Mass grave in a mulberry farm | Sunday Observer

Mass grave in a mulberry farm

24 April, 2022

The grave diggers were at work under the sweltering heat on a mulberry farm at Galaha in the outskirts of Kandy under the watchful eye of the local Magistrate, the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) a posse of mufti-clad policemen and the media.

It did not take too long before the remains of those buried were retrieved and placed on a plastic sheet that had been spread out on the ground close to the mass grave.

At the entrance to the mulberry farm a tent had been set up and would be later used as a make shift Magistrate’s court where the proceedings would take place.

Three suspects

Situated nearby was a jeep surrounded by policemen, armed to the teeth as they kept guard over three suspects responsible for the killing of seven persons over a period of time before stealing their vehicles.

Also, among the hundreds of curious onlookers that had gathered at the site were relatives of those killed and they were demanding that the suspects be handed over to them and damn with the judicial process.

Investigations would later reveal that those murdered had been strangled with a thick coir rope that had a wire running across it before their limp bodies were dumped into the mass grave. Death would have been almost instant, a medical autopsy would later conclude.

Let us back forward the scene from Galaha to a small hotel cum bar at Maskeliya, some 90 kilometres further up in the hill country.

It is in this hotel that a group of intoxicated men were discussing the sudden fortunes of ‘John Doe’ (a suspect that cannot be named) who owns a garage in the Nuwara Eliya Division.

The men were also questioning the source of the fortune that ‘John Doe’ had by now inherited that include a fleet of brand new vehicles and the expansions of the man’s garage.

Listening with great interest to the conversation of the men was another man seated a table nearby who had arrived at the hotel for a night cap before going home for the day.

Criminal cases

This loner at the table was no ordinary person. He was a Chief Inspector (CI) of Police heading a special unit that probes high profile criminal cases as well as anti-Government activities.

The CI was in possession of several files related to unsolved cases in the Nuwara Eliya Division and one of them was a series of vehicle thefts that were never traced.

It was also a period when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were getting more active in the up country plantation sector and their involvement in the thefts could not be ruled out.

But as the CI and his undercover operatives began to investigate ‘John Doe’ and his close associates for several weeks while at the time keeping the garage under close surveillance it was clear that they were up to something big.

Finally armed with a search warrant and a directive from his immediate superior, the CI and his men raided the garage and their findings contained plenty of evidence to move for an arrest.

The findings included freshly painted vehicles, doctored vehicle registration papers and fake licence number plates.

Three persons that included two from the same family were arrested and under interrogation the terrifying story began to unfold.

The suspects would later tell investigators the modus operandi for their criminal operation that lasted for a little more than one year.

Doctored identification papers

Initially, the suspects would arrive at a rent a car outlet clad in the best of attire and hire a vehicle with a driver after providing cleverly doctored identification papers and the requisite down payment.

The unsuspecting vehicle dealer is only too willing to provide the suspects with a vehicle and driver as nothing seems to be amiss.

In all the cases the suspects would tell the vehicle dealer that their final destination was Nuwara Eliya. It was not to be their final destination, but instead it was the driver who would be strangled to death on reaching the Galaha mulberry farm.

The vehicle is later driven away from Galaha to the garage in Nuwara-Eliya where the suspects proceed to remove all identification of the vehicle.

The vehicle is later sold to an unsuspecting customer at a reasonable price and to be never seen again.

The suspects struck seven times which meant there were seven vehicle thefts and an equal number of murders in a one year.