Police close in on killer in the trial in Mel’s murder case
hen senior financial journalist Mel Gunasekera’s murder trial was called for hearing on October 17 it was her mother’s birthday. Instead of celebrating her birthday with her beloved daughter, she had to re-live the moment of her daughter’s gruesome death at the Colombo High Court, where the clothes, Mel was wearing at the time of her death and the weapon used to murder her, were produced.
Instead of enjoying the company of her only daughter, she had to face her alleged brutal murderer, Anthony Ramson George.
According to the evidence that transpired during the trail, led by Prosecution counsel Senior State Counsel Shanil Kularatne, Melicia Gunasekera, fondly called Mel, was alone at her home on Sunday February 2, 2014, when her parents and younger brother, Dayan Gunasekera, were away at Church for the Sunday mass.
She had attended a school function the previous night and had gone late to bed, thus prompting her to stay back, not attending Church the following morning.
However, as fate would have it, it was also the day Anthony Ramson George, the