Murder turned to suicide
Teenage girl ends life over lover’s death:
Solving murder cases is no easy task. But
when one has the interest, commitment and patience it is not difficult
to reach the goal. Good teamwork is also vital. The writer being a
Senior Superintendent of Police (Retired) explains his first hand
experiences in solving this case
The CID is part and parcel of the Police Department and functions
under a separate Deputy Inspector General of Police.
Since the late 50s till mid 60s DIG CID was S A Dissanayake. That was
the glorious period of the CID with stalwarts like John Attygalle,
Eleric Abeygoonewardene, S K Iyer, Tyrell Goonetilleke, Simon Perera, R
C Theverajah, who were brilliant investigators. To get into the CID then
was very difficult. One had to be confirmed in the rank and had to be
recommended by a CID officer.
In 1962, with the infamous coup d’etat, I was temporarily absorbed to
the CID not for enquiry, but to do the ‘spade work’ - and was made
permanent in the CID attached to unit (1) where the OIC was Inspector A
In February 1963, Jaffna Division SSP Jack Van Sandan, referred a
case to the CID. The gist of the case was a beautiful 17-year-old girl
had died of cyanide poisoning. There had been visible alien fingernail
marks on the right side of the face, neck, inner side and forearm. She
had been admitted to Jaffna Hospital around 10.10 a.m. and had expired
same day at 3.17 p.m. without gaining consciousness.
J M O Jaffna, who held the post-mortem examination on the dead body
was of the opinion that death was due to asphyxia due to cyanide
poisoning. Also he had reported that the girl had not been a virgin at
the time of death, and there was evidence to say that she has had sexual
intercourse for a very longtime. There was no evidence of having sex at
the time of death. Due to the presence of finger nail marks on the body.
The coroner gave an open verdict.
On the face of this report the parents suspected foul play and
complained to SP Jaffna. The deceased was one Sakuntala Indira
Shanmuganathan - only child of K Shanmuganathan, Office Assistant,
Kachcheri Jaffna and Iswari Shanmuganathan, principal of a leading
In Chavakachcheri, lived a wealthy fish merchant. He was one Mudiappu,
a Roman Catholic, who had an 18 years old son named Stephen, who
attended a popular school in Jaffna. He was the college cricket captain,
a good athlete and a handsome lad.
Stephen had a strong love affair with Indira Shanmuganathan and every
school going child in Jaffna knew about this affair.
Stephen who sat for the University examination crashed and his
parents wanted him to go to England to pursue higher studies.
This news was told to Indira by Stephan and it was a bolt from the
blues. She could not bear this. She who was awaiting her SSC results at
home, told her cook woman Parawathie her sad episode. She pacified her,
saying that the two years will elapse very fast and for her to bear it.
Stephan was to go to England in a month’s time and Indira found a way
of meeting Stephan.
A school friend of her’s named Daisy has married one Stanislaus and
were living in No. 20, Hospital Road, Jaffna. Practically everyday,
Indira leaves her house under the pretext of going to Daisy’s and joins
Stephan - spends the day, somewhere together and comes back home before
her mother came from the school. Daisy and Stainslaus knew about this,
as they at times met in Daisy’s house too.
Desperate and helpless
The day came for Stephan to go to England and he bid her goodbye and
promised to comeback after two years to marry her.
To spend her time for Indira was impossible. Parawathie was her only
consolation and was pacifying her.
Time elapsed, after one year and four months, Indira got the sad news
that Stephan had gone sea bathing with some friends and although being a
good swimmer had got drowned.
The body was not brought to Sri Lanka as it takes about a month by
ship, hence it was buried there and a Requiem Mass was to be held at his
old school chapel in Jaffna.
All Indra’s people requested her to attend the Requiem Mass but she
said that she had no courage to face the public and finally decided not
The man who was to marry her was now dead. She had no one to live
for. She had repeatedly told Parawathie that she too will die and
Parawathie had always advised her.
Four days after the Requiem Mass, one morning, Parwathie got a
message from her home to say that her youngest son had fallen off a push
cycle and fractured his forearm. She wanted to go home but Indira
pleaded with her not to leave her. Parawathie finally told that she will
see the injured boy and will be back before 4.00 p.m.
Indira was desperate and helpless. When Parawathie was getting ready
to go she heard some quick footsteps from the kitchen and ran in that
direction and saw Indira having a small bottle in her hand and draining
its contents to her mouth. Parawathie rushed and tried to grab the
bottle, it was a fraction late and Parawathie’s finger nails scraped
Indira’s neck, cheek and forearm: In a moment Indira fell down,
struggled and appeared to have died. Parawathie through fear left the
door ajar and left the house to see her injured son.
About 20-30 minutes later, Winslow, neighbour of Shanmuganathan’s,
saw the main door open and walked into Indira’s house and saw her fallen
in the kitchen. She had fainted. No one was at home. There was a strong
smell of acid emanating from Indira’s body. She took Indira to hospital
and informed both Shanmuganathan’s over the phone.
