Entire staff of Dompe police station transferred

Five cops arrested; open verdict on death of suspect
By Leon Berenger

The entire strength at the Dompe Police Station has been moved out and five police officers have been arrested as a judicial inquiry into the death of a suspect who was in police custody returned an open verdict.

Police Chief N. K. Illangakoon told the Sunday Times yesterday further action on Friday’s incident would follow the outcome of a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inquiry. The crime OIC of the station and four policemen were brought to CID headquarters yesterday for questioning, detectives said.

In Friday’s incident where an estimated crowd of 3,000 civilians surrounded the police station after Gayan Nilan, a 28-year-old father of one, died. They set fire to the Police station and destroyed the record room, 16 vehicles, information books and furniture.

The incident has shaken up the top brass at Police Headquarters. Incidents where civilians surrounding police stations have prompted them to probe the causes for the worsening law and order situation. A senior police official who did not wish to be named said, “we want to ascertain why the police were unable to contain unruly behaviour through crowd control measures like firing tear gas.”

The crowd who surrounded the police station also prevented fire brigade trucks from entering the area.
CID Director Mahesh Perera told the Sunday Times detectives were questioning both police officers and civilians to determine the circumstance under which the suspect died.

He said statements were being recorded by policemen who were on duty at the time of the alleged incident, inmates who shared the cell with the suspect, hospital officials and people who were eyewitnesses to the attack on the Dompe police station by angry residents.

“The investigation is largely to ascertain if the victim was killed while in custody, or as the local police claimed that he died after jumping out of the vehicle that was taking him to a scene of a robbery,” SSP Perera said.

He said the entire 40-strong police team that included the officer in charge of the Dompe Police had been transferred, pending further inquiries. The suspect was taken into custody by plainclothes policemen on Thursday evening in connection with a theft of a water pump. He died the following day while in police custody.

Meanwhile officials of the Dompe hospital which is situated a bare 100 metres away from the police station said the suspect was dead on arrival early on Friday. Medical officials claimed there were signs of torture such as burn marks on his body.

Another youth who shared the same cell with the victim at the Dompe police station alleged that he too was beaten and tortured throughout the night.

“Gayan was repeatedly assaulted throughout the night and when he was finally dumped inside the cell early morning, I saw he was not breathing and was probably dead,” the inmate said in a statement to the CID from his hospital bed at Gampaha Hospital.

Gampaha’s Judicial Medical Officer S. P. A. Hewage who conducted the post mortem on the victim returned an open verdict pending further examination of the body.

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