Was it murder or suicide? | Sunday Observer
Mystery death of Padmini Kularathne:

Was it murder or suicide?

22 August, 2021

Murder is a punishable offence under section 296 of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka. Human beings are killing other humans for many reasons.

For some such reasons, the law has given the opportunity to get a less punishment for such offences.

Culpable homicide

An offense that is not amounting to murder is known as Culpable Homicide. Those instances are called the defences in law.

These defences have been categorised into two as general defences and specific defences. However, if such defence is not present with the offence, there is no salvation by the law unless there is no evidence to prove the causation in relation to mental and physical elements, beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, other than organised crimes in Sri Lanka, feuds between spouses are the main reason for culpable homicides.

The main reason is humans don’t like to settle problems in a peaceful manner and all they want is to harm someone and get a relaxation like uncivilised animals.

Yes it is true we all are animals, but up to now, there is various type of means which help humans to be civilised and to behave in a good manner in society such as laws and regulations, religions, cultures, ethics and so on.

And also we have enough brains to control the anger and reduce the secretion of adrenaline from the Inside of this wonderful body.

Short period

We all have come to this world to live a short period of time and go back. Therefore we have to live very effectively in this short period of time with a good cause and without bothering or searching for others’ lives.

Every human has their own path and own character to build up. Always the right to life of a human being must be protected and no one can challenge it by doing unnecessary things.

However, there are some instances that can be challenged the right to life as mentioned above under some special circumstances. Otherwise, the law will not be tolerated.

Most Sri Lankans after marriage tend to change with the birth of children and look for affection and love elsewhere apart from the spouse.

Then they will file civil actions for a divorce or a legal separation. To get a divorce from the court the plaintiff must prove any ground as following; Malicious Desertion, Constructive Malicious Desertion, Incurable Impotency, and Adultery according to section 19 (2) of the General Marriage Registration Ordinance.

Consent to divorce

But if one spouse is not looking forward to awarding the consent to divorce from the person who filed the case then he/she will get angry and try to keep that person way from his/her freedom. This freedom is variable depending on the person.

The Buddha has emphasised that there are three doors to get spoiled in life very easily. They are: going after women or sex workers, consumption of liquor, and engagement in gambling. If anyone is engaging in these types of moral offences that person will be in a crisis on any day in his life.

The result of people thinking they are immortal, even when we all have to give up all these things one day and go on our final journey.

The fate of several precious human lives as a result of civil disputes would make all of us think twice before we ever interfere with another’s life by any unlawful means.

When considering any crime; there are three types of verdicts, they are, the verdict given by nature, the court, and the society. Although it is possible to escape the verdicts given by the court and society, it is not at all possible to escape the verdict by nature.

Supreme Court

However, this murder case of Padmini Kularathne is another mysterious case that was given the chance to nature for the purpose of giving a verdict after the Supreme Court judgment.

Concerning the facts of the case, Kularatne, a well-known doctor, was the heir to the Samudrasiri House built in the ancient Dutch style.

After his death, his son doctor Demand Gamini De Silva Kularatne owned the “Samudrasiri” House.

Doctor Gamini Kularatne (first accused), his mother Laura Kularatne (second accused), servants called Sophia (third accused), Ceciline (these two were the kitchen workers), Rommel the driver and another servant called Banda lived in this house.

Doctor Gamini Kularatne had been working as a Government doctor at the Kekirawa Hospital for some time.

He was married on September 28, 1947, to Padmini Susila Perera, 23 years old, who inherited a large estate. Later after the marriage, she was named Padmini Kularatne. The couple got married and settled in the “Samudrasiri” house and lived happily for several years.

After the third child, doctor Kularatne quit his Government job and started a private dispensary in Galle. Ariyawathi, a beautiful young woman, was selected as his assistant against the wishes of his wife.

In time, he had an affair with Ariyawathi. Later, Padmini Kularatne caught him when he was in close contact with this lady in the dispensary.

This was not a good time and there were frequent misunderstandings between these spouses.

