Family and friends raise suspicions over former beauty queen’s death, disputed property
Jennifer pictured at the Miss International event in Long Beach, California where she represented the country as Miss Ceylon in 1962
Jennifer Ingleton was crowned Miss Ceylon in 1962
She lived on Cotta Terrace in Borella until her recent demise
A man who claims to be Jennifer's closest confidante is now occupying the Borella residence
Brother alleges that Jennifer's death is suspicious
Jennifer's friends who visited her earlier this year recall frightening encounters with the stranger
Hawke has sought the assistance of the Criminal Investigation Department
78-year-old Jennifer lived on Cotta Terrace, a residential neighbourhood in Borella, Colombo. Towards her last few years, she used to get her meals from a little eatery across the main road. As she experienced some difficulty in walking, she would walk down the road towards the Namel Malini Punchi Theatre and wait for her food to be delivered from the eatery across the road. According to Jennifer’s friends, it is during one of these walks that Jennifer befriended a stranger in 2018.
A lively and spirited lady, Jennifer Ingleton (nee Labrooy) was crowned Miss Ceylon in 1962. A dear friend of many, her family and friends remember her as a strong, capable and independent businesswoman. Jennifer passed away on July 17 after battling a prolonged illness.
However, it has now become a question for many as to how a stranger that none of this close-knit community of friends and family recognises, is claiming ownership of Jennifer’s property on Cotta Terrace.
The Daily Mirror spoke to Jennifer’s half-brother Tony Hawke who claims that Jennifer was held captive in her own home and denied medical treatment over the past year.
Jennifer was the widow of Mr D.A.F Ingleton, a successful businessman behind the food brand Daffy’s. The couple had no children of their own and no close relatives living in Sri Lanka. Both, however, had extended family and friends abroad.
“Jennifer has always lived at No. 5 Cotta Terrace, Colombo 8. This property was directly passed on to Jennifer by our mutual great aunt Sybil Meier as Jennifer was the main caregiver of our great aunt and our grandmother Helen Vivienne Kelaart nee Meier. This home, in effect, is our ancestral home,” Hawke said.
As soon as news of Jennifer’s suspicious death was reported in the Daily Mirror, several parties have made comments on how the former beauty queen’s relatives were now attempting to claim her property.
Hawke insists that Jennifer’s welfare was his sole concern ever since he was made aware of suspicious activities at their ancestral home.
“My sister Jennifer lived on her own until she became under the control of a man that none of us knew,” Hawke said. The man that Hawke refers to has been living at Jennifer’s residence for over a year since Jennifer became ill.
Friend or foe?
Jennifer was a lively spirit, even in her old age, according to a close friend. In December 2019, Jennifer had spoken over the phone with a friend and made plans for Christmas Eve and the New Year’s Day.
“She was excited, that was her way... she was full of life. She said let’s go to see the Christmas lights and we even talked about going for a 31st-night dinner dance,” a close family friend of Jennifer’s who wishes to remain unidentified said.
“My parents knew Jennifer from when she visited the UK back when she was crowned Miss Ceylon. Since then they were very close family friends. I have known Jennifer my entire life,” she said.
The friend, who had returned to Sri Lanka to attend to a personal matter, had suddenly heard through another friend that somewhere within the Christmas week of December 2019, Jennifer had suffered a fall.
“I couldn’t visit Jennifer earlier as I planned. But as soon as I heard of her fall I visited her at the hospital. I heard that the maid employed by Jennifer hadn’t come and Jennifer had been all alone after the fall. Then I heard that a man had to break-in to the house to take Jennifer to the hospital,” she said.
When this friend visited Jennifer at the Colombo National Hospital, by her bedside was another lady.
“I went to the hospital with my son. Jennifer was all bruised up, but she was quite well at the time. She talked with me, we were talking about the old days. I stayed with her for about 45 minutes and the entire time this lady that I’ve never met before was beside Jennifer,” she recalled.
Before she departed from Sri Lanka, the friend decided to visit Jennifer again.
