Thiruvananthapuram: The mysterious disappearance of college student Jesna Maria James in 2018 has perplexed investigators as well as the people in Kerala. Presently, the case is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The CBI took over the search for Jesna, who was 21 years old when she went missing, based on an order of the Kerala High Court. The court had directed the CBI to take up the case after Jesna’s brother Jaice John and president of the pro-Congress Kerala Students’ Union (KSU) K M Abhijith moved a plea in this regard citing the failure of the Kerala Police in tracing Jesna.
However, it is a fact that the Kerala Police had achieved significant progress in the investigation, especially during the term of K G Simon as Superintendent of Police, Pathanamthitta. Among the major findings of the police was that Jesna had left her house at Santhosh Kavala, Kollamula in Pathanamthitta based on a well-charted-out plan.
The route map
Jesna, the youngest among the three children of Fancy and James Joseph, was a second year BCom student at St Dominic’s College, Kanjirappally.
She left her house at Kollamula on March 22, 2018 around 9 am and was reportedly heading to the house of a relative at Punchavayal in Mundakayam. From Kollamula, she took an auto-rickshaw and later boarded a bus to Erumeli. From the Erumeli bus stand, she apparently took a bus to Mundakayam. She apparently spoke to the fellow passengers en route to Mundakkayam. Though the police probe reached Chennai in search of Jesna there was no headway. There has been no trace of Jesna ever since.
When Jesna's father notified the Erumeli police station about the matter, he was asked to approach the Vechuchira station. Though the police had promised to forward the complaint, they failed to do so. The Vechuchira police was disinterested in the case right from the start. They insisted that the girl eloped and that she would return home in a few days. Jesna's relatives allege that the police began a proper investigation only after two weeks of receiving the complaint.
Recreating the route
When police officers recreated her travel path, they found that she was following a plan. For instance, Jesna avoided a relative she saw on the way. Some acquaintances too had noticed her, but Jesna ignored them.
Currently, rumours are circulating that Jesna is living in Syria. It is against this background that a senior police officer told Manorama Online that some planning had taken place before her mysterious trip.
Jesna's relatives had obtained CCTV visuals of Jesna seated at 'Sivaganga' bank in Kannimala, Mundakkayam almost a week after she went missing. CCTV visuals obtained from a house in the area also suggested Jesna's presence there. However, the police were unable o confirm if the girl in the visuals was indeed Jesna. In fact, the police has gathered no evidence to confirm that Jesna reached Mundakkayam.
Though rumors were circulated that CCTV visuals from Mundakkayam bus stand showed a girl similar to Jesna, the probe in this direction hit a dead end. In the visuals, two persons can be seen accompanying the girl. The source of these visuals have not been traced yet.
Jesna had five friends with whom she spoke every day. One among them was a boy, who was also a classmate. The police interrogated this youth several times, but there was no headway. The police also took statements from other passengers who had travelled on the bus she had boarded. Some clues were obtained that Jesna had travelled to Chennai from Mundakkayam. Soon, the Kerala Police reached Chennai and launched a search. However, the probe was stalled following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Investigation hits dead-end
After KG Simon, who had cracked the infamous Koodathayi serial murders, took over the case, scientific methods were employed by the police to search for Jesna. Initially, the police analysed Jesna’s regular habits; then spoke to her relatives, classmates and friends and subsequently examined whether she had left home on her own or with the help of someone else. Another curious aspect of the case was that Jesna had left her mobile at her house when she disappeared.
The police had installed boxes at public places to gather information about Jesna. The police questioned 300 individuals and recorded statements of 150 based on the clues in these boxes,. The Kerala Police offered a reward of Rs 2 lakhs for those who find Jesna. The sum was later raised to Rs 5 lakh.
Wit the help of cyber experts, the Police traced thousands of calls.
Following the ruckus in the Kerala assembly, the investigation charge was handed over to the Thiruvalla DySp. The special investigation team under IG Manoj Abraham could make no significant headway. The case was later transferred to Pathanamthitta Crime Branch DySp.
A special team under KG Simon IPS was the last to investigate the Jesna missing case.
Tomin J Thachankary, chief of the Crime Branch, had commented when Simon was in charge of the case: “The pandemic broke out when the investigation was proceeding smoothly. We had confirmed whether Jesna was alive or not. The vehicle that Jesna took was also identified. However, the restrictions that came into effect due to COVID-19 affected further investigation. We could not travel to other states.”