New Delhi: In a major twist in the Kerala nun rape case, Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, a key witness in the case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, was found dead in Punjab’s Jalandhar, news agency ANI reported on Monday. However, the exact cause of his death was unknown.  According to media reports, Father Kuriakose’s family suspected foul play in his death.

Dasuya DSP AR Sharma said, “He used to live at St. Paul’s Church in Dasuya. He was found dead there. He was 62. The matter will be investigated. I have been informed that no injuries have been found.”

Reportedly, his family said that they had received a call from Father Michael Annikuzhikatil in Jalandhar informing them about his death. The family is currently in Kerala and last spoke to Kuriakose about two weeks ago.

Sharma said, “It was found that he vomitted over the bed. Blood pressure tablets were found at the spot. Investigation is underway. In our notice, no security was provided to him.”

It is to be noted here that Father Kuriakose had given a statement against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the accused in the Kerala nun abuse case.  Father Kuriakose had alleged that he was under severe pressure by church officials for his support to the nun.

On October 15, the Kerala High Court granted conditional bail to Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was arrested on charges of raping a nun between 2014 and 2016. The court has laid down the conditions that Bishop Mulakkal should not enter Kerala and should surrender his passport before the court. Mulakkal, who heads the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, Punjab, is the first bishop in the country to be sent to jail on charges of rape and since then he has been getting a steady stream of high profile visitors including leading politicians.

He was arrested on September 21 in Tripunithura after three days of questioning. On September 23, he was taken to the Kuravilangadu Convent, the alleged crime scene, as a part of the evidence-collection process.

On October 3, the Kerala High Court denied Mulakkal’s bail plea. The court accepted the prosecution argued that the accused, holding a high position in society will try to influence witnesses in the case if granted bail. Police had also opposed the bail application of the clergyman, saying the investigation was still on in the case.

On October 6, Mulakkal was produced before Judge M. Lekshmi of the Pala Judicial Magisterial Court who extended his judicial custody. The entire court proceedings took a matter of five minutes. Mulakkal informed the court that he has no issues with the Pala sub-jail, where he was kept ever since he was remanded.

In her complaint to the Kottayam Police in June, the nun had alleged that Bishop Mulakkal raped her at a guest house in Kuravilangad in May 2014 and later sexually exploited her on several occasions. The nun said she had to approach the police as church authorities did not act on her repeated complaints against the clergyman.

However, Mulakkal had dismissed the allegations saying that the nuns are being used by the anti-church elements. “I feel there are people who are against the church, they’re using these sisters. This is a conspiracy and several people are taking advantage of the situation, they are putting sisters at the forefront,” Franco Mulakkal had said.