“Her gate was padlocked and I had to wait quite a long time outside to see Jennifer. The lady from the hospital answered the door, and after much questioning took me in,” she said.
“I’ve been to Jennifer’s house more times than I can recall since I was a child. But when I entered her home, the whole place had blown up pictures of Jennifer with a man. These photographs were quite big, so obvious and strange. There were at least six to eight photographs of them. It looked strange as hell. The way Jennifer had usually decorated her house was quite tasteful, and I realised something was amiss,” she said.
According to the friend, Jennifer had been placed in a bed in the hallway, instead of her room. “I was shocked to see her with a nasal feeder. Although she didn’t move much, we talked about general things. However, the whole time I was there, I was unable to talk to her in private as the lady from the hospital remained by her side.
“When I asked if Jennifer needed anything, she said she doesn’t have her spectacles with her. The lady said her spectacles were broken, so I offered to get a new pair. When I asked if there was anything else she needed, Jennifer said “Darling, they’ve disconnected the phone and I can’t get any calls”
I knew Jennifer had many friends and family who frequently spoke to her over the phone. So, I thought I’ll request the lady to reconnect the phone. I said this very kindly and in a friendly manner, taking care not to offend anyone, as I knew the situation was strange,” she said.
At this point, a man had entered the house and bellowed at Jennifer’s visitor.
“He started saying things like, ‘Who the hell are you? I have been taking care of Jennifer while everyone was abroad.”
I was shocked. I’ve never been spoken to that way. The next thing I knew the man reached across the bed and attempted to hit me. Fortunately, the lady beside him grabbed hold of him and led him away.”
Shocked and frightened, Jennifer’s friend was now very concerned. Jennifer had told her that she was hungry. Seeing that she was given a nasal feeder, the friend suggested that they bring a doctor to see if Jennifer can be taken off the feeder.
“The woman then hurried to the back of the house and yelled “Menna dostharala genna hadanawa... (She’s trying to bring a doctor) At this point Jennifer told me “Darling just go.” She asked me to leave several times. As the man attempted to hit me once, I didn’t think twice, I ran out of the house,” she said.
After her encounter at Jennifer’s house, the friend called on other friends to inquire about this man. Many friends knew of this strange man, but had no clue of what he was doing at Jennifer’s house. She recalled at the time of her visit, there were several others including the man and woman as well as the man’s father, who had all moved into this house and had taken over the bedrooms, while Jennifer was lying in the hall.
Hawke resides in the United Kingdom (UK). Hawke said initially they were pleased to hear that Jennifer was being taken care of after she took ill.
“We thought they were genuine and wished to help Jennifer,” he said. When he was made aware of Jennifer’s strange situation, he began to call and write to many people for help.
“When Jennifer was well enough to be discharged from the hospital, a man and a woman accompanied Jennifer home. I got to know that they had moved into the Borella house, along with the man’s son as well as his father,” Hawke recalled.
According to Hawke, since then, they have slowly but successfully distanced Jennifer from her friends and family.
Pic by Nimalsiri Edirisinghe
“They had isolated Jennifer from everyone she knew by vetting visitors. Last year, Jennifer’s friend from the UK failed to see Jennifer as she was not even allowed inside Jennifer’s home. The man has also bullied and threatened anyone who tried to help Jennifer. These two people also took Jennifer’s mobile phone so Jennifer couldn’t make a call to anyone and also so that no one can call Jennifer.
“I have not been able to speak with my sister since her illness. Jennifer’s sister-in-law has even been threatened to be hit with a chair by this man when she insisted on speaking with Jennifer. Jennifer told her sister-in-law to just leave as the sister-in-law’s presence was making the man angry. Jennifer seemed to be afraid of this man. Jennifer’s cousins from Australia were also bullied and threatened when they went to visit Jennifer,” Hawke said.
Amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, Hawke had written and called many state agencies and non-governmental organisations in an attempt to help his sister.
In his final attempt to rescue Jennifer from the alleged captor, in March 2020 Hawke wrote an open letter to the President, Prime Minister, the Inspector General of Police, the Women in Need organisation and the Human Rights Commission.
