A Catholic priest from Kerala, India, was found dead inside a church well on Monday morning after local parishioners reported him missing on Sunday.
Fr George Ettuparayil, aged 57, had taken over at St Thomas Church near Kottayam last year after returning to India from long stays away in the United States and Italy.
After members of his parish registered a missing person’s complaint on Sunday, police assisted locals in a thorough search of the area. The local fire service were eventually called to investigate the church well, where Fr Ettuparayil’s body was later recovered.
A local described Sunday’s events to the Indo-Asian News Service. “It was yesterday morning when a few parishioners who went to meet him discovered that he was not in his room. When they opened his room, they found that he was not there,” they said.
“His mobile was in the room and we found out that the CCTV was also switched off. We came to know that he had an appointment with the diocesan bishop on Sunday as he was seeking a transfer. When we checked up with the dioceses, it was found that he had not appeared for the meeting.”
The popular priest was said to have sought a transfer after a fire broke out on the church premises. A number of people were injured in the incident, with one person still in hospital, which reportedly left the parish priest deeply distressed.
Fr Ettuparayil’s case has been registered as an unnatural death and police say the exact cause will be announced after the autopsy has been completed.
Last week, a church group appealed for an independent inquiry into the death of a young nun, Sr Divya P John, whose body was recently recovered from a well near her convent.
The group said that Tomin J. Thachankary, additional director general of Kerala’s Crime Branch, “has rejected his agency’s report that there was no foul play in her death.” They added that Sr Divya was the twentieth nun to have been found dead inside a well in Kerala over the last few decades and that it was high time that the church authorities “woke up” to the problem.