true crime

Jolly Joseph lost both her in-laws in mysterious circumstances. Then her husband died.

According to her neighbours, Jolly Joseph was a well-mannered and happy-go-lucky woman. She was ambitious too, reportedly the first of her family to go to college, with aspirations for a big and bold life beyond the farm on which she was raised.

She was a regular church-goer, who worked as a professor at one of India's most prestigious universities. At least, that's what she told people. 

In 1997, Jolly met Roy Thomas, the son of a prominent couple - Tom, a former senior clerk with the education department and Annamma, a schoolteacher. They fell in love, or so it seemed, and married soon after meeting. 

Watch the trailer for the Netflix doco about this very case - Curry & Cyanide: The Jolly Joseph Case. Post continues below.

Video via Netflix.

After the wedding, Jolly discovered her new husband was unemployed, spending his days sitting around the house. Although Jolly had also lied about her education, she wasn't impressed. She was impressed, however, with his cousin, Shaju Sakhariyas.

The first victim.

Several years after the wedding, Annamma Thomas discovered her daughter-in-law's fake postgraduate certificates. She confronted Jolly, insisting she get a job or return to study. In 2002, 57-year-old Annamma then died after consuming a drink prepared by Jolly. 

But there was another problem. Jolly reportedly discovered her father-in-law Tom had planned to leave his estate to her husband's younger brother. Faking a pregnancy, Jolly reportedly lured Tom to her home, taking possession of his title deeds and forging a will on his behalf. On August 22, she handed the 66-year-old his nightly capsule; within a short time, he was violently ill, and later died in hospital. 


Playing the long game.

In 2011, Jolly prepared a meal of rice and chickpea curry for her husband, Roy, who had now inherited his father's estate. Soon after, he was found unconscious on the bathroom floor, vomiting and frothing at the mouth. He later died in hospital. 

While Roy's parents' deaths didn't raise any suspicion, Roy's death did. His uncle, Matthew Manjadiyil, insisted on an autopsy which revealed the presence of cyanide in his body. 

But Jolly was able to convince police that her husband took his own life. Matthew couldn't let it go though, and pursued an investigation into the deaths of his sister and brother-in-law as well. 

By 2014, he too was dead, collapsing after a couple of evening drinks. Jolly and a neighbour rushed him to hospital, where he died. His death was also ruled a suicide.

Jolly Joseph. Image: Netflix


The affair.

Over the years, Jolly had commenced an affair with the man she'd had her eyes on since the beginning - her late husband's cousin, Shaju Zacharias. 

But Shaju had a wife and a daughter. By 2014, two-year-old Alfine died after ingesting cyanide. In 2016, Shaju's wife, Sili, also died, after taking dental medication, handed to her by Jolly. 

Jolly and Shaju were married the following year. 

The undoing.

After six mysterious deaths, other members of the Thomas family grew suspicious, and were successful in their request to have all of the bodies exhumed and subjected to autopsies.

It turned out that all six deaths were caused by cyanide poisoning. Police also discovered more than 50 discrepancies between Jolly's statements and evidence. She had finally been caught.

On October 19, Jolly was arrested for six murders, which she ultimately confessed to. She was also charged with the destruction of evidence and crimes committed using poison. 

Jolly's former lover was also charged, accused of supplying the cyanide. 

Now, the shocking case, known as the Koodathayi Cyanide Murders, is the subject of a new Netflix documentary.

Curry & Cyanide: The Jolly Joseph Case delves into the events that led to the 47-year-old murdering her husband, his parents, his uncle, his cousin's wife and her two-year-old daughter, with cyanide. 

It's a case that has stuck with many, questions remaining as to why exactly Jolly did what she did.

Feature Image: Netflix