2007: Botched investigations and impunity to gangsters
2007 was once again a year in which the country saw a number of heinous crimes being committed. It was also a year in which the police department faced much criticism for its inaction. The department had little successes to celebrate.
The country also faced a spate of abductions and forced disappearances. In most cases there has been no break thorough and investigations remain moribund.
With incidents of extortion and abductions becoming almost routine and the country witnessing some of the most gruesome multiple killings in recent history, the question foremost in the mind of the public is… can the police department cope with the ever increasing crime rate in the country?
The Sunday Times learns that during the year 2007, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is burdened with over 3,500 cases which are still pending.
During the year 2006, more than 60,000 grave crimes including abductions and kidnappings, rape, incest, homicide and drug related offences were recorded. Of these 22,410 were disposed of. Investigations into 28,650 cases are pending while another 8,954 are before the Magistrates Courts.
In the first six months of 2007 more than 30,000 grave crimes were recorded. Of these 7,958 were disposed of, investigations of 15,996 cases are pending while another 3,995 are before the Magistrate’s Court.
The reasons given for the failure to solve these crimes range from insufficient evidence, to case files being misplaced or destroyed by parties with a vested interest.
The Sunday Times looks back at the major unsolved crimes of 2007.
- Nearly one year on the police are yet in the dark regarding the discovery of four unidentified bodies of men dumped in two places in Vavuniyas on the 7th.
Two of the bodies riddled with bullets were found in a partly constructed house in Garrison Town while the other two were found strangled and dumped on the bank of a lake in the same area with rope around their necks.
The corpses were decomposed and the faces charred. The investigations of the Vavuniya police have been unsuccessful to date.
- Investigations into the arrest of a journalist, a trade union activist and a graphic designer who were taken into custody on suspicion of having links with the LTTE are at a standstill.
Controversy was sparked over the arrest of the trio. All were employees of the Railway Department and worked on the editorial staff of a railway workers tabloid. They were first reported to have been abducted by armed men on the night of the 4th.
After much agitation by railway unions and media rights groups the government spilled the beans. It admitted the trio had been taken into custody by the police.
It accused the trio of being part of a Sinhalese terrorist group aiding the LTTE.
However few arrests were made and the police was burdened with the problem of gathering evidence to prove its case.
A few weeks later another Sinhalese suspect supposedly linked to the group in question mysteriously committed suicide by hanging himself inside the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
No probe was launched with regard as to how the incident took place within the CID headquarters.
- Five bullet riddled bodies were discovered in a swamp at Kandana –part of the Muthurajawela marshland.
The victims with their eyes blindfolded and faces disfigured caused horror on March 3, investigations are continuing and the perpetrators are as yet unknown.
According to the police the five people were abducted, brought to the swamp and brutally slain. The motive of the killing is also unknown.
Another male body was recovered from the Kelani river 48 hours later.
On the 6th five more charred bodies were discovered in the Thirippane area in the Anuradhapura district. Police chief Victor Perera said a secret group was responsible for the killings.
However no such secret group was brought to book.
- Investigations into another VAT scam surfaced leaving the police clueless. A single businessman is reported to have embezzled Rs. 570 million in a single month as VAT refund. The stunning disclosure was made on April 27 by the Parliament Select Committee on Public Accounts which decided to launch a full probe after Inland Revenue Department officials failed to provide clear details about the businessman who had allegedly received the refunds.
However the CID believed that the suspect would have fled the country with the booty.
- Five members of a single family including two children below the age of 5 were hacked to death. The prime suspects who were arrested in connection to the killing were shot by the police who claimed “self defence”. After the suspects were arrested neighbours in the area went on rampage torching houses of the suspects. The police told Court that the suspects who were arrested were taken to the scene of crime where they had attempted to lob a grenade. The Magistrate returned a verdict of “justifiable homicide in an act of self defence”. However questions surround the shooting of the suspects as well as the inability of the police to stop villagers from torching the suspects’ property still remain.
- The killers responsible for the murder of nine persons whose bodies were found dumped at a marshy land in Dummaladeniya in Wennappuwa on the 8th yet remain a mystery to the police.
Six of the nine bodies have been identified. The bodies had been recovered near a clump of bamboo trees in a marsh and had been scattered in two different places. The nine persons were believed to have been abducted and then killed.
- Despite the government promising a prompt investigation into the abduction and murder of two volunteers of the Sri Lanka Red Cross, investigators are apparently clueless as to who the culprits could be.
The two volunteers of the Batticaloa branch of the Red Cross were on their way back to Batticaloa after attending a conference in Colombo. They were abducted at the Fort railway station on June 1. The Red Cross had immediately lodged a complaint regarding the abduction to the Inspector General of Police. Their bodies were later found in an estate in Ratnapura. The Karuna faction was blamed for the killing, however no action was taken against any perpetrators.
- The Vavuniya police are yet to identify four bullet-riddled bodies found at Thavasikulum in Vavuniya. The bodies were said to bear T-56 gunshot injuries. The police alleged the LTTE carried out the killing. However no evidence relating to the murder has been uncovered as yet.
- On August 20 a humanitarian worker belonging to the Danish De-mining Group Please turn to Page 12. Contd. from Page 11
who was shot dead at point blank range alongside another worker who was also injured in Jaffna on August 20. Mystery once again shrouds the killing and no one has been taken into custody for the crime.
The incident came just days after the controversy surrounding the statement made by UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief John Holmes that Sri Lanka was among the most dangerous places for humanitarian workers.
- The Panadura police who initially failed to make a breakthrough in the killing of five youth who were shot and hacked to death in what is believed to be a gangland killing on the 26th,
Apprehended a suspect a few days later and eventually killed him when he allegedly attempted to hurl a hand grenade.
Police claimed the kill as “justifiable homicide”. The other suspects involved in the killing have disappeared from the area.
- Investigations into the case of non-cabinet rank labour minister Mervyn Silva’s son Malaka Silva’s alleged pistol-whipping an accountant is yet pending.
Malaka Silva who has a record of having been involved in numerous night club fracas on previous occasions was later released on bail. Police investigators claimed insufficient evidence to file charges.
- A person alleged to have swindled over a 100 people to the tune of over Rs. 30 million reportedly fled the country. The police who were late in apprehending the culprit were left helpless. The culprit had been running a bogus jewellery pawn shop in Pettah.
- On November 21 The Sunday Leader printing press was torched by an unknown group. The police investigating the crime are apparently unable find a single person who committed the deed.
However there is much controversy over the way police carried out investigations
- Police investigations are continuing after headline hitting non Cabinet Minister Mervyn Silva assaulted the Rupavahini news director.
His henchmen were taken into custody; however no action has been taken against Minister Silva. The Magistrate hearing the case expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which the police handled the case, warned them to be more transparent and bring the culprits to book irrespective of their status.