Before 'cyanide Jolly', Lucy wielded an axe 5 decades ago

Jolly's crimes not unprecedented. Here's what Kerala's first woman serial killer Lucy did
Lucy and Jolly

Jolly Joseph's reported confessions that she had poisoned her husband and five others in the family have brought back disturbing memories from Kerala police records. Lucy, who hailed from Idukki like Jolly, became the first woman in the state to be convicted of a heinous crime after she murdered her husband and four children including her own 51 years ago.

Lucy used an axe, a knife and a crowbar to kill her victims. She had hid four bodies in a haystack and packed the body of her one-year-old daughter in a travel bag and taken it to a church when the police caught up with her. Lucy, who was 32 years old at the time of the crimes, was sentenced to be hanged but the punishment was later commuted to life imprisonment. After serving the term, she found herself ostracised in society. Last heard, she had taken refuge in an orphanage in central Kerala. Nobody knows her whereabouts after that.

The horror unfolded on February 9, 1968. Lucy walked up to a church at Purappuzha near Thodupuzha in the morning with a travel bag and asked the parish priest to offer a mass for the dead. When she took out the mass fee of Rs 4.25 from her purse stacked with currency notes, the priest asked her why she was carrying so much money. She said that she had to because there was no one at home. She said that her husband was ill and gone to a hospital. She left the bag at the church and told the priest not to open it. She gave him the key though.

Once she left, the suspicious priest got a helper to open the bag. They found the body of a girl squeezed into the bag, covered in talcum powder. It was Lucy's younger daughter, Bina. The priest informed the Thodupuzha police.

Lucy had killed her husband Joseph, the headmaster of the local school and his children from the first marriage and her own son in addition to Bina. The gruesome murders started on February 7 when Joseph returned from a school picnic to Malampuzha. He had taken along Pius, his son with Lucy who would also be killed that day. He had four children each from his two marriages. He had completed hardly seven months as the headmaster of the St Sebastian's upper primary school at Purappuzha.

When Joseph did not turn up at the school after the picnic, a staffer visited his house to ask about him. Lucy just handed over the keys of the school building to the staffer. The next day, the school manager and the other teachers found the house empty. They later found the bodies of Joseph and three of his sons in a haystack. Joseph was 55 years old. The three boys were aged 16, 11 and 7. The 7-year-old Pius was Lucy's own son. Two of the boys were likely killed earlier.

Lucy later told the police that she disliked her husband and his children from the previous marriage. She was peeved that her husband and his brother had tried to rob her of her dowry. Apparently the issue had led to a scuffle in the family, in which Lucy's brother was beaten up. She told the court that her husband used to beat her up at the behest of his brother.

Joseph's body was hacked 10 times. His head was smashed in with a blunt weapon. Pius was killed with a sharp weapon. Bina succumbed to a fall from a ladder, Lucy told the police.

She had burned the blood-stained clothes and mats and washed the axe and other weapons clean. She squeezed out the scented juice of a locally available root and sprayed it all over the house to conceal the smell of blood.

Lucy was awarded capital punishment by Ernakulam sessions judge P A Mohiyuddeen on August 22. Her brother, Joy, the second accused, was acquitted for want of evidence. The court order said that Lucy brutally killed five people with help from unknown persons. As many as 54 witnesses testified before the court, including the parish priest.

Though there were no eyewitnesses in the case, the court said that circumstantial evidences abounded to prove the guilt of the accused. The court blamed the police for not conducting a speedy, orderly and scientific inquiry.

Lucy's sentence was reduced to life imprisonment on appeal. When she got out of jail after serving her term, she was not welcome in the family. Broken by the prison stay and the social isolation, she took refuge in an orphanage. Then she vanished.