Missing priest found dead in well of Kottayam church

Fr George Ettuparayil
Rev Fr George Ettuparayil, 55, the vicar of the St Thomas Church (Vellapally Church) in Punnathura was reported missing on Sunday evening.
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Kottayam: The body of a Catholic priest who went missing from Ayarkunnam in Kottayam district was found in the parish well on Monday.

Fr George Ettuparayil, 55, the vicar of the St Thomas Church at Punnathura locality was reported missing on Sunday evening. The body was fished out from the well by fire service personnel and divers.

The priest was last seen outside on Sunday afternoon, according to eyewitnesses.

While police said they suspected it to be a case of suicide, the Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church said the priest had hypertension and was under severe stress after some people were injured in a fire in the church compound a few days ago.

Police said the parishioners had conducted a search before lodging a missing person complaint.

They said that the priest, belonging to the Changanassery archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, had assumed charge as vicar in February this year and had been staying in a nearby presbytery.

A senior police officer said initial investigations suggested that it was a case of suicide. However, the exact cause of death would be known only after the post-mortem, he told PTI.

A case of unnatural death has been registered, he said.

In a statement, the Changanassery archdiocese said it would extend all cooperation to the police in their probe.

Expressing deep condolence over the "unnatural death" of Fr George Ettuparayil, the Archdiocese said he was hypertensive and had been under severe stress after some people were injured in a fire at the church compound a few days ago.

Police have recovered CCTV visuals, which shows the priest walking around the church premises till 10.50 am on Sunday. The door to his room was found unlocked.

However, there were no visuals beyond that time as the camera was switched off.

His mobile phone was also switched off and it was found on the table in his room, police said.

Ayarkunnam village is about 12 km from Kottayam town.

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