Jolly after attending a relative's marriage. Her husband Shaju also soon reached there. In the evening, Shaju went to see a dentist along with the two women and their children. When Shaju went inside to see the doctor, Jolly and Sily waited outside on the veranda. Meanwhile, Sily's brother came to see them. Soon, Sily collapsed into Jolly's lap. She was frothing at the mouth and died before reaching hospital.

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