As covered in the 2023 Netflix true-crime documentary series Curry and Cyanide, Joliyamma “Jolly” Joseph was not an innocent face as her web of lies began to unravel in 2019, leading to a shocking confession — that she killed six members of her family over 14 years.
Before that confession, Joseph’s story was that of a grieving mother, wife, and daughter-in-law living in Kerala, India, who was struck by a series of tragedies. In 2002, Joseph’s mother-in-law, Annamma Thomas, died under unexplained circumstances, according to CNN. Six years later, in 2008, Joseph’s father-in-law was also dead of a presumed heart attack. Given the age of the deceased and cultural customs in India, no post-mortem was performed on either body.
A short time later, Jolly’s husband — Roy Thomas — also passed. This time, however, there was a post-mortem, concluding Thomas died from cyanide poisoning but it was ruled out to be a suicide given the financial issues he was enduring at the time. By 2016, though, three more people connected to Jolly lost their lives, including her deceased husband’s uncle, the two-year-old daughter (named Alphine) of Roy’s cousin Shaju, and the child’s mother.
What could have motivated such a crime spree, or was it all just deadly bad luck? According to the facts unearthed in the investigation of the case, Jolly killed all of them for love and money.
Jolly Joseph remarried
About a year after the last two deaths, Jolly Joseph got remarried to Shaju Zacharias, Alphine’s father and Roy’s cousin, in 2017. The investigation discovered that Jolly had secretly changed the family will in 2011, transferring assets to her. According to the prosecution, Jolly killed the other members of her family either to cover her tracks or to get closer to Zacharias, with whom she had an affair and wanted to one day marry.
Meanwhile, other stories Jolly told about her life began to fall apart, like her claim to work as a professor at the National Institute of Technology Calicut (NIT) university. Kozhikode district police superintendent KG Simon told CNN: “One of the first things that got us to suspect her was her behavior.”
At first, Jolly maintained she was innocent, but before long, she confessed to her murder spree, and in 2019, she was arrested at age 47. As of 2023, Joseph remains in custody in India and is still awaiting trial. If convicted, Jolly could be sentenced to life in prison or be put to death.