ByTharindu Jayawardene and Bigun Menaka Gamage
An abduction that was buried and allowed to be forgotten over time resurfaced with the arrest of five Army intelligence officers by the CID recently. Facts and incidents hidden for eight years came to light with the commencement of investigations by the CID. It was 2008; the defeat of the LTTE was obvious and the end of the war was near. While the North shattered under the explosions of artillery fire, the South was also feeling the heat.
Keith Noyahr at the time was the Deputy Editor of The Nation newspaper. He was well known as a journalist of repute and was a versatile investigative journalist.
On May 22, 2008, he headed as usual towards the Rivira Media Corporation, a private company in Maradana, where he was employed.
At the end of the day, after attending to other errands, Keith proceeded towards a restaurant at Duplication Road, Bambalapitiya.
He was accompanied by the executive director of Rivira Media, Chrishantha Cooray and the Editor of The Nation, Lalith Allahakkoon.
They had dinner together and Keith had left in his car (PC 3023). He arrived at his residence in Dehiwela around 11 p.m., and had just opened the gate when a gang who had arrived in a white van surrounded Keith and assaulted him with pistols and poles.
Keith fought back against the assailants but was overpowered by a dark, hefty person among the gang, who struck a blow to his head with a pistol.
The attackers then carried Keith into the white van, blindfolding and handcuffing him.
Rs.2,000 was also stolen from his wallet and his gold ring worth one sovereign was also forcibly removed by the attackers.
The attackers continued their assault inside the van during a journey which lasted for about an hour. Later, he was taken out of the van and with a pole inserted through his handcuffed arms, he was carried inside a house with a number of large rooms, as stated by Keith to the CID. Once inside one of the rooms, he was stripped and the attackers continued to beat him.
“What is your relationship with the LTTE, and who gives you information to publish in your paper?” the attackers asked.
As these incidents unfolded, his closest friends Chrishantha Cooray and Lalith Allahakkoon who had dinner with him the previous day, heard about Keith’s abduction. They rushed to his house in Dehiwela.
Ranga Kalansuriya, Director of the Sri Lanka Press Institute, and another friend visited Keith’s house. They observed that his telephone had also gone missing. They tried to contact him on the phone but failed as there was no response.
Lalith Allahakkoon informed the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa about Keith Noyahr’s abduction. A few moments later, DIG Anura Senanayake who arrived at the scene instructed them to come to the Dehiwela Police Station and lodge a complaint.
Keith’s wife, who wept on hearing of her husband’s plight, began praying beside a religious statue. Two persons from Keith’s household also visited the Dehiwela Police Station as instructed by Anura Senanayake.
At the time of their visit to the Dehiwela Police Station, Anura Senanayake was occupying the chair of the OIC.
“Have no fear, Keith Noyahr will come back without any issue,” Anura Senanayake assured the complainants.
While he was speaking, he continued to ring Keith’s number. Suddenly, it rang but there was no answer. A check with a service provider revealed that the call had originated from Dompe. Someone among the crowd then said “Keith has been taken to Dompe.” A police team and a friend of Keith’s then set off to Dompe.
While this was taking place at the Dehiwela Police Station, the scenario at the Dompe hide-out was different.
The attackers continued to assault Keith, while questioning him. A call was received by one of the attackers, who replied “Sir, Sir”. Soon after this call, Keith was ordered to wash and dress up.
Thereafter, he was again put in the van with his eyes covered and brought to Dehiwela.
After dropping him, the attackers had threatened him with death, warning him not to tell anyone about the incident.
He was later admitted to hospital.
Keith sought shelter abroad. The investigations came to an abrupt end.
However the case was opened again with the dust off the files in 2015. The CID faced an uphill task in getting to the root of this crime through the circumstantial evidence.
It was revealed that at the time this call was taken, the telephone had been in the area covered by the service providers’ signal tower in Dekatana. After perusing the numbers of the calls that had originated, the CID obtained a list of official telephone numbers issued to the camp at Tripoly Maradana by the Army. From the investigations that followed, it was revealed that during the incident, five telephones listed by the army had been in use at the same time along with Keith Noyahr’s phone in and around Keith Noyahr’s house, his office and the Dompe and Dekatana areas.
The CID further investigated the officers who had used these phone numbers and were able to identify them, and in order to corroborate the evidence obtained by the CID, had recorded statements from some others as well.
The CID further uncovered the fact that a group from the intelligence unit had rented out a house at Dompe Lansiyawatte and Dompe Baduwatte Walawwa. Records also indicate that they had used Dompe Lansiyawatte from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2008 and after vacating it had obtained on lease Dompe Baduwatte Walawwa in March 2008.
They had occupied this house from that date to March 2009 for a one-year period. It is believed that this house had been used by a sub-unit of the intelligence unit of the Tripoly Camp of Maradana.
The Police suspect that Keith Noyahr may have been taken to the Dompe Baduwatte Walawwa.
After a long investigation into the attack on Keith Noyahr, the CID took five Army Officers into custody last week and produced them before the Mt. Lavinia Court.
The suspects were remanded till March 3.
The CID, during its investigations, travelled to Australia and recorded a statement from Keith.
He stated that he could identify those who had assaulted him if he saw them again, according to CID sources.
Accordingly, the CID requested the Court to produce the suspects at an identification parade, but Keith was not present as he was abroad.
The arrested Army men are still suspects. No charges have been filed against them.
Courtesy Sunday Lankadeepa