Firoze Sameer’s article in the Sunday Times of January 26, 2014 on this topic prompted me to respond with some facts within my knowledge. I had acquaintance with Pauline de Croos during the latter part of 1965 when I was stationed at Cinnamon Gardens Police Station as a sub-inspector and was occupying a room in [...]

Sunday Times 2

Pauline de Croos: A grave miscarriage of justice


Firoze Sameer’s article in the Sunday Times of January 26, 2014 on this topic prompted me to respond with some facts within my knowledge. I had acquaintance with Pauline de Croos during the latter part of 1965 when I was stationed at Cinnamon Gardens Police Station as a sub-inspector and was occupying a room in the sub-inspectors’ quarters in the Bambalapitiya Police Station complex.

One day in the latter part of 1965, I received a telephone call from a girl when I was at the Cinnamon Gardens Police Station. The girl informed me that she had picked some important official documents belonging to me from the road and asked me to meet her at the Alerics Ice Cream Parlour at Bambalapitiya to collect the documents. Straightaway I presumed that my friends were pulling my leg and would stay in ambush to give me a hoot. I thought I’ll do one better by making the appointment and not go.

The next day she called to say that she waited for me and was disappointed. I then told her, now that she was taking so much trouble to hand the documents, to bring them to me at the Bambalapitya Police Station. She agreed and did accordingly. Her name was Pauline de Croos. The documents were some old Supreme Courts summons and other papers that were on a table in my room and I no longer needed them. I was however curious to know where exactly she found them. She promised to tell me that and give me a lot more confidential information if I could oblige a request. Her request was that I use my influence and obtain a copy of a photograph that she required from the Vinns Studio Maradana. Having promised to help her I elicited much information, meeting her a few more times accompanied by my good friend and colleague Sirali Peris, having verified the information I had received at each previous meeting. In the process I came to know a good part of her life story.

Her life story as related by her goes like this: During her early teens in the early sixties she had been attending a girls’ school at Wellawatte and she had to cross Galle Road to get to her school. At the point of crossing the road she had to pass a young sub-inspector on traffic duty. They developed a love affair. He promised to marry her whence they became intimate and she got pregnant.Desperately she started to visit S.I. “X” at the Police Station. S.I. “X” convinced her that he would marry her later and persuaded her to have an abortion. Her parents coming to know of her conduct had turned her out from their home and she had to put up with a friend. Losing faith in S.I. “X”, she had complained to higher authorities in the police at Colombo Fort. Again convincing her of marriage she had been persuaded to withdraw her complaint.

Finding it difficult to extricate himself from the girl, S.I “X” had drawn up a master plan: He had introduced Pauline to a sub-inspector colleague who started to show interest in her. This new S.I. friend had shown her his photograph in police uniform. With the interest of S.I. “X” waning she had switched over to the new boyfriend and became intimate with him. After some time she learnt that he was not a police officer but a clerk working at the Marketing Department (if I remember right) by the name of Bodhipala Kirimbakanda – Pauline had started to visit Kirimbakanda at his work place and then it became Kirimbakanda’s turn to evade her.

During that time there was wide media publicity about a murder case at Modera – ‘Rail Track Murder’. In that case a man was found shot dead on the rail track in Modera. With the intention of dissuading Pauline from coming in search of him, he had claimed to be the murderer in the shooting, and told her that he would go into hiding and not to look for him. Her vindictive reaction had been to pass this information to the investigating police officer. Kirimbakanda had been arrested and remanded. He had thereupon admitted to the lesser offence of a hoax, than be held for murder. After his release, however, a relationship of sorts had continued between the two with a battle of wits in the process. She had also kept a relationship with her first boyfriend S.I. “X”

The most shocking information as far as I was concerned was that S.I. “X” had taken Pauline to my room in my absence and she had taken the documents without his knowledge as proof of visiting my room. She had also seen him taking the key to my room from atop a beam above the door where I used to conceal it. I did try to obtain the photograph she required as I had no qualms about helping her to fix S.I. “X”, but it was not possible to locate the negative without the code number at the back of the photograph. I explained this position to her and she did not communicate with me thereafter.

The next time I heard of Pauline de Croos was when she and Kirimbakanda were implicated in the murder of Kirimbakanda’s 11-year-old son Gotabhaya. I was quite amused to hear that her meetings with me had also been recorded in her famous diaries. On the day when prosecuting counsel A.C. (Bunty) de Zoysa was addressing the jury, I went to the courts in Hulftsdorp to listen to the proceedings. Kirimbakanda who was defended by a galaxy of legal luminaries had been discharged one week earlier and the diminutive Pauline de Croos was alone in the dock. The court house was chock-a-block with lawyers and law students. Bunty de Zoysa was waxing eloquent, reminiscent of Mark Anthony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar. He kept repeating the epithets “forlorn’ and pathetic’ in describing the deceased boy. It was a speech full of artifice and pathos thereby not only appealing to the sentiments of sympathy in the jury towards the deceased boy, but in converse generating huge prejudice against the accused girl. Pauline with her parents having discarded her and destitute with no means to retain eminent counsel, appeared to be the ‘forlorn’ and ‘pathetic’ one. In fact Chief Justice H.N.G. Fernando who was hearing the trial cautioned counsel several times to refrain from using those epithets and to confine himself to the evidence and law. But the damage had already been done.

“O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason,”
- Shakespeare,

Little wonder that Justice A.L.S. Sirimanne in the Court of Criminal Appeal dissented with the two other judges who dismissed the appeal, and recommended a retrial. I have no doubt in my mind that a grave injustice was caused to Pauline de Croos at her trial.
(The writer is a retired Senior Superintendent of Police)

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