Laura, the mother-in-law of Padmini Kularatne, also disliked her and took doctor Kularatne’s side and discriminated against her at every turn.

In a very short time, he tried to get her admitted to the Angoda hospital saying that she had a mental illness but it was prevented due to her sister “Lalani”.

He once even beat her with a whip and his mother Laura locked her in a dark room upstairs and fed her from a window downstairs with the help of a rope.

During this period he offered her fifty thousand rupees and asked for a divorce but she refused. However, with time she lingered with such stress.

Wicker basket

On April, 9, 1967, shortly after taking the food sent upstairs in the wicker basket as before, she began to go to the toilet incessantly with severe abdominal pain, so she fell unconscious on the bed. She later informed her sister, saying, “I’m having a hard time and if you admit me to the hospital I can save myself.”

When Lalini arrived at the scene with police officers, Padmini Kularatne had gone on her final journey.

The post-mortem examination was carried out by Dr. H. V. J. Fernando, a professor of forensic medicine at the University of Ceylon.

He got samples of her vomit and her stomach for the examination.

It was later proved that the cause of death of Padmini Kularatne was a toxic chemical (Potassium Arsenic [K3As]) and contained 730mg. He suspected that the poison had been introduced into a “billing pickle” she had eaten at the time. It was suspected that it was Sophia cooked the poisonous food and that her mother-in-law and husband were behind it.

Police arrested her husband, mother-in-law, and servant Sophia on suspicion of aiding and abetting murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and committing murder, and the case was heard before an English-speaking jury. All three accused were sentenced to death after the trial at High Court.

Court of Appeal

Later, Attorney-at-law Colvin R. de Silva with several other lawyers appeared for the accused.

The following matters were considered at the hearing of the appeal filed before the Court of Appeal.

Lack of any eye-witness evidence, the prosecution did not call for evidence, although it is suspected that the servant Ceciline prepared the food with the toxic chemical.

There was no evidence of intent against Ceciline, and at the same time there was no evidence that she had no such intention.

Contradictions in the testimony of a girl named Achini, the youngest daughter of Padmini Kularatne, and inability to accept some of that testimony’s evidence.

The identities of the findings in a criminal case must be accurate not by assumptions, but by direct evidence that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. During the trial, the analyst presented Padmini’s plate from what she used to eat to the medical examiner but did not call the Police Constable or the Inspector who brought the plate to her or Achini to identify the plate.

Bottles of arsenic

The two bottles of arsenic used for medicines found in a cupboard in doctor Kularatne’s dispensary could have misled the jury that the potassium arsenic in Padmini Kularatne’s stomach was the same.

Did the judge have examine that there is sufficient evidence or is the evidence reasonable, credible, conclusive, or in other words, a question of the veracity of the evidence.

In accordance with Section 230 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which states that it is the duty of a judge to decide whether there is evidence to support the defendant’s case.

The jury must decide whether such evidence and conviction has been substantiated.

Therefore, failure to inform the Jury that the murder may have been a suicide, despite the fact that all possible facts must be pointed out to the jurors.

A statement made during an inquiry under Section 122 of the Code of Criminal Procedure may be used only for the limited purposes permitted by that division.

It cannot be used to form a basis for speculating that the behaviour of the person who created it is suspicious.

Prior to amending the charge sheet, security points should be made, especially at a late stage. If the amendment is made before the judge decides whether or not to proceed with the proceedings immediately in accordance with Section 172 or 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the defendant should be consulted but that was not the case.

After considering the above main points, the Court of Appeal unanimously held that the errors in the judicial procedure and the facts presented before the jury were far less than the evidence that could be presented by a fair Jury.

Accordingly, they were of the opinion that they could not support the Jury’s decision in considering the evidence and facts.

The accused were acquitted of all charges.

Today, the ground floor of the “Samudrasiri” house is a tourist hotel and the upper floor is an office of the Department of Labor.

Was Padmini Kularatne poisoned and killed? Or did she commit suicide because she could not bear the mental pressure? It is still a mystery.