Thirty four year old Ajith Silva, better known as Edison, lived in the village of Sinna Paduwa, that lay wedged between the lagoon and the sea.
Some four years ago, he had lent Rs 350,000 rupees on interest to a village friend. He had fled the area without repaying him. On Saturday, a villager tipped him off that his friend had returned.
Residents and police at the scene where the body was found and brought ashore
Edison reached the coconut land early that day and mounted a patient vigil hoping that the information he received was correct and that his man would show up at any time.
He did not have to wait very long because around 11.30 a.m. he sighted an expensive cab roaring towards the area in an apparent hurry. Edison was convinced that his man had arrived but did not confront him but instead opted to watch his movements from a safe distance. The cab came to a grinding halt on the beach metres away from the waves and two men alighted from the vehicle. They were apparently surveying the area and the next thing Edison saw was the two men dragging something from the back of the vehicle and dumping it into the sea before speeding out from the area as quickly as they had come.
Edison decided to trail the vehicle at a safe distance on his motorcycle and also informed three fellow villagers who were travelling in a three wheeler to try and block the cab from leaving the area. In a short while the three wheeler using short cuts was able to catch up with the cab and block its path while Edison came from the other direction.
The restaurant where the victim worked
“There were two occupants, the driver and a passenger. While the driver was visibly shaken up and trembling the passenger sipped water from a bottle and he showed no sign of fright or emergency.
“At first we thought of apologizing to the pair for the inconvenience that had been caused by our actions but decided other wise when the men denied ever having gone to the beach.
“I became suspicious following this denial because I witnessed everything that took place on the beach that morning. Later we decided to get hold of the vehicle and the two men and hand them over to the police and ordered the pair to alight from the cab. On the pretext that they were going to comply they suddenly gunned up the engine and tore past us nearly hitting the three wheeler in the process,” Edison told the Sunday Times.
“We then bolted to the beach to find out what they had disposed of earlier, only to come face to face with the grizzly sight of a corpse bobbing in the choppy waves. We used our mobile phones to alert the nearby Mundalama police and provided them with the vehicle’s registration number. We were still hesitant of reaching for the body- that was being gradually drawn into the deeper areas owing to the strong currents. The police repeatedly advised us against having any finger prints on the body since it could interfere with investigations,” Mr. Edison further stated.
J. A. C. Anthony
Lance Corporal J. A. C. Anthony had just returned from his unit at Omanthai the previous night and was fast asleep only to be rudely woken up by his wife to be informed that there was a commotion on the beach and that it had something to do with a body that had been found.
Corporal Anthony quickly headed for the spot, situated a few metres away from his modest sea-side home and plunged into the sea and was able to bring the body to shore by grabbing the victim’s hair.
“The body was fresh, perhaps the young man had died just hours earlier and bore no scars,” Corporal Anthony said.
“The victim was a stranger. Stranger or otherwise no person should be allowed to die in this manner. Any good soldier will share my thinking. I sincerely hope that justice will be meted out to the suspects,” Anthony, a fervent Roman Catholic, told the Sunday Times.
He further added that the suspected murder vehicle had been spotted from early in the morning at several spots in the village. “Apparently the suspects were searching for a convenient place to dump their cargo, but for their bad luck they were spotted by an alert villager and full credit must be given to this man and perhaps a reward as well,” he stressed.
Ajith Silva better known as Edison
Three wheeler driver and veteran fisherman Y.M. Samansiri suspect that the victim may have been alive at the time he hit the water. “It appeared that the victim had taken a lot of salt water and sand which only goes to indicate that he may have been breathing his last after he was thrown into the sea.
“Furthermore when we first spotted the victim it was bobbing in the water with the lower part of the body submerged in the water. If that was the case the man was still alive. Usually when one drowns, the body floats on the surface. This I know through many years of experience out at sea where such sightings are common,” Samansiri said.
“Then again if the body was kept in the water for another 15 to 30 minutes we would have lost sight of it altogether since the current was strong on that particular morning and the victim would have been drawn to the sea bed only to emerge days later minus all the evidence since by then the corpse would be in a highly decomposed state,” he said.
Meanwhile the victim has been identified as a 23-year-old Indian national from Tamil Nadu who was employed as a cook at an up market eating house in Mount Lavinia.
He had been attached to the restaurant for just three months and was unhappy with the working conditions since he was forced to work long hours and he had made his feelings known to another female employee P. Pushpamalar-an estate Tamil from Talawalakelle, police investigators have found out.
What the police are currently trying to piece together is the motive for the alleged murder and the location and when it happened.
The suspects in the case are the hotel’s owner and his close buddy described as a Chief Inspector (CI) who is the officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Colombo. They have both since been remanded.
According to Selliah Jeganathan, another employee at the restaurant the victim had earlier in the day fled his employer and was heading for Mannar when his bus was intercepted at a police road block on the instructions of the suspect CI and returned to Colombo where he was handed over back to the restaurant.
Both Jeganathan and Pushpamalar last saw him alive at a room in the restaurant on Saturday evening. His body was found the next day in the seas of Mundalama.
The employees also told police that the two suspects would party late in to the night forcing the cook to stay up to prepare their meals long after closing hours. Further more there were frequent quarrels and heated arguments between the restaurant owner and his female companion, they had told police.
What the investigators are trying to piece together is the motive for the suspects to take the body such a long distance when there were several other easier options.
Secondly did the suspect Police officer use his official identity to get pass the many check points from the city to Puttalam?
If, as the suspects claim that the victim had hanged himself, why take the risk and trouble in trying to dispose the body on their own instead of informing the local police which would be the standard procedure in such a case? Or at the end of the day did the victim unknowingly stumble on to a dark secret shared by the two suspects that could have warranted such a brutal killing, is what the police are trying to ascertain right now.
Additional reporting and pix by Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe in