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Police hunt for clues in Karnataka priest’s death


Bangalore : Police Friday said they are investigating the death of James Mukalel, a 39-year-old Catholic priest, whose body was found a day earlier on a roadside in Karnataka’s Dakshin Kannada district.

“We have registered a case of unnatural death … as the body did not bear external wounds or signs of attack,” Dakishna Kannada Superintendent of Police A.S. Rao told IANS on telephone from Mangalore.

Mukalel’s naked body was lying at a distance from his motorbike on which he was returning to Kutrupady near Belthangady after attending a funeral of another parish priest in the adjacent Charmadi village.

“Though the autopsy has been completed by two government doctors in the presence of two forensic experts, we are waiting for the report to ascertain whether the cause of death is natural or homicide,” Rao said.

The coastal district police have formed a team to investigate the priest’s death as there was no pillion-rider with him or witness to give an account of the tragic incident.

“Preliminary investigation has not established the death as a murder. As there is no external evidence on the body, doctors say death could not have been caused by attack or injuries due to road mishap,” Rao pointed out.

The young priest was recently posted as reverend father at St. Mary’s Church at Kutrupady after a three-year service at Thotthady near Belthangady.

The coastal district witnessed a spate of attacks last year on churches and chapels by Hindu activists protesting alleged forcible conversions by missionaries and priests.

Christians account for around 2.3 percent of the country’s billion-plus Hindu majority population.

Father Thomas Kannankal, a diocesan social worker, was quoted in the local media as alleging that the priest’s death appeared to be a case of murder as there were signs of suffocation.