The Kerala Police on Friday arrested Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church priest Johnson V Mathew in connection with a rape and molestation case. He was hiding in a house in Kozhanchery in Pathanamthitta district.

He is the third accused in the case. Mathew’s arrest came two days after the Kerala High Court dismissed the anticipatory bail petitions of his and two other priests. On Thursday, the second accused, priest Job Mathew, was arrested. The police are still looking for Abraham Varghese alias Sony Varghese and Jaise K George.

The priests are accused of blackmailing and sexually abusing a woman for three years. In a letter to the church in June, the woman’s husband, from Tiruvalla in Pathanamthitta district, claimed that the priests used his wife’s confession, which is meant to be a secret under church laws, to blackmail her. He named eight people in the letter and sought action against them.

Following the allegations, the church sent the priests on leave.

Veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and chairperson of the Kerala Administrative Reforms Commission V S Achuthanandan and the National Commission for Women had written to State DGP Loknath Behara, demanding an inquiry into the charges.