1 more held in church sex scandal case

The Crime Branch (CB) on Friday made one more arrest in the sex scandal case involving four clergymen attached to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of Kozhencherry.

The probe team arrested Father Johnson V. Mathew from his house at Thekkemala, near Kozhencherry. He was produced before the Judicial First Class Magistrate’s Court in Thiruvalla and was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.

Another accused, Fr. Job Mathew, had surrendered before the police in Kollam on Thursday and he was sent to the Pathanamthitta District Jail. The police had registered cases against four clergymen on July 2 on the basis of statements given by a homemaker accusing them of sexually assaulting her on more than one occasion.

All the four priests — Fr. Abraham Varghese, Fr. Job Mathew, Fr. Johnson V. Mathew and Fr. Jais K. George — are facing the charges of sexual harassment.

Accused questioned

Fr. Mathew was questioned for about three hours. He reportedly stated that he knew the homemaker but had not made any sexual exploitation of the woman. However, the investigation team had collected evidences of sexual advances and abusive messages sent by him to the complainant.

The homemaker alleged that, as a friend, she had shared her grievances with him against the two other accused priests who had misused her confessional secrets and sexually harassed her, the police said.

She further stated that Fr. Mathew too started sending sexually offensive messages to her since then. Meanwhile, the police launched an extensive search for the two other accused priests — Fr. Varghese aka Sony of Mundiyappally, and Fr. George of Anicaud. The Crime Branch called upon the two accused to surrender at the earliest.

The homemaker had reportedly stated before the Crime Branch team that Fr. Varghese had sexually exploited her, promising to marry her, when she was only 16 years old. She had approached Fr. George for counselling. But the clergyman misused her confessional secrets to sexually exploit her, the police said.

The investigating officer Sabu Mathew said the Crime Branch team collected sufficient evidence against the clergymen and the arrest of the remaining two accused too would be made soon.

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