Indira was admitted to Jaffna hospital at 10.10 a.m. and had passed
off at 3.17 p.m. after a lapse of five hours. Shanmuganathan who knew
that Parawathie had gone home and did not know anything about this
incident sent the driver to inform her and bring her back. She who knew
the incident pretended that she had not known and started to beat her
own chest and cried that she cannot see the dead body of her ‘angel’ and
the driver returned alone.
The memo sent by SP Jaffna, had been referred to unit (1) and handed
the enquiry to me and gave PS 702 Vadivel and PC 4770 Perumal with
instructions to take the Jaffna night mail train from Colombo, Fort at
8.00 p.m. on Monday.
We went to Jaffna Police on the following morning, went through the
relevant investigation notes and briefed I P A M Seneviratne over the
phone. At 10.35 p.m. he rang me back and said that he contacted JMO
Colombo, Dr W D L Fernando and he had vouched for the integrity of JMO
Jaffna and had said that the body need not be exhumed.
We visited the house of the deceased girl. The parents were still
crying. We searched her belongings and ransacked her almirah but could
not trace anything. The deceased’s mother told that the cook woman
Parawathie had gone to her house at the time of the ill-fated incident.
She was so fond of the child that she refused to see her dead body or
attend her funeral. According to Indira’s mother, she visited only her
friend Daisy’s house at Hospital Road, Jaffna.
We went to this address and explained the purpose of our arrival, to
them. Both of them were excited and Daisy said that the boy Stephan sent
all Indira’s letters to their address and that Indira, collected them
and returned the letters for safekeeping. Daisy handed 16 letters sent
from England. She was very worried and equally frightened. I gave them
the assurance that there will be no court case and they will not be
called even as witnesses.
On going through the letters, I found that Stephan had been very fond
of Indira and wanted to marry her on his return from England. He has
also mentioned the name of one Brian Selladorai in almost all the
letters to Indira and to contact him, if necessary. We made inquiries
for Brian Selladorai, but was unsuccessful.
Though Jaffna people are talkative, when there is a problem they are
taciturn and evade the issue. I knew the famous scholar, Rev Father
Mercelin Jayakody. He was my friend and mentor.
He was in the Tutorial Staff of St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya
and I was a resident member of the Police mess Bambalapitiya and we
often met. Once in conversation, he told me how he went to Santineketan
in India to learn music and he did not get the permission of the
Catholic Church and on his arrival back, he was sent on punishment
transfer to St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna.
He served there for four years and returned to St. Peter’s College,
only in 1957. He had always said that, people are good and he has lots
of friends. I rang up Rev Father Jayakody and informed him of my plight.
He was very helpful as he instructed me to go and meet Fr Paul Ebenzer
and gave his address.
When I met Father Ebenzer, Rev Father Jayakody had already contacted
him. I got a first class response from him. He said he knows Brian
Selladorai and he was late Stephant’s closest friend and he will direct
Brian to see us tomorrow morning to SP’s office, Jaffna.
Brian appeared on the following morning. He was a pleasant chap. He
said Rev Father Jayakody, taught him and he was prepared to make a
statement. I recorded the detailed statement of Brian.
He stated that the late Stephan and he was the best of friends from
their childhood and he had a strong love affairs with Indira
Shanmuganathan for the last three years, and he too knew her and had met
her very many times and every letter sent by Stephan to Brian, had
mentioned Stephan’s true love to Indira. Several days before going to
England and his leaving the country was unbearable to her.
Also he said when he met her a day after the news arrived that
Stephan got drowned, she was desperate and vouched that she will commit
suicide, to which he advised her, not to be foolish. Two days before she
died, she had rung him and told that, it was not worth living now and
she will never ever see Stephan and wanted to commit suicide, to which
he advised over the phone again. I thanked him and released him.
When we came back to Shanmuganathan’s house, Shanmuganathan said
that, Daisy came home and apologized to her, for not informing the love
affair between her daughter and Stephan and that she did not know that
it had gone this far.
From there we went to Thondamanaru and met the Grama Sevaka of
Velvettithurai. He is a distant relative of PS 207 Vadivel. Through him,
we contacted Parwathie and she told us the whole story, which was put
into writing by P S Vadivel.
When we came back to Shanmuganathan’s house, at a distance we saw him
seated on the armchair and reading a newspaper in his verandah. On
seeing us, he darted into the house and Shanmuganathan said that, he had
gone to Colombo, for an appointment and will be back after three days. I
requested her to tell us the place where they made jewellery to her dead
daughter, as she had obtained cyanide from them. She said no jewellery
was made for her and we knew she was lying.
We came back to the CID office on the following day. I P Seneviratne
who was there looked at us sarcastically and asked whether the murder
case was solved. I smelt that something was wrong somewhere and he
handed over to me a dateless letter addressed to DIG CID by
Shanmuganathan. This letter had been written a week previously,
requesting the matter be dropped now. Anyhow we forwarded out dossier to
ASP Jaffna containing the not of inquiry for his perusal.
(Name of the drowned boy and the girl who committed suicide had been
changed to cover liability)