The woman then hurried to the back of the house and yelled “Menna dostharala genna hadanawa... (She’s trying to bring a doctor) At this point Jennifer told me “Darling just go.” She asked me to leave several times. As the man attempted to hit me once, I didn’t think twice, I hurried out of the house
Hawke received no response to his calls and letters. Meanwhile, Jennifer’s friends attempted to visit her at the residence and help her.
However, family members and friends were treated with hostility while several friends had been threatened to be shot by the man who occupied Jennifer’s home. Hawke then sought the assistance of the Sri Lankan High Commission in the UK, to communicate with the Sri Lankan Police on March 12. The letter detailed Hawke’s allegation of forcible occupation of Jennifer’s property.
Another friend was constantly in touch with Jennifer couldn’t contact her over the phone. This friend too decided to visit Jennifer in Sri Lanka and was taken by surprise to find a man who claimed to be a family friend residing with Jennifer.
I’ve been to Jennifer’s house more times than I can recall since I was a child. But when I entered her home, the whole place had blown up pictures of Jennifer with a man. These photographs were quite big, so obvious and strange. There were at least six to eight photographs of them. It looked strange as hell. The way Jennifer had usually decorated her house was quite tasteful, and I realised something was amiss
“I saw Jennifer in February for the last time. I had to go down and see what was happening because I was not comfortable with this entire situation. When I met him, this man claimed that he was Jennifer’s friend’s son. He said they were quite close. This didn’t seem right, because the further I inquired the more complicated his story became. I knew almost all of Jennifer’s friends and family and had never in my life seen this man. We have a lot of common friends, who also informed me of this strange situation,” she said.
Jennifer’s friends or family did not have any disclosure of her illness or the treatment she was afforded. Several attempts to take Jennifer out of the house by friends and cousins failed, as Jennifer changed her mind at the last moment.
“Her calls were monitored; the visitors were vetted by the captor. There was no way we could help her and we were careful not to antagonise the occupants of the house,” one friend said.
“But as this man threatened to put a gun to their heads and assault Jennifer’s visitors further attempts to rescue Jennifer were dampened,” she added.
“Her house was strange. Jennifer loved dogs, but her dogs were not to be seen. Instead, the man’s dogs were in the house. The house was full of strange photographs of Jennifer and this man. In most pictures, Jennifer was in a hospital bed with this man by his side. It was quite disgusting, to be honest,” she said.
The Daily Mirror spoke to the Officer-in-Charge of the Borella Police Station to inquire into this incident. CI Balasooriya declined to comment on the exact date of Jennifer’s death or particulars of the case. However, he said that when Jennifer’s death was reported, the Police decided to hold the body until the relatives could claim the body.
“Only this man came to us with a marriage certificate, indicating that he was the next of kin. Since we cannot interfere in verifying the authenticity of documents, we released the body, after consultation of the Judicial Medical Officer. Her cause of death was identified as a heart attack,” he said.
Hawke claims that Jennifer’s funeral was held without informing any of the relatives of proper time.
“As Jennifer’s legal next of kin, I demanded a post mortem examination. But I soon got to know that Jennifer’s body was already cremated. She was a Christian. Jennifer would have wanted a Christian burial. I’ve now gotten to know that this man has even attempted to sell the family burial plot,” Hawke said.
His solicitors have sought assistance of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Before Jennifer’s death, Hawke’s solicitor Attorney-at-Law Ian Fernando sought a Power of Attorney to visit Jennifer under police escort. “We were informed that Jennifer passed on July 17th. We immediately sent another Power of Attorney document to inquire into what took place when she was alive and also to make a complaint regarding her death,” Fernando said.
“Tony feels that Jennifer’s last will this man claims to possess has been written under duress. The last will seems to be suspicious, the opposing party claims that they have a video of the last will being drawn” he added. Together with Ian Fernando, counsels Chathura Fernando and Chavindri Perera seek to file a case with the CID to investigate.