Curry and Cyanide: The Jolly Joseph’s Case

Section A: Introduction

In the pleasantly old-fashioned town of Koodathayi in Kerala, India, a series of perplexing murders occurred in a family, and the woman at the centre of this case shocked the nation. The case reveals the horrific cyanide killings, where six of the family members were poisoned by a seemingly ordinary person, Jolly Joseph. Let’s dive into this case, where we discover the timeline and the members that Jolly Joseph killed. 

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Jolly Joseph

Name: Joliyamma Jospeh 

Born: 1972

Spouses: Roy Thomas (First Husband), Shaju Zacharia (Second Husband)

From: Vazhavara, Kerala, India

Crime: Murders

Section B: Jolly Joseph’s Upbringing

Jolly Joseph was born in 1972 in Kerala, India. She grew up in a traditional setting with strong community values. Despite her ordinary upbringing, she was involved in manipulation early on. She forged her educational qualifications by creating fake certificates and documents reflecting her educational journey. Jolly Joseph loves it when others show respect for her. 

Education qualifications of Jolly Joseph

  • Jolly Joseph did not complete the basic educational requirements.
  • She did not finish the pre-degree course (PDC).
  • Despite lacking proper qualifications, she possessed certificates for higher education.
  • Jolly held certificates for Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) and Master of Commerce (M.Com.) degrees.
  • She also falsely claimed to have a job as a professor at NIT, Calicut.

This manipulation of educational credentials underscores a deeper level of deception that would later characterise her involvement in the tragic events that unfolded in Koodathayi.

Section C: Six Murders Over a Period of 14 Years

Jolly Joseph was married to Roy Thomas in 1997 and moved to Koodathayi.

The exterior of Jolly Joseph's house in Koodathai.

Jolly Joseph’s house in Koodathayi

Jolly's husband's family tree

Death begins at 2002: Family Tree of Jolly Joseph’s husband

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Timeline: The death of 6 family members over 14 years

Chronology of the Murder

2002: The death of Annamma Thomas (Jolly Joseph’s mother-in-law). 

Annama Matthew, Jolly Joseph's mother-in-law

Annamma Thomas (Jolly Joseph’s mother-in-law)

  • Annamma Thomas was a school teacher.
  • Annamma always wanted Jolly to get a job.
  • Jolly lied to the family, saying that she holds a M.Com. degree.
  • Annamma didn’t want her talent to be wasted, not knowing that she lied to the family about her educational qualifications. 
  • Jolly was so bothered that Annamma would find out that Jolly doesn’t hold any of the qualifications she mentioned to the family. 
  • To avoid that happening, Jolly killed Annamma by mixing cyanide in the soup that was served to Annamma.
  • The family members assumed that the death was natural due to heart failure. So no postmortem was conducted. 

2008: Tom Thomas’ Murder (Jolly Joseph’s father-in-law).

Jolly Joseph and Tom Thomas

Tom Thomas (Jolly Joseph’s father-in-law)

  • Six years later, the second murder in the family occurs. 
  • Tom was a senior clerk in the education department.
  • Tom owned a decent amount of land.
  • Property tensions led Jolly to kill her father-in-law.
  • She was afraid that the land might be transferred to her brother-in-law (Rojo).
  • Tom was in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where Renji (his daughter) lived with her family.
  • With the fear that the land might be transferred, Jolly called Tom, saying that she was pregnant.
  • This made Tom want to fly back and stay with Jolly.
  • Knowing it was a great time to execute her plan, she gave Thomas cyanide through a capsule that he used to take.
  • She convinced the family members by saying that he passed away due to cardiac arrest.
  • Jolly managed to achieve her goal by establishing that she managed to get possession of her father-in-law’s title deeds and concocting a forged will.

2011: The death of Roy Thomas (Jolly Joseph’s husband)

Roy Thomas and Jolly Joseph

Roy (Jolly Joseph’s first husband)

  • The next murder was three years apart.
  • Roy knew about the relationship between MS Mathew and Jolly.
  • Roy inquired about it with Jolly.
  • This led Jolly to dissatisfaction.
  • Jolly prepared a meal for him with cyanide in the curry and served it to Roy one night.
  • The next hew was found lying on the floor unconscious, vomiting and frothing from his mouth.
  • Roy passed away on arrival at the hospital.
  • Matthew (Roy’s uncle) suspected something was suspicious.
  • He then managed to get an autopsy done, which revealed the presence of cyanide in Roy’s body. 
  • But the autopsy was handed over to Jolly, making it easy for her to cover up Roy’s cause of death.
  • Jolly managed to convince the police that Roy was an alcoholic and had taken his life due to falling into a huge debt.

2014: Manchadiyil Mathew’s Murder (Roy’s Uncle; Annamma’s brother) 

  • Matthew was dissatisfied with the deaths that have happened in the family, which includes his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew.
  • Matthew also discovered Jolly’s relationship with MS. Mathew.
  • Knowing that, Uncle Mathew has found out about her relationship with MS Mathew, making him the next target of Jolly’s killing.
  • Jolly claimed his life by mixing cyanide in the drink that was served to him.
  • Before reaching the hospital, he died.

2014: The death of the 2-year-old Alphine Shaju (Shaju’s daughter with his first wife, Sili)

  • The murder’s duration became shorter and shorter after each death.
  • Alphine is Shaju’s child with his first wife, Sili.
  • It was known that Alphine died from choking.
  • The truth behind it was that Jolly passed the food that contained cyanide over to Alphine.
  • Reports show that Alphine was given cyanide at her relative’s Holy Communion.
  • The motive for this murder has remained unclear until now.

2016: The final Murder, death of Sili Shaju (Shaju’s first wife)

Shaju Zacharias, Jolly Joseph's second husband

Shaju Zacharias

  • Jolly was interested in getting married to Shaju.
  • Shaju Zacharias is Jolly’s husband’s (Roy’s) first cousin.
  • He is a well-settled man and has done a good job.
  • Jolly planned to take off Sili’s life so she could marry Shaju.
  • Two years after Alphine Shaju’s death, Jolly killed Sili. 
  • Jolly took advantage of Alphine’s death and became close to Sili.
  • She also advised Sili to take mushroom capsules that her father-in-law used to take for his health, as they help relieve depression.
  • One day, Sili, Shaju, and Jolly were at the dentist’s clinic, where Jolly insisted that Sili take one of the mushroom capsules, not knowing that the capsule contained cyanide.
  • Sili was admitted to the hospital with respiratory failure, and she died a few hours later after being admitted. 

Murder’s revealed

Renji (Jolly Joseph’s sister-in-law) has always been suspicious about the sudden deaths in her family and the similarities with each death. After Sili’s death, Renji reported her suspicions about Jolly’s involvement in the murders. The only postmortem that had been conducted was her brother’s (Roy). Renji eventually gets to know that Jolly lied about Roy’s death. She found out that in the postmortem, it is stated that he died due to the intake of cyanide. Renji made a decision to have Jolly investigated, which caused chaos in her neighbourhood because Jolly faked everything and had a very good reputation among her neighbors.

Renji Thomas

Renji (Roy’s sister)

Section D: Conclusion

Jolly was arrested on October 5, 2019 and confessed to all her crimes. Her lover, Mathew, was also arrested for handing her over cyanides. During the investigation, it is to be said that Matthew wasn’t aware of these murders. He only handed over cyanide because Jolly told him she needed it to kill the dogs near her house. Both Jolly and Matthew were arrested and remain in custody in 2019. 

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Jolly Joseph and her lover (MS Mathew)

Written By: Tarini

Edited By: Ruby

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