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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Following the tip off, the police team was galvanised into action.
They finally found the name and address of the registered owner of
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.
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
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
"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.