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Narada Exclusive: Kerala Church priest held for sodomising, threatening victim at knifepoint

He had been molesting students in the seminary and was finally arrested when a student from Kannur complained to the police about his activities

Jinesh Devasia

Here comes a vexing story from a seminary in Kannur, Kerala, where a priest, Fr. James Thekkemuri, who was a Rector, has been arrested for sexual abuse, threatening at knifepoint and several other heinous sins. He had been molesting students in the seminary and was finally arrested when a student from Kannur complained to the police about his activities. The court later sent him in remand. The police case story reveals the sins of the man in the silver garb.

There are complaints that he forced a student to have unnatural sex with a stranger at knifepoint after he complained to the Church authorities of his misdeeds. He also took photographs and videos of the student while he was being sodomised and threatened to circulate those on YouTube and other social media networking sites.

The student had joined the seminary with an ambition to become a priest in 2012. He was 16 years old then and his first three years in the seminary were usual with studies and prayers. After three years, the rector allegedly told him that ‘he is lucky’ and it was the bell call for all his troubles. When he asked the meaning, Fr. James Thekkemuri said it would be explained later and walked away.

A few days later when the boy was in the kitchen, Fr. James came and pressed his buttock, according to the complaint. The boy begged the priest to leave him, but, the priest scolded him for not cooperating with his intentions. The boy was in a situation to go back home after the unpleasant incident. He was from a poor family and his educational expenses were sponsored by the church. The heated Fr. James went on with his attempts, finally forcing the boy to succumb to his weird interests and cooperate. Earlier, there was a complaint filed at the Church court against Fr. James of a financial fraud of around Rs 2 crore.

A seminary building built for student accommodation was under Fr. James Thekkemuri’s supervision. There were 31 similar complaints raised by students against the priest. A student, who was minor also, was said to be molested and when he attempted to complain, he got sexually abused more than 60 times.

There were complaints about the priest waiting in the rooms when the students come for sleep. It was alleged that the idea of separate room for each student was as per his plan to use students for his sexual desires.

Meanwhile, the boy complained that he had to join a major seminary in Ranchi for further studies. Fr. James accompanied him and tried to find pleasure in the train, too.

The priest continued sexual harassment over the phone when the boy was studying in Ranchi. Meanwhile, in 2015, the boy visited his native place for Christmas vacations, as per seminary rules, he directly went to the seminary, where allegedly the priest again tried to molest him. He, then with the help of some other people, complained to the court of church. Based on the evidence, including recorded telephonic conversations, the court of church found the priest guilty and removed him from the position of rector.

This incident invited chances of Fr. James to get defrocked. Earlier, Fr. James threatened the boy and his family, but when the boy returned to Ranchi after the vacations, he tried to get his complaint withdrawn by offering rewards.

He also circulated rumours that it was a fake complaint given against him for finding out financial irregularities done by his assistant.

However, the boy fell on Fr. James’s offer to bear all expenses for his studies and withdrew the complaint, claiming that it was a ploy by Fr. James’s assistant. Meanwhile, Fr. James’s siblings convinced the boy’s parents that he could not continue his studies as he had complained against the priest. Fr. James told the parents that the boy should join another seminary or else the seminary assistant might harm the boy for complaining against him.

The boy was sent to a seminary in Bengaluru as Fr. James intended to use him for his pleasures there. The boy, smelling danger, returned to Ranchi the next day. But, the priest sent messages inviting him to Bengaluru ‘expressing his interests’ in him.
Realising that Fr. James had not changed and for the mistake of complaining against the assistant, the boy informed everything to the Bishop. As per the advice from the Bishop, a complaint was given to the Church Tribunal in Ernakulam detailing everything that happened so far. After knowing this, Fr. James stopped calling the boy but continued with his threats through another seminary student whom the boy considered his elder brother.

The other seminary student gained the trust of the boy by tapping conversations with Fr. James. He took the boy out of the seminary on the pretext to receive a priest from the airport and then, took him to a five-star hotel room. They met a stranger in the room, who introduced himself as ‘a vocational promoter of another congregation and he is here to take him after knowing everything that happened’. The stranger asked the other seminary student to wait outside as he wanted to talk to the boy alone.

Minutes later, Fr. James Thekkemuri, who was hiding in the bathroom, came and slapped the boy and put a knife on his neck. He and the stranger tied his mouth and beat him up. Fr. James allegedly tore apart the boy’s clothes and captured videos of him doing sexual activities with the stranger. When denied, he even viciously hit on the genitals of the boy.

On knifepoint, he took passwords of his email accounts and threatened to upload his naked videos on YouTube and Facebook. The scared boy followed whatever Fr. James asked and wrote a statement that all the complaints were given by force by the assistant and another priest.

Finally, after the involvement of some Malayali people, the boy was brought to Kerala from Ranchi. The next day, a complaint was given to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Home department directed him to file a report at the local police station. A team of a sub-inspector and two civil police officers went to Bengaluru and arrested Fr. James. He is now in a jail in Kannur. Meanwhile, a political party related to Fr. James has started advocating his case.

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