The boy that time forgot | Sunday Observer

The boy that time forgot

14 February, 2021

It was late July in 2018 when many parents were readying their children for the much awaited Year-Five Scholarship Exam that was to be held throughout the country.

Ten-year-old Saman Kumara was a child of special needs and attended a tiny village school in rural Balangoda.

His name was not on the Exam list owing to his health condition on the one hand and his poverty-stricken parents could not afford the required material on the other.

On the fateful day, July 20, Sahan Kumara left his parents’ wattle and daub home in Samanalawatte-Balangoda and headed for the shallow stream that flows nearby.

It was long before dusk.

At that time his parents were away at work at a nearby estate and the boy was at home along with his younger sister.

The boy was last seen by another group of village boys who were wading in the stream and they called out to him to join them but he refused and made his way back home.

A loner by character that was the last time anyone would see the boy and the case remains unsolved and currently in limbo even though three-plus years have passed on.

The case attracted a lot of media attention and the law enforcement agencies were hard-pressed to provide answers.


The authorities deployed some 50 Army personnel force with an equal number of police officers to conduct a thorough search in the area for the missing boy but without any success.

The village of Samanalawatte is situated on a steep and isolated mountain range, some 16 kilometres west of the main Balangoda town bordering the Seepada Reserve and home to around three dozen families.

The task of the search parties was to scout around some five acres of shrub jungle as it was strongly suspected that the boy may have been dragged away by leopards that are known to frequent the area.

The search parties were deployed for nearly a week in the area but there were no signs of the missing boy.

As one senior police investigator put it at that time. “Even if the boy had been attacked by leopards there should be some human remains or perhaps even a piece of clothing or footwear belonging to the missing child.

But there was none and the next location of search was the many abandoned gem mining pits situated in the area where it was believed that the boy may have fallen.

After the search operations were called off police began investigating speculation and rumours that the boy may have been grabbed or even sold to treasure hunters to be used as a human sacrifice and towards this end local soothsayers and so-called holy men in the area were rounded up and questioned at length but with zero success.

Then there is also the mystery of the police sniffer dogs that were deployed in the search.

The dogs picked up the trail down to the stream and back to the boy’s home which indicates that he went missing at this spot and not midway as claimed by his mother.

Having exhausted their suspects in the case investigators opted to swing the search light inwards and towards this end they began to grill the boy’s mother since she had made questionable statements.

After two consecutive days of intense questioning the mother gave away very little only to insist that her child did not return home after the trip to the stream.

This statement clashed with the behaviour of the sniffer dogs that had returned and sat close to the pile of school books belonging to the missing boy.

Baffled police officer

But that is all the evidence the investigators were left to go on prompting one baffled police officer to say. “Either the woman is an extremely clever liar or just illiterate and innocent.

A visibly shaken teacher at the school in which the boy attended also made an eerie assumption.

On the last day the boy had attended school he had left the classroom for home leaving behind his hat and umbrella.

Perhaps he felt that he was not going to need it any more, the teacher said. Having said all that today the name of Sahan Kumara has faded off in the tiny village of Samanalawatte but continues to collect dust on the Missing Persons File at the Balangoda Police Station.