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Sunday, 25 December 2011

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Land dispute ends in tragedy

It looked as if Eppawela, a village in the Anuradapura district was the killing fields with several murders and suicides taking place during the past ten days. Two weeks ago two young girls and their lover, an ex-army soldier committed suicide by hanging from a branch of a Margosa tree. Last week three women and a man were butchered to death by their younger brother owing to a land dispute. The dispute revolved around a paddy field owned by a family at Eppawela.

The paddy field became the cornerstone of a bitter quarrel between sisters and the younger brother, who insisted that he had a share of the paddy field. The quarrel led to the massacre of two sisters, a pregnant niece and her husband who were hacked to death with an axe by their younger brother.

The two sisters, their pregnant daughter and her husband lived at their ancestral home Kati Yaya at Eppawela. There were eight other members of the family including brothers and sisters. They lived elsewhere in the Anuradapura district.

Police said the quadruple murder took place on the December 17 - around 10-11 p.m. The two sisters Seetha Somalatha (55) and her younger sister Malani Swarnalatha (50) and her daughter Niluka Chandani Pathirana (22), a pregnant woman of five months and her husband Madusanka Perera (23) a soldier attached to an army regiment in Colombo were at their home on that fatal night. Soldier Madusanka Perera had come home on leave to be with his family during the week end. He was to celebrate his birthday on December 18.

It rained heavily on the night of December 17 and most villagers were indoors due to the inclement weather.

Seetha Somalatha, the eldest sister suffered from Epilepsy fits from her childhood and she was a spinster. Her father was sympathetic towards her because of her illness and because she was a spinster. He bequeathed all his property in her name before he died. However, this move angered the rest of the brothers.

Ancestral

Following the fatherís death Seetha Somalatha and sister Malani Swarnalatha with her daughter and her husband came to live at the ancestral home while other members of the family lived elsewhere. The younger brother following his discharge from the Navy also returned to his native village. He was extremely jealous that his elder sister owned the family paddy fields as well. He insisted that he be given a portion of it to cultivate. But the younger sister along with her daughter and the son-in-law, strongly objected to the proposal. This led to frequent arguments between the elder sister and the younger brother.

Meanwhile the elder brother laid a foundation in the compound of his sister Seetha Somalathaís home claiming that he too had a share in it. Somewhere in May this year the younger brother stormed the house with an axe brandishing in his hand and threatened to kill both his sisters.

The sisters lodged a complaint at the Eppawala police station and the suspect brother was arrested by the police. He was in remand for more than two weeks before he was released. His elder brother too served in the Army and returned to his native village upon his discharge. The youngest brother perpetually harboured a grudge against his two sisters after his release from the remand prison.

Inherit

According to Police sources he conspired to kill both his sisters, his pregnant niece and his brother in law so that he could inherit the family property some day.

It was on the night of December 17 he decided to wipe out the entire family. He meticulously planned his strategy in advance to execute the entire family. He cut a pair of gunny bags and made a pair of stockings which he wore inside the home to prevent leaving any footprints inside the house. He also wore a pair of gloves that he used to pluck ladyfingers in the garden to prevent finger prints inside the home.

On December 17 under the cover of darkness he stealthily crept in to his sisterís home between 10-11 p.m., carrying with him an axe, while both his sisters and the brother-in-law were watching a television program. His pregnant niece was working on the computer attending to some work. He lunged forward into the room wielding the axe and started chopping one by one, his brother-in-law, his younger sister and his niece with all his might.

While groaning and screaming in pain they slumped to the floor bleeding profusely while Seetha Somalatha escaped the onslaught and ran out of her home for safety.

She ran 200 metres in the direction of her neighbours home followed by the assassin, but she wasnít that fortunate to escape death. The assassin caught up with her and dealt a heavy blow on her head and her neck with the axe. She slumped to the ground and lay in a pool of blood that night.

Her body was discovered on the following morning by a neighbour when he stepped outside his home to pluck some betel leaves. He was simply shocked to see his neighbourís body lying on the ground with severe cut injuries.

OIC Eppawala police station, Inspector Wijaya Kumarasinghe and OIC Crimes Inspector E.M. Edirisinghe and several other policemen visited the scene of the crime on the following day and questioned several neighbours regarding the massacre. But they had no clue whatsoever. The OIC detailed two search parties to apprehend the suspects.

Meanwhile, the suspect, the younger brother of the deceased surrendered to the Thambuttegama police station through a lawyer.

Clothing

It was further revealed that the suspect after committing the heinous crime visited Sunilís home with the axe that night. He then requested for some clothing but did not disclose anything about the murder. After taking a dip in a stream close by he had worn the new clothes.

He then wrapped up the discarded clothes with blood stains and hid them near the stream. The suspect then went to Dassanayakeís house close by and requested that he be taken to his elder brotherís home at Thambuttegama.

Around 4 a.m. Dassanayake took him on his brother in lawís motor cycle to Thambuttegama. While on the way he narrated the gruesome killing of his sisters to Dassanayake.

The suspect was later dropped at his elder brotherís home at Thambuttegama. After relating the story to his elder brother, arrangements were made to surrender him to the Thambuttegama police station through a lawyer.

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