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Death sentence for double murder

Crime Sunday by Jayampathy Jayasinghe

It was a gruesome and a cold blooded murder where a mother and her younger daughter were beaten up with a pole and strangled to death by an evil man because of his ambitious plan to grab a piece of land which lay adjacent to the victim's home. The killing took place while both the mother and her daughter were alone at their home at Second Rajasinghe Mawatha, Kandy. The incident happened around 10.30. a.m. on July 25, 2001.

On receipt of the tragic news, a police party from Kandy rushed to the home of Professor Seneviratne at Second Rajasinghe Mawatha and saw his wife and daughter lying in a pool of blood on their verandah floor gasping for breath. Someone had battered them with a pole and strangled them with the idea of killing them. The strangulation marks on their necks were quite visible. Both victims were rushed to the Kandy General Hospital but died on admission. The police however were baffled about the murder. Who could have possibly committed such a heinous crime.

The victims were identified as Amitha Kumari Seneviratne (43) and her daughter Rasika Kumari Seneviratne (13). They were the wife and child of Professor Seneviratne of the Engineering Faculty, University of Peradeniya. He was away from home when the gory incident took place. Ironically there weren't any eye witnesses to be questioned by the police. They had to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove the case. It was at this stage that DIG Central Range, Nimal Mediwake directed the 'Special Investigation Unit (SIU)' headed by Chief Inspector A. Gurusinghe and his team to investigate the double murder. The gruesome murder shocked everybody in the country. Police were initially baffled as to who killed the Professor's wife, and his daughter. The motive was not known to them. The strange thing was that their belongings in the house were not plundered.

According to OIC Gurusinghe one plausible explanation was that someone with an axe to grind had committed the pre-meditated murder. But they had to find evidence and the motive for the killing. So the SIU Unit had to start everything anew all over again. After relentless investigations they came to know of a dispute involving the professor's family and an Ex-Police Constable over an abandoned piece of land located close to their home. They also came to know that the ex-constable had forged the deed of the land which was in dispute and was now claiming ownership of it. It was also revealed that a lawyer was allegedly involved in preparation of the fictitious deed. Inspector Gurusinghe's team finally arrested the ex-constable Ran Banda Mudiyanselage Seneviratne alias Dharmapala in connection with the murder. The second person to be arrested was a man named Marwilmada. He was later made a state witness to testify against the accused.

However, in the course of investigations, it was revealed that on the day of the incident, the ex-constable along with Marwilmada had gone to the house of Professor Seneviratne during his absence. After meeting his wife Amitha Kumari Seneviratne, the ex-constable Dharmapala was involved in a heated argument with her over the disputed land. During the course of the argument he beat the professor's wife with a pole. After she fell on the ground he leapt on her and then strangled her with his hands. On hearing the crisis, her daughter Rasika came to her mother's rescue and was set upon by the ex-constable. He beat her too with the same pole and strangled her like what he did to her mother. While both the mother and her daughter lay on a blood splattered floor gasping for breath the assassin and the accomplice decamped. However, when the word got around about the double murder, people started flocking into Rajasinghe Mawatha. They were anxious to know the culprits who committed the dastardly act. Coincidentally when police visited the scene of crime, the culprit, the ex-constable too was present on the occasion. He made his presence felt by mingling with the police and the crowd. He even explained to police how it could have happened so as to mislead them. He even gave distorted versions to the pressmen covering the incident.

According to OIC (SIU) Unit, Chief Inspector Gunasinghe this was the first case where the Kandy High Court (after it was shifted to its new premises at William Gopallawa Mawatha) sentenced a man to death almost after ten years. The case was argued before Kandy High Court Judge, D. S. E. Lekamwasam. The Deputy Solicitor General, Malalgoda and State Counsel G. Kulatunga prosecuted the case. There were 39 witnesses and 24 items listed as productions in this case.

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