Victim-murderer relationship in Koodathai killings: An analysis of Roy and his parent’s interaction
Human life has an inherent value, and every human being has an inalienable dignity. This is the fundamental principle of justice. Immanuel Kant, John Rawls and Michael Sanders have categorically declared that justice is an undeniable right. The criminal justice system is nothing but an effort to establish justice and Victimology is a science emerged from the quest to search for the rights and justice for the victim and the offender.
An analysis of the victim-murderer relationship is a vital factor to know the gruesomeness and intensity of the Koodathai killings, which might enlighten the police and the court to understand and interpret the actions of Jolly and her collaborators. Recently, forensic experts, police, criminologists, sociologists, psychologists and psychiatrists have shown profound attention about the victim as a part of the murder situation. It seems in Koodathai killings, the victims were not passive objects but active precipitators and participants in their own murder.
The newly developed interest in the victim-murderer relationship shows that the understanding of murder is reaching a new phase. In Jolly’s case, she might not be solely responsible of her acts as it reflects the growing responsibility of the criminal justice system to consider the dynamics of murders took place and the necessity to treat Jolly and her victims in the same light. The part played by Jolly and her probable victims, Annamma, Tom, Roy, Mathew, Alphin, and Sili is central to the Koodathai killings.
Jolly and her victims
In essence, Jolly’s case is the question of responsibility, who is responsible for what and to what extent. So, the society and the criminal justice system need to focus on Jolly and her victims with equanimity. This leads to an empirical and accurate legal, sociological and psychological interpretation of the diverse dimensions of the victim’s participation in the murder. An analysis and unravelling of Annamma, the mother in law; Tom, the father in law; Roy the husband; Mathew, Annamma’s brother, Alphin, the daughter of Jolly’s second husband Shaju’s and Sili, Sili, Shaju’s first wife and their role in their own murder is essential, as they hide vital clues of the murder stories. Such knowledge would undoubtedly help the family, community, society and the criminal justice system.
Elucidating the hidden factors in Jolly and her victim's relationships need to be empirical. It means it should be factual, and not to be based on gossips and fake news. An objective observation of the factors leading to sex and murder should be an effort of the police, and the court to preserve the rights of the suspect and the victims. The understanding should be drawn from forensic science, law, criminology, sociology, psychiatry, victimology and public administration. The role, responsibility and participation of the suspect and the victims call for challenging tasks to the police to provide an objective understanding of the crimes committed by Jolly if any.
The following sets of major questions may help in this juncture, such as:
Who are the six victims; how are they related to Jolly; were they members of the same family; were they blood relatives; how intense was their interactions with Jolly; how often did the victims meet Jolly; did they trust each other?
Were Annamma, Tom, Roy, Mathew, Alphin and Sili victims of their own acts, psychological impulses, emotional immaturity, and unconscious decisions?
Did the victims have antisocial tendencies, uncontrolled behavioural problems, and intellectual deficiencies; were they physically underdeveloped, psychologically immature, socially stoic, mentally weak, lonesome and heartbroken or tormentors?
Were they innocent entirely or do they share minor or major guilt which might have led them towards their own murder; were they voluntary victims or victims as guilty as Jolly; were they stimulating victims, and any of them a paranoid, schizophrenic or hysteric?
Were the female victims capable of defending themselves; in the case of two-year-old Alphin, was her parents irresponsible and uncaring?
Jolly married Roy in 1998 and became a member of his joint/extended family. Besides Roy, his mother Annamma, father Tom, and two of Roy’s siblings, a brother and a sister, were the other members. Annamma was a school teacher, and Tom was an administrative officer in the department of education of the State government. Roy had a business, and his siblings might have had completed their higher studies. His brother might have started working in the USA. Soon Roy’s sister was married off to a far of place, and Jolly remained home in the initial years as she had no employment or she did not claim to have a job those days.
Annamma taught in a nearby school, and she had plenty of time to spend with the family. She had the family purse with her, and controlled and directed everything in the family and was the object of immense respect. The police say, quoting the neighbours of the family that Annamma was a loving and caring person, and she had a warm and healthy relationship with Jolly. But Jolly might have experienced a milieu of emptiness, powerlessness, unattachment, joblessness and meaninglessness in the family. She might have thought that without Annamma, she could enjoy all power and glory wielded by her mother in law. And in 2002 Jolly might have used cyanide to eliminate Annamma from the scene. Here the questions are: what was the role played by Annamma in her murder; was she an innocent victim; was she a participant; was she as guilty as Jolly? The death of Annamma gave far-reaching opportunities and power to Jolly within the family.
By this time, Tom retired from his government service and started spending his entire time at home. The house and the landed property were in the name of Tom. In the morning, Roy left for his business-related works and returned late in the evenings. Jolly’s children were still very young. Police claim that there existed an incestuous relationship between Tom and his daughter in law Jolly. This might have started immediately after the death of Annamma, as Tom was at home after his retirement.
