Murders became an uncertain encounter in the lives of the women folk living in Kotakethana, a remote village in the Ratnapura district, ever since July 2008. The years that followed were quite dark and many women were victims of brutal murders. Although much wasn’t revealed about whether it was done by a particular gang or a person of a higher authority, many rumours were spread with regard to the killing spree. From 2008 to 2011, fifteen such murders took place and the suspects were clever enough to include every one of them into a ‘murder wave’ as some experts called it. Adding to the horror was one more killing which took place in the Opathawatte area increasing the count to 18.
When the Dailymirror visited the land of gems, tea and rubber for the second time to investigate on the murder of Nagam Pappu, the village was gripped by an air of fear. Not many people were seen on the roads and the entire village appeared to be quite deserted. On reaching the village like the earlier instance, theDailymirror sought assistance from the Police to take a ride around the village and find out more about what exactly happened that day.
A few days after Nagam Pappu’s unfortunate death, there was news of another horrifying incident experienced by a 69-year-old mother and a 29-year-old daughter who were living alone. Speaking about this incident SI Hettithanthri said, “This incident has happened just a few minutes after two police officers have signed the police book. According to the daughter, she had seen the suspect through a small opening from the curtain. She says that she saw his red eyes but not his face. She also said that he had been carrying a knife. This is quite ridiculous but it seems to have happened that way. She said that she heard some noise in the garden and when we went in search of the suspect it was quite obvious that he was facing their bathroom. However when I spoke to the neighbours, they said that although they asked if they needed any help this mother and daughter had shouted saying that they are fine. We are continuing our investigations on all these stalkers and suspects and we are definitely confident that soon we will be able to find out the culprits.”
The Dailymirror didn’t forget to speak to a couple of villagers who were willing to voice out their opinions regarding this series of mysterious murders.
While travelling towards the place where the murder of Nagam Pappu took place the Dailymirror also learned that many women travel long distances to collect water and even when they want to take a bath. The series of murders which took place has paved the way for many suspects to hide evidence once a murder is done. When visiting some of the houses where murders took place earlier, a common sight was that either wash rooms or the wells were situated outside the house. Therefore it can be concluded that those who killed these women earlier have had the habit of stalking them for a while before killing them. At times when a woman was killed at point A, her body was taken many miles away from the actual place just to even out any suspicion. It was also noted that many suspects who were taken in to custody were released on bail because there were no evidence to prove they were guilty except for a few.
We will simply not let it go : SI Hettithanthri
Before paying a visit to the scene of crime, the Dailymirror spoke to the Sub-Inspector of the Kotakethana police, H. D Sunil Hettithanthri to learn about the sudden wakeup call, the services extended by the forces and what actions they will take in future. Excerpts;
How did this murder take place?
Nagam Pappu is a 48 year old estate worker in the Opatha estate. That day she had taken leave early to go to the doctor. After weighing was done for the day she has walked home at around 1.00 p.m. carrying the gunny bag with green leaves and just a few metres away from the weighing shed she was attacked. We assume that the suspect was at the right hand side because the gunny bag has fallen to the left. A few minutes after she left another worker has walked that way when she has seen green leaves and blood. We got the news at around 3.05p.m. and when I visited the place I followed the trail of blood which went towards the upper part of the estate. The body was kept aside a citronella bush. When I closely examined it, I found out that the head and other body parts were twisted and her panty was hidden in the bush to just show that she had been raped. Yet actually she wasn’t.
Are there any eye witnesses?
We questioned two women but their answers were planned and very inaccurate. We planted flag-posts at their original location and said location. This one lady named *Rani was plucking tea at a position where the entire scene was visible to her. Yet in her statement she has manipulated some facts in order to escape from being a witness. We are not letting her go.
Every other witness has always hidden some facts in order to escape but we are chasing behind them. Also we assume that someone has given information that Pappu took leave and was walking upwards because the murder was perfectly timed. In addition to that we believe that there were not one but two suspects involved in the murder.
We assume that someone has given information that Pappu took leave and was walking upwards because the murder was perfectly timed
What measures have the forces taken to ensure the security of the villagers?
We have all information about how many people are currently living in this area. According to statistics we have 455 Sinhalese, 325 Tamil and 5 Muslim families residing in Kotakethana. Also there are 68 families that we have categorized as unsafe because they don’t have a male living with them.
Therefore we have assigned a police book to all these unsafe houses. These families are also brought to our police post once in a while to give an ear to their issues and take action to mitigate them. Moreover the Special Task Force (STF) and the Police have day and night patrols around the entire village and there are bunkers as well. The police take down the vehicle number and the driver’s details of every vehicle that enter the road for security reasons. We have also given each house a device which acts as an alarm; therefore if they are in danger all what they have to do is pull the key in that device and it will produce an alarming sound. But our people are quite inefficient when using technology and they resort to the old-fashioned way of crying for help. Therefore all the neighbours have to rush out for their rescue. At times even when a dog barks, they think it is a thief. People live in such fear and trepidation.
Do you have any hints as to who is behind these murders?
We are having thorough investigations. One problem is that nobody is willing to give witness because they think that they will be the next victim. So we have pasted posters in all the houses with our phone numbers so that they would report any suspicious activity to us as and when they see it. As a means of motivation we have even promised to give cash awards to those who give us accurate information. We need their assistance to solve this mystery because it has gone way too far.
Are there people involved in the illegal trade of moonshine? Do they have a connection to this?
There were. But not any more because we have ensured that nothing illegal happens under our nose. Earlier there were mines in the vicinity and during those days, murders took place more often. What is most interesting is that every murder that took place while these mines existed happened in and around them.
But now we have all those mines shifted to the upper area so as to ensure the safety of the people. Some of them took place due to personal arguments and the suspects were clever enough to add them to a ‘murder wave’.