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Alert civilian helps police capture double murder suspects

Last week the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was called to investigate the theft of priceless treasures from the Colombo National Museum by burglars who broke into the building. The matter is being investigated by the CID although no arrests have been made as yet.

In a twist of events, Panditha Pitigala Jinasiri Thera (80) and Borelesgamuwe Gunarathana Thera (60) of the Kotte Rajamaha Vihara were killed sending shockwaves in the country.

The double murder is being investigated by a special team of police officers from the Nugegoda Police Division on the instructions of Senior DIG Western Province, Anura Senanayake and DIG Western Province South I.M. Karunaratne.

Executive

Police have arrested the Basnayake Nilame of Wapitharamaya of Galgamuwa who is also an executive of a reputed private insurance company in Colombo together with an ex bhikkhu from Embilipitiya allegedly linked to the killing.

The gruesome killing took place on February 20 around 9.45 p.m when Pitigala Jinasiri Thera was at his Aramaya on the upper floor of the temple.

The Basnayake Nilame (20) and the bhikkhu (21) had been visiting the Kotte Rajamaha Vihara during the past several years and were known to both Pitigala Jinasiri Thera and Borelesgamuwe Gunarathna Thera.

The Insurance Executive had cultivated a close friendship with the ex-bhikkhu who hob-nobbed with the samaneras at the Raja Maha Vihara who learnt of a lot of hidden treasures at the temple.

It came to the knowledge of the ex-bhikkhu that Jinasiri Thera was wealthy and kept lakhs of rupees in a safe at his Aramaya.

Information

He apparently shared the information with the Insurance Company Executive and together they planned a robbery.

On the day of the killing the Insurance Executive along with the ex-bhikkhu had partaken of liquor at a restaurant in the Mount Lavinia.

Thereafter, they had travelled together in the insurance executive’s car to the Kotte Rajamaha Vihara.

When the vehicle approached the temple, the ex-bhikkhu got off near the gate and the insurance executive proceeded right in to the temple where he met Gunarathna Thera.

He asked for a glass of water from the bhikkhu while being engaged in a conversation with him.

While they chatted for some time the ex-bhikkhu stealthily made his way up to the Pitigala Jinasiri Thera's room and hid himself in the bathroom. Jinasiri Thera before retiring to bed had gone to the bathroom to perform ablutions.

At this juncture he encountered the ex-bhikkhu with a knife in his hand hiding in the bathroom.

He then shouted for help as he felt threatened.

The ex-bhikkhu then stabbed the fragile Jinasiri Thera several times on the chest and the neck when he screamed out for help.

On hearing the screams, Gunarathna Thera rushed to the Aramaya and found Jinasiri Thera fallen in the bathroom with stab injuries bleeding profusely.

His neck too had been slashed.

When Gunarathna Thera grappled with the assassin to overpower him, he too was stabbed several times on his chest.

Thereafter both the assassin and the ex-bhikkhu fled from the temple in different directions.

A man who had gone to the Kotte Raja Maha Vihara to fulfil a vow on that day had seen a car in the temple premises speeding away in a suspicious manner.

Sensing that something had gone wrong he noted down the number of the car on the sand as he did not have a pen or pencil with him at that moment.

Priests

The gruesome murder was reported to the Mirihana police station on the night of March 20 by other bhikkhus at the Raja Maha Vihara when they discovered the body of Jinasiri Thera lying on the floor of the toilet in a pool of blood.

His neck too had been slashed and there were several stab wounds on his body. He was found dead.

Gunerathana Thera who was also found lying on the ground floor was bleeding profusely. He too had critical stab wounds on his chest and the stomach.

He passed away while being rushed by other bhikkhus to the Colombo South Teaching Hospital.

When the Special Crime Investigation Unit along with Chief Inspector Janake visited the temple, the man who had come to fulfil the vow pointed out to the police team the car number which he had written on the sand.

Following the tip off, the police team was galvanised into action.

They finally found the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle.

On March 21 before dawn, the police team swooped on a house at Godigamuwa Road, Maharagama and found the Basnayake Nilame fast asleep.

When police questioned him regarding the incident, he denied any knowledge of it and behaved in an unruly manner.

Police took him into custody and whisked him off to the Mirihana police station for further questioning. Finally, the Basnayake Nilame broke down and admitted that he had planned to rob Pitigala Jinasiri Thera along with the ex-bhikkhu.

Manhunt

Following the disclosure, police launched a massive manhunt for the ex-bhikkhu who was on the run. Several police teams combed the Embilipiya area in search of the suspect and finally found him hiding at Thanamalwila.

The Police Media Spokesman SP, Ajith Rohana told the “Sunday Observer” that he commended the civilian who tipped off the police by noting down the number of the car that sped away in a suspicious manner.

“His public spiritedness helped us solve the heinous crime so quickly.

"We intend to reward him and welcome the public to cooperate with the police in situations where crimes are committed,” he said.

According to reliable sources Panditha Pitigala Jinasiri Thera had also been involved in litigation in respect of a land dispute at Pitigala in the Elpitiya area.

The case had been heard before the Elpitiya District Courts during the past several years.

In fact, the Thera had attended the Elpitiya District Courts on July 19 and the case was to be taken up on July 19.

Sources told the Sunday Observer that litigation in respect of the land in question at Pitigala, Elpitiya was filed by the deceased bhikkhu's brother, a wealthy businessman who died a few years ago.

Following the death of his elder brother, Panditha Jinasiri Thera had filed a case before the Elpitiya District Courts claiming the title of the land at Pitigala.

 

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