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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

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Pelvic girdle unravels a mystery

One day, while the OIC unit 1 of the CID was holding the weekly instructions class ASP CID Tyrrel Goonatilake came over the intercom and told that DIG CID wants him to see DIG with me post-haste. When entered his office he was in the best of moods, which is very seldom seen. The pipe smoke had filled his room. He introduced another gentleman who was in the room and said that they were classmates at Royal and later was a superintendent of surveys and said that he had found a treasure in an abandoned well a complete skeleton of a human being.

DIG wanted this inquiry to be given to me.

I got down Vanderwall to my unit and recorded his statement, he stated that his younger brother Vernon got five acres of crown land from Niggaha Bulathsinhala for mining gems. At the fringe of the jungle is a disused well and a gunny bag containing a complete skeleton had been found. He did not want to report this to local police, but came and requested to get this inquired into by the CID.

I brought the DIG’s friend Vanderwall and recorded his statement. He said that his younger brother Clement got a licence from G A Kalutara to nine gems in a crown land at Niggaha in Bulathsinhala Police area. They wanted to get water and started to dig an abandoned well. While digging they found a large gunny bag made, by joining two gunnies together. When the large bag was fished out of the well it was found to contain a complete skeleton. He did not report this to the local police but requested DIG CID to commence an investigation.

A jeep with a driver and two constables were given to me for this inquiry. We went to meet the magistrate Malingam. The case was discussed and he detailed Shelton Goonatilaka to hold an inquest after reading the ‘B’ report filed by us.

Shelton Goonatilake visited the scene and ordered to take the sack out of the well. When it was done and the gunny bag was emptied on to the ground. A whole skeleton full of the sack, the scene was about 15 miles away from Matugama and the road is motorable up to about one mile and one has to walk two miles in the jungle.

Shelton Goonatilaka wanted the heap of bones removed to General Morgue Colombo, to hold the post-mortem examination.

We handed over the bag of bones to police post to hospital mortuary on the same evening and the post-mortem exam to be held on the following Saturday morning.

We left to the morgue around 8.30am and Dr Chandra Amarasekara had visited the morgue around 8.30am and was prepared to hold at 8.40am. The post-mortem commenced 8.40 am and ended up at 12.45pm. He had assembled the whole skeleton and according to him it was of a female aged between 40-45 yrs, standing up to a height of 4’10’. She had died about six months past, had died due to gunshot injuries, made from a home-made cartridges, while the woman. The death had not occurred instantaneously, but had, after burning and die.

The doctor produced eight slugs which had been spent at least five days in the body. The decease would have been in a standing position, when instantaneously the pelpets struck her she had not died instantaneously, but would have lived at least for four hours after receiving the gunshot injuries.

I showed the report of the JMO to OIC Crimes I IP Senaviratne and he was very happy that the cause of death is known and have to find out who the dead woman was and then the accused. The two police officers given to me and I came to Niggaha where the bones were found. Vernon Vanderwall had his camp with about 10 labourers. He appeared to be a good hunter. He had a 22 rifle, a 303 rifle and a 12 bore breach loading Winchester shot gun.

This area was shrub jungle surrounded by mountains and further away was the true forest where the leopard and bear roam. This extends to the Sinharaja forest.

I borrowed various shot guns and a few cartridges and went up the hill. Having come about 800 yards, I came across a hut and a woman dressed more or less in rags was there. She would have been 30-40 yrs of age, but look very much more. I drank three cups of toddy given by her and paid more money than the cost she looked at the shot gun and said that her husband will love it. I told her that I will come on the next day morning around 9 am to go with her husband on a wild boar hunt.

I spent the night with Vernon in a camp cot under a large tree.

When I visited them around 9 am next day they were waiting my arrival. The woman is Komali and her husband is Siridiyes. We became good friends. Both of us went into the jungle, there were six more huts at different different places. Of those one was unoccupied the other three had a man alone. According to Siyadoris the hut is abandoned but belonged to a man called Kovis who lived there with his Mistress Misilin. Siyadoris was a reputed hunter who had an unlicensed gun and lived more or less on hunting. About an year back both Kovis and his wife had fled away. No one knew the reason. They were a very loving couple and some villages said that Kovis’s wife was expecting a baby and would have gone to her village at Kelinkanda Badureliya. Since Kovis and his wife left the hut it went to decay.

On the following morning two constables and I left this place near to Badureliya which is about 8 miles away and has only one bus. At Badureliya we reliably learnt that Kovis is living with his sister at Yatagampitiya. Villager did not know where his wife was and now he earns a coin by catching fish from the river.

It was rumoured that Kovis took his wife away as she was pregnant for the third time, to a new place.

We made inquiries and found that the information about Kovis fishing in the Yatagampitiya riverest area and we went to Yatagamitiya and a fellow villager pointed out a man who was fishing and said it was Kovis. I went and sat besides him. He started crying like a child. I told him that we are from the Police and came to arrest him for the murder of his wife.

I explained the charge levelled against him and recorded his statement. He was crying incessantly, not because he was arrested but he remembered how she suffered after getting the gun shot injuries. According to him on this fateful day around 10am she prepared yams for breakfast as he had to go on his hunting tour. As the yams were still hot after cooking she put it to cool with the winnowing fan and after he finished the first serving she insisted to have a few more pieces. When she brought his water to drink, she tripped and fell and there was a loud explosion as she had fell.

It struck me only then that there was a defect in the striker pin which I had not told her. The gun accidently fired injuring her on the lower part of the front of the chest. There was no one in the hut or close by and she could not be lifted to be taken for treatment to a hospital. She was in the hut gasping for breath for about 4-5 hours and passed off.

He was desperate no one was there to advise him or even talk to. He put the dead body in two sacks joining together, and dragged the contains of the sack down the hill up to an abandoned well which was a few 100 fathoms away. This well was not in use, and had one quarter filled with earth, dumped the sack with the dead body and put earth on top of the gunny bag only till the gunny was covered and went away.

This happened about 9 months of one year back. Unlike at Police stations CID refers all its cases to the Attorney General for instructions. This had been practice even in direct non complicated cases.

A few weeks later the dosseir sent to AG for instructions was received to charge the accused for causing the death by a rash and a negligent act under section 298 of the Ceylon Penal Code.

The accused did not even beg for clemency from Courts. The Magistrate assumed duties in the capacity of a District Judge and sentenced him to fact for a period of 2 yrs.

It was reliably learnt that the accused Kovis died in jail two months after his conviction and as there was no claimant for the dead body it was buried by the Prison Authorities at Government expense at General Cemetery Borella.

 

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