Psychologists say that you can be attracted to a person of the opposite sex to whom you are not closely related by blood even if that person is in your family. Sex between such persons is a taboo as per social norms and mores, consider sociologists. Studies found that sexual intimacy is an expression of the biological needs coupled with emotional, psychological and social compulsions. In many cultures, father in law – daughter in law sex is not considered as incest, but an extramarital affair. In many Indian communities, including in Kerala, where patriarchy is dominant such sexual relationship is common, even though kept as a secret and the progeny born out of such intimacy is considered as son’s child.
Probably, in the initial stages, the father in law might have started mentally harassing the daughter in law, which led to physical harassment and gradually forced Jolly to have sex with Tom. In many communities in India, if the mother in law is alive, she often silently accepts, encourage or permits such intimacy due to various reasons. The son may be physically, mentally, financially weak to resist his father if he becomes aware of the sexual exploitation of his wife by his father. He is fully aware that the house, land, business, money and influence in the society are the strength of his father and resisting him or challenging him is detrimental. But in many cases, the son may not be aware of his father’s sexual exploits with his wife.
In some cases, the daughter in law has no other option than to silently become a partner of her father in law’s sexual urges. In different situations, the daughter in law implicitly or explicitly entices the father in law to have sex with her. There are three main reasons, such as to maintain peace in the family, to receive active support and lasting help to her children and husband from the father in law, and to get the property. In some instances, the husband encourages his wife to have sex with her father in law. Sociologists categorise father in law – daughter in law sexual relationship in the following categories:
Indiscriminate promiscuity where the incest is a product of social pathology, anomie and sociopathy;
Incest craving of a father in law towards his daughter in law as a sex object;
Feeling jealous of the son having a young, energetic and beautiful wife;
Experiencing the inadequacy or absence of wife.
Exploiting the physical, mental, psychological and financial inability or dependence of the son;
The daughter in law being powerless, frightened, cornered, passive, and voiceless;
The daughter in law becoming uncared or rejected by the son, and the father in law assuming the guardianship;
To establish the total authority and supremacy within the family.
Perverted sexual ethics
Father in law – daughter in law sex, is a by-product of a “closed joint or extended family” and in very many cases, such families are patriarchal. There are cases, the head of the family, sexually exploiting his daughter in law for an extended period, without facing any obvious challenge. Such cultural and ethical patterns are inherited from the hierarchy of the catholic church, which is seen especially in convents for nuns established by priests and bishops. As the founder of a nun’s congregation, the concerned priest or bishop has the absolute and unquestionable authority to decide the future of a nun. In such situation, many nuns experience subjugation and become powerless, voiceless and sexual exploitation becomes an everyday affair. The novel, The Virgin’s Crown (Amazon Kindle) provide convincing narrations of such incidents in Kerala.
Pope Benedict, a few years ago, dissolved an entire congregation of nuns because of all-pervading sexual exploitation of nuns by priests, bishops and even cardinals. Pope Francis recently admitted that “keeping nuns as sex slave still goes on the catholic church.” The catholic church is the most potent institutionalised bureaucracy in the world. Due to its historical and deep-rooted patriarchy, exploitation of nuns has been prevalent for a long time. It has permeated into catholic families, and what happened in Tom’s family, his probable incestual relationship with his daughter in law Jolly can be considered as a reflection of the sexual anomie flourishing among the catholic hierarchy. Tom was like a bishop sexually exploiting a nun, and his relationship with Jolly needs to be analysed in this context. Is Tom as guilty as Jolly; is he a willing victim? Did Jolly entice a willing Tom to have a probable sexual relationship with her to acquire the property? All these are vital questions to understand the victim-murderer involvement and its ramifications in Koodathai killings. It can be said that Tom’s relationship with Jolly, his daughter in law has essential clues for the origin and commitment of those six murders.
Husband wife relationship
Roy’s personal relationship with his wife Jolly is the nastiest link in these incidents, but Roy’s murder was the easiest. It is believed that they fell in love with each other when Roy met Jolly for the first time in his parish church when Jolly came to attend a wedding from Idukki. But their married life soured soon, as Roy was away from home often. He is said to be careless, inefficient, unconcerned, unloving and detached, according to Jolly. Her probable incestuous relationship with Tom might have had an impact on their relationship. Meanwhile, Jolly also might have developed a sexual intimacy with Roy’s cousin Shaju, and Shaju’s father. So, Roy could be considered a willing victim and as guilty as Jolly in this saga of sex, incest, treachery and killings. Jolly too was a victim of her family constellation, teachings of the catechism she learned from the catholic church, the values and mores of the larger society and the dreams and expectations she laced and wove in her ever-active mind.
(The author is former Professor and Dean, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai; former Principal and Director, MSSISW, Nagpur University, Nagpur. He gained his Certificate of Achievement in Justice from Harvard University, Diploma in Human Rights Law from National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, MA in Social Work, specializing in Criminology and Correctional Administration from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai; MA in Sociology from Shivaji University, Kolhapur; LLB and PhD from Nagpur University)