Anatomy of a case of jealousy, cold-blooded murder and reprisals

September 29 was a black day for the people of Karandeniya when a popular doctor was slain in the heart of the town. Now with the suspects in custody, Leon Berenger goes back to the scene of the crime

The last call received on his mobile phone was from the town’s funeral parlour director, and moments later he was killed in a hail of bullets and his limp body fell on the main road. Earlier that evening, Dr. P. P. Jayasinghe had turned up at his private clinic, in the heart of Karandeniya town a little behind schedule.

There were around 50 patients waiting for him and it was when he was attending to the last patient that he received that final telephone call from the local undertaker. The time was around 10.15 pm. and the date September 29.

Dr. Jayasinghe

Answering the mobile phone Dr. Jayasinghe had moved out of his clinic and headed towards his car that was parked just 15 metres across the road to retrieve some medical drugs and equipment which he had purchased earlier in the day while in Colombo.

It was at this point that two men, with their faces hidden by full-face motorcycle riding helmets suddenly emerged from nowhere and pumped eight bullets into the unsuspecting doctor killing him instantly before roaring away on their bike with the smoking gun.

As news of the killing spread thousands of grieving and frenzied people poured out of their homes and headed for the mortuary at the Karandeniya Hospital where the doctor’s body was placed. The people were shocked for this man had no known enemies. He was not only known as a doctor but also as a social worker, philanthropist, friend, fellow villager and devout Buddhist.

And now the job of the police was to find the unknown enemy or enemies of the dead doctor, but not before the villagers had already drawn up their own conclusions and had begun to point the finger at certain individuals to be behind the killing.

One such person to be targeted was the local funeral director, since he was the last person to speak to the doctor moments before he was gunned down. And so, the rumour mills began to roll and several spin doctors had their own version and with each passing day the dagger was closing in on the florist, who in desperation and fright sought police protection for him and his family.

“There were certain villagers known to me from my childhood, but they were ready to point the finger at me, and the stories they spun were not only vulgar but extremely dangerous,” said the funeral parlour director, Vishwa Ruwan Weerasinghe.

An investigation was on, but there were those who were eager to take the law into their own hands at the slightest provocation. “They had different agendas to get at me and were using the murder of the doctor as a perfect cover. One story doing the rounds for several days after the killing was that the late doctor-a bachelor was having a special relationship with my wife. These lies nearly ruined by life but the anxiety and fears are all now over with the real culprits behind bars.

“The reason I called the doctor on that particular night was because I needed to see him on some personal matters. We had been friends since montessori days, and we meet for a regular chat whenever time permits,” Mr. Weerasinghe said.Another person to be victimized and humiliated was Ishani Weerasinghe, the young laboratory assistant working for the slain doctor and the first to reach the victim as he lay dead in a pool of blood on the Ambalagoda-Elpitiya Road.

The doctor’s funeral

“At first they were saying that I was on the payroll of the persons behind the slaying for reasons known only to me. Then this changed to something crueller. The rumours had it that I had a crush on the unmarried doctor, and got him killed after he had jilted me.

“Some villagers used to taunt me with various remarks, some of them too disgusting to mention. I must have died a thousand times during the past four weeks. At last it is all over and I pray the killers get the punishment they deserve.

“The doctor was a father figure to me, a decent disciplined man. The rumours went from bad to worse and the situation became so frightening that we had to leave our home and move in with relatives elsewhere since we feared for our lives,” Ms. Weerasinghe added.

She said that there were some early indications of trouble before the shooting when someone had placed a wreath on the doctor’s car, followed by splashing burnt engine oil and a cement mix.

“One evening when the doctor was travelling home after dusk the vehicle was hit by a stone. But he did not take these things seriously. ‘I have no enemies, he would always remind us and dismissed the issue with a smile,” Ms. Weerasinghe who had been working for the doctor for the past four years said tearfully.

( Additional reporting by Ethkandure Janeth de Silva)

Village high priest recalls close friendship

They all wept at the funeral, and this included the Buddhist clergy. The high priest at the Sri Vijaya Sunandarama Maha Vihara, Kiripedde Dahamma Ratana Thera and Dr. Jayasinghe grew up together in the same village.

“This man was a good Samaritan in more ways than one ready to help anyone irrespective of religion, race, caste or creed. He crossed all borders. “He used to visit the temple regularly for a chat , we would talk about the past and discussed what could be done to improve the situation of the villagers.

“Our discussions would go on till late night, because the doctor lived just half a kilometre away from the temple. He was more than a friend-he was like a brother to me, ever ready to help out in temple functions, always offering to bear the costs.

“ I suffer from a certain nerve disorder and he treated me without charging a single cent. Whenever I offered money for his treatment and medicines, he would just smile and say to add it to his ‘pin potha’.
“There was the day when the household pet cat died, and the doctor buried it in a miniature coffin with all the funeral rites followed with a dhana. He was held with the highest respect by the villagers-from the cinnamon crushers to the more affluent ,” the Ven: Dhamma Ratana Thera said sadly.

The mother who still waits for her son

Today Deepani Jayasinghe, stares aimlessly at the terrace of her modest home at Kiripedde hoping to see her son turning into the drive way in his car.

A former school teacher, she knows it is a futile wait, but the unbearable pain still takes her to the front of her house each morning since that terrible day on September 29.

Ishani Weerasinghe Mother

“Mother I am late, I must hurry, and he left home for Colombo saying he had to do some purchases for the clinic and that he would be back at the earliest. He did not even have time to have his breakfast of green gram and coconut, promising me he would get a snack on the way.

“Those were his parting words, but I feel they were said just this morning,” Ms. Jayasinghe said.
She added that her son had even shelved a lucrative employment in Singapore, saying he needed to be close to her and his two brothers.

“I wasn’t even aware of the incidents about the wreath, the cement and the oil being splashed onto his car until his death. He kept it all to himself, not wanting to upset me. But if I had known I could have offered some timely advice.

“I seek no unjust revenge but the killers must be punished to the maximum extent of the law, and I will pray towards this end,” this grieving mother said.

Troubles began with the new channelling centre

The maternal uncle of the slain doctor, I. D. Jayaratne said it was pure greed, jealousy and utter foolishness on part of the suspects now in custody that led to the killing of his nephew.“Apart from the clinic and dispensary that he was operating at Karandeniya, he was planning to open a small and well equipped hospital in the area and he had even pawned a part of the family land to purchase the required high-tech medical equipment.

“At the age of 41 he never gave serious thought to getting married, since being the eldest of three he was also the bread winner. His father had passed away some years ago and his mother was nursing a worsening wound on her ankle that required his attention at all times.

“Many were the instances that he treated the poor free of charge and even provided them with the required drugs. “He operated his dispensary for about 10 years without any problems, but trouble started when he expanded his clinic into a fully equipped diagnosis and channelling centre with facilities for other doctors also to channel patients.

Prior to this there was only one such medical laboratory and channelling centre in the area and today the owner of this place has been arrested as the chief suspect in the slaying,” Mr. Jayaratne said.
He added that what was even more chilling was that the family of the second suspect was long-time friends with the slain doctor.

“Further more it was only some 18 months ago that this suspect, a serving Army captain invited my nephew for his wedding. My nephew could not make it owing to other professional obligations but he sent a present to the couple through another relative,” he said.

Remaining two suspects surrender

The two remaining suspects wanted in connection with the killing surrendered to the Military Police yesterday afternoon, police said. They said-the suspects, both soldiers attached to camps in Vakarai and Jaffna were believed to be the two gunmen who fired the fatal shots at the doctor.

The two soldiers who were evading arrest are residents from Meetiyagoda. They are also related to each other. Investigators said the two suspects will be handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who are conducting the ongoing investigations.

How the murder plot was hatched

It was humid that evening and the night promised rain when the owner of the only other medical channelling centre and his guests sat down for dinner at his plush home in Karandeniya.

The guests that evening included a serving Army captain and his Sri Lankan-born Nepali wife who lived in the nearby village of Kurundugaha. Police believe that it was during this dinner that plans were made to kill the doctor who operated his channelling centre, some 500 metres from where the group was dining.

The doctor had become a serious threat to the business of the medi-lab owner. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) under the instructions of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mahesh Perera began a detailed investigation.

Although detectives are still trying to piece together how the hit was planned, they are convinced that they have the main two suspects in custody while a hunt is on for two others (both serving soldiers) who are believed to have pulled the trigger.

The dinner party took place on September 24 and the following day the Army captain reported to his detachment in Dambulla. Four days later the doctor was killed outside his clinic. A senior CID official said that after weeks of covert investigations there was sufficient evidence to rope in the owner of the medical channelling centre.

“At first we had six suspects, but later we narrowed it down to four. There is no one else involved,” he said. “It is a clear cut case. The chief suspect got worried about his future business prospects and had we believe handed over a contract to his close friend the Army captain who in turn brought in his confidantes to do the job. It is still not clear what the contract sum was, we are working on it,” he said adding that they were hunting for the other two suspects and were confident of an early breakthrough.

“We believe that this group may have been involved in previous crimes while remaining in the Army, so that it could be a perfect cover. The captain owns a residence worth some Rs. eight million. We are looking into establish the source for such monies,” he added.

Villagers on the rampage

The army captain’s house was given protection by the STF

As news of the arrests were made known to the villagers last Monday, enraged mobs went on the rampage torching about six houses belonging to the suspects and their relatives and the medical centre owned by the chief suspect.

Authorities had to impose a dusk to dawn curfew in the area to contain the tension and violence.
The damage has been estimated at millions of rupees. The only house that escaped the rampaging mobs was the one owned by the suspect army captain. It was being guarded round the clock by some 50 elite commandos from the Special Task Force (STF).

This house according to residents was built at a cost of some Rs. eight million, raising questions to the source of such a large sum of money.

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