Birth and Early life of Fr. Benedict Onamkulam
Fr. Benedict was born in 1929 into a catholic family. He had his primary studies at St. Ephrems Mannanam. After completing the sixth forum, he joined the seminary in 1950. He became a priest in 1959 and served different parishes of Archdiocese of Changanacherry. In 1962 he was at Kannampally church near Manthamaruthy. From 1962-64 he served as a vicar in Alappuzha Chakkarakkadavu church. It was this time Mariakutty and Fr. Benedict got to know each other. After this, he became the manager of St. Joseph's orphanage press Changanacherry. He continued in this position, until he was arrested for Mariakkutty murder case.
Mariakkutty murder case and the consequences in Fr. Benedict's life
From the circumstantial evidences, Fr Benedict was found guilty by the Kollam district sessions court judge Kunjiraman Vaidyar and on 1966 November 19 he was sentenced to death and for a rigorous imprisonment for 5 years. This was a shock to the common people who believed that the priest was innocent. It was the first incident in Kerala, in which a priest was punished for a murder case.
Later Archdiocese filed an appeal in the High Court against the verdict of the sessions court. Judicial bench consisting of then acting chief justice P Raman Nair and Justice VP Gopalan Nambiar heard the appeal. ASR Chari who was a famous advocate in supreme court and adv. KT Thomas was appeared for the Fr. Benedict. High court found that the arguments against Fr Benedict was unbelievable and he was set free due to the lack of evidences, on 1967 April 7. On the next day, he was relieved from the Central Prison in Thiruvananthapuram and was greeted by a huge crowed on the road sides, while he was returning to Changanacherry. He was given a warm welcome at Changanacherry by the natives and the faithful.
Life of Fr. Benedict after Manthamaruthy case
Even though he was set free from the case, the ill repute of 'murderer' remained on him. This gave him a lot of mental sufferings. But Fr. Benedict accepted and suffered all of these, without complaining to any one. Later he served the Kanyakumary mission and other remote centers of the Archdiocese. Towards the end, he was resting in the priest home at Mudiyoorkara near Kottayam.
Confession by the family members of the doctor
On 2000 January 14, a 94 year old widow of a doctor and her family visited Fr. Benedict in the Mudiyoorkara priest home. She confessed to Fr. Benedict that her husband was the cause for Mariyakkutty's death. Mariyakkutty was dead during an attempt to abort her child. The estate owner was the father of the child. When Mariakkutty became pregnant from estate owner, she asked for her share on his property. So the estate owner forced her for abortion and during that, she was dead. Marks were made on her body to seem like a murder. The body was placed near Madatharuvy and the witnesses were made to point the cause on Fr. Benedict. Estate owner was utilizing the circumstantial connections of Fr. Benedict. Postmortem was not conducted efficiently and the whole case was moving on the cash thrown by the estate owner. Thus Fr. Benedict Onamkulam was arrested for a crime, which was totally unaware by him.
What made the family to confess was the continuing problems in the family. Before and after the death of the doctor, many problems aroused in the family. Doctor was dead, They lose all the wealth made by the doctor, different diseases followed the family members and children were born with mental and physical disabilities. When they attended a retreat, the councilors pointed out these as the result of the sufferings and sorrow of a priest. They advised to confess to him and so the family decided to visit Fr. Benedict.
Fr. Benedict heard all these silently. Even though the confession happened, the story remained as a secret within his heart. Later, after 11 months, this was officially revealed by the family to the media. The world realized that Fr. Benedict was innocent and the crime was actually 'foisted' on him.
Death and burial of Fr. Benedict
Developments after the death of Fr. Benedict
The Archdiocese had started the decennial celebrations of the entry of Fr. Benedict to his heavenly life. Hope this great priest be declared as the saint in the near future.
Watch this short clip from "Kannadi" from Asianet News about the life of Fr. Benedict