Jolly Joseph stood stone-faced in the dock. She wasn’t exactly defiant, but neither did she bother to reply when the magistrate asked her whether she had anything to say about impending police custody.
On Thursday, when she entered the court room braving an angry crowd which jeered and heckled her, she betrayed no emotion. When she left the court premises, her demeanour was the same.
This was not the Jolly the people of Koodathayi had known for years. The vivacious and godfearing woman who had charmed the people of the small village has now been exposed as a serial killer, whose role in six murders in her family are being investigated. The once-gullible villagers are shocked and incredulous, as fresh revelations of her criminal exploits emerged by the hour.
Her regular visits to church, her apparent piety at prayer meets, the way she bonded with her extended family and neighbours, and, most importantly, her ‘prestigious’ job at the NITC had made Jolly an object of admiration in Koodathayi. “Initially, the women in our area are in a state of disbelief. Some of them wept openly, while others were on the verge of breaking down on hearing about Jolly’s arrest,” says Sanju Devassia Koodathayi. Sanju is voicing the trauma of all those who had trusted Jolly for over two decades.
Though the police had grilled nearly 200 persons in the locality before taking Jolly into custody none shared the details to others, probably because of their trust in her, Sanju believes.
Nobody in Koodathayi ever had any suspicion about the ‘split personality’ of the daughter inlaw of ‘Ponnamattam’, one of the most respected families in the area. “Annamma teacher and Tom sir were respected by all and were very kind to the poor and the needy. Both were proud of their daughter in-law and shared a warm bonding with her,” says A K Basheer, a neighbour. “We are not in a state to trust anyone now, as our idea about a good human being has been shattered completely,” he adds.
Everything changed suddenly when the police on October 5 disclosed details of five murders and other criminal offences by Jolly. The concern and anxiety of the villagers turned into fury as news of the murders, including that of a 2-year-old girl child in 2014, appeared in the media.
For the people of Koodathayi, Jolly, who was almost an angelic figure, is now an embodiment of evil. “How could a woman ever do such heinous crimes, especially to a family that treated her as their own daughter,” asks Ansar Koodathayi. “She should get deserving punishment and for cheating all of us all these years.”
The police, who initially began a probe into Jolly’s illegal land dealings, were intrigued by her brilliance in handling adverse situations. “We had probed the land transactions she did to procure the property of Tom Thomas. But we were astonished to find that Jolly was following our own investigation meticulously,” says a police officer in the Special Investigation Team. “She is extraordinary intelligent and was careful in answering our questions. We realised that Jolly had consulted a criminal lawyer on how to counter her interrogators. Jolly evaded uncomfortable queries by saying that she does not remember the particular point,” the officer, who requested anonymity, says. Police believe that Jolly has refused to undergo polygraph test and narco-analysis following the advice of her lawyer.
There are still many loose ends. Cops are yet to find out how Jolly, a commerce graduate, got access to NITC and how she could hoodwink everyone that she was a faculty at the prestigious institution. Police suspect that there is a place near NITC from where Jolly carried out her clandestine operations.
Jolly reportedly had an uncanny ability to influence people from different walks of life, ranging from government officials to local politicians. Imbichi Moideen, local unit president of IUML, has admitted that he had unsuccessfully tried to pay the land tax of Jolly’s disputed property and had personally borrowed Rs 50,000 from her. K Manoj, Kattangal local secretary of CPM, was removed from the party for his financial transactions with Jolly. Jayasree, the deputy tehsildar, is facing inquiry for allegedly helping Jolly fabricate revenue documents.
The change in the mood of the people of Koodathayi was evident when Jolly was brought there for collection of evidence on Friday. Partially covering her face with a shawl, Jolly remained calm throughout the evidence collection while the cops rummaged Ponnamattam house and its surroundings. “She is a good actor who could conceal her evil mind behind an affable façade. We feel cheated,” fumes Jaleel, a resident of Koodathayi.
Asya, a classmate of Roy Thomas and a student of Annamma Thomas, is even more agitated. “Why should she be left to the court and to the cumbersome judicial process? We will ensure that she will get the deserving punishment,” she rages. Asya is a neighbour of Mathew Manchadi, who also was allegedly murdered by Jolly.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.