12th October 1997


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Murders and other crimes

The following are excerpts from the book History of the Ceylon Police, by A. C. Dep, former Inspector General of Police
During the 1890s several cases of murder attracted a great deal of publicity. The Talwatte murder case and the murder of Inspector Nell were two such cases. Every year three were notable cases of murder. In 1896 occurred the Fleming Murder Case. The accused were the members of one family which included the father, the mother and five sons.. One of the accused in this case who was awaiting the death sentence escaped from jail with another convict named Mariano. Both these men had made their appearance at Mudukattuwa, collected what was necessary for them and decamped.

Then followed a well organised manhunt. The officers who gathered broke up into two parties and searched the country moving in opposite directions. Korale Muhandiram Philips, Inspector Anderson, Sergeant A. A. Rahim, and others searched southwards from Mudukattuwa while the Inspector-General, the Assistant Government Agent (Mr. Constantine), Mr. Eyers, Muhandirams Amerasekera and Rowel and others searched northwards from this point. Both parties met at the Toduwa Fort and were satisfied that the two convict had gone towards Panirenduwa forest along Compasspura. Muhandiram Amerasekera got down the Headman of Kudawewa (Balasuriya Mudiansege Hitihamy) and sent him on the track. He visited Madampe, Koswatte, Kadigawe, Hettipola making inquiries and learnt that the two men had gone towards Bandara-Koswatte and Olupeliyawe Dewala. This information was considered reliable and through the good officers of the President of Rambukwelle he enlisted the assistance of Tammita Korale and Koswatte Aratchi. The search party learnt that the fugitives were in the house of one Nikulas at Olupeliyawe near Nikaweratiya. They ambushed near the house and arrested Mariano as he stepped out and Appu Sinho when he was seated on the pila of the house. They were immediately taken to the house of the ratemahatmaya (Hulugalle) and the Government Agent was informed. Mr. Wace sent a Sergeant and six Constables to take charge of them. Inspectors Anderson and F. O. Peries went to the spot and brought the fugitives and lodged them in the Kurunegala Jail. Information was received that some people had come from Chilaw to rescue them, and they were then taken to Hulftsdorf and thence to Chilaw to await their execution. Mr. A. W. Andree of the Hopetown Studio, Slave Island, took a clear photograph of them.

Murder in the Hambantota Police Station-1900.

In November a man died whilst in custody at the Hambantota Police Station. Dr. Nurgara who held the postmortem reported that death was due to internal haemorrhage caused by violence. A Sergeant and Constable were suspected of having caused this death. But the Assistant Government Agent who was in charge of the Police was not satisfied and asked for another postmortem. Doctors Eliyathamby and Ephraims gave a contrary view and pointed out that Dr. Nugara was wrong. Dr. Nugara was charged for prefury and conspiracy. At the trial though the Judge summed up for a conviction, the Jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Some Assaults

On the 11th April, 1896, Mr. Joseph Spencer, Assistant at Coolbarn Estate, was on his way to Blackwater Estate for dinner. He was waylaid and attacked by four Sinhalese men. His stick was snatched and his watch and chain removed. He went to Nawalpitiya and lodged his complaint.

In 1896, Constable Chelliah with two other Constables were sent to watch Naina’s gambling. Chellian tried to overdo his part and was attacked by Naina’s men and sustained a broken leg.

At Nuwara Eliya, the Local Board Constable tried to act and were badly attacked to arrest persons not being members of the regular Police. This "brave band" was soon replaced by the Regular Police.

In 1901, Rev, Father J.M. Lanigan of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo was charged in Courts before Mr. Hellings for assault. He had caned Erice Marshall, the son of the Superintendent of Police for writing in his Latin Exercise Book four lines of nasty rhyme. He had been given only four cuts with the cane and not 21 as made out. Mr. Helligns rejected the plaint as a punishment prescribed had been inflicted.

In February, 1902, Inspector Elstone of Fort was on his way to Alutmawatte with Sergeant Raymond and another European. They were mistaken for tourists and misdirected. They found themselves behind the Kotahena Temple. Their intentions being mistaken they were attacked with stones and sought shelter in a house. A Police Party rescued them and took them to the Police Station.

In April, 1897, the King of Siam with his retinue arrived at the Colombo Jetty to leave the Island. The King left for the ship in a special launch while his four sons immaculately dressed in Eton Jackets and white collars were waiting for a launch. Just then a launch bringing some Englishmen touched the jetty, one of the Englishmen fell into the water. In trying to step on to the jetty much to the amusement of those who were gathered there. Regaining his footing with difficulty, the European went up to the nearest person who was laughing and smacked him in the face. There was a stir. For he had slapped one of the Princess. The Siamese Aide promptly drew out his gorgeous sword and the Buddhist crowd stirred ominously. Major Knollys stepped out and firmly ordered the European to apologise to the Prince. A thing he did at once and was graciously accepted by the Prince. The incident thus closed on a very high note.

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