Six months after crash, Indian police exhume bishop’s body for autopsy

BHOPAL, India — Police in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh have exhumed the body of a Catholic bishop after suspicions were raised that his death in a December car accident could have been the result of foul play.

Ucanews.com reported the body of Bishop Thomas Thennatt of Gwalior was exhumed June 10 after a court ordered police to investigate the prelate’s death.

The court order was in response to a complaint lodged by Dolly Theresa, a local Catholic, who claimed that police refused to investigate what she called were the “suspicious” circumstances surrounding the so-called accident in which the bishop died and three other occupants of the car escaped unhurt.

In her complaint, she also said the 65-year-old bishop’s body was buried without a mandatory post-mortem being carried out after his car reportedly skidded off the road and overturned. She has demanded an investigation to establish why it was only the bishop who died in hospital of head injuries, while the three others — a priest, a deacon and the driver — walked away with none.

Father Joseph Munthalakuzhi, who was in the car with the bishop when the accident occurred, admitted to ucanews.com that he and two others were left unscathed, but said that should not be the basis for suspecting them of murder.

Father N. John Xavier, the diocesan administrator, told ucanews.com that diocesan officials were present at the exhumation and identified the body.

“It was then taken to the government medical college for autopsy,” he said. After a medical examination, the body was reburied in the same spot.

Some 100 Catholics, along with some 20 priests and nuns, witnessed the exhumation.

A local government official told ucanews.com that three doctors conducted the autopsy and were to conduct tests to ascertain “if there was any foul play as alleged.”