KANNUR: Police today intensified the search to trace seven absconding accused, including five nuns and a doctor, who are on the run since the arrest of a Catholic priest accused of raping a minor girl.
The five nuns and the gynaecologist of the church-run hospital, where the 16-year-old girl delivered a boy, continued to evade the arms of the law.
The search conducted for the second day today failed to yield any result, investigating officer Sunilkumar told PTI.
A helper, Thangamma, is among the accused absconding, he said.
Police had yesterday said eight persons had been booked for their alleged role in hiding facts related to the case relating to the rape and subsequent delivery of the baby by the 11th standard student on February 7.
They were booked under non-bailable sections of POCSO Act and Juvenile Justice Act.
Fr Robin alias Mathew Vadakkancheril, who was the vicar of the local church at Kottiyoor in Kannur district and the prime accused in the case, was arrested on February 28.
The minor, who attended the church run school where the priest was the manager, had attended classes till February 6, a day before her delivery.
Meanwhile, Mananthavady Bishop Mar Jose Porunnedom today said the church would always be with the victim and her family. The church leadership had never tried to protect the accused, he said in a statement.
The Bishop also announced the removal of Church spokesperson Father Thomas Joseph Therakam, chairman of the Wyanad Child Welfare Committee (CWC), who is also at the centre of the controversy over the shifting of the baby of the victim from the hospital to a church orphanage.
Therakam, who has not yet been booked in the case, is also absconding.
"In this case, the church is with the victim and her family," the bishop said adding all the accused should be brought before law and the church would give its full support.
However, those not guilty should not be punished, he said.
The bishop had yesterday apologised to the victim and her family.
The Head of the Syro Malabar church, Cardinal George Alencherry, has also said the church would not protect the accused.
Senior Congress leader A K Antony today slammed the priest, saying he was a "shame to the community and does not deserve any mercy."
"He has done heinous crime and does not deserve any mercy. He is a shame to the community and should not be given any consideration of a priest," Antony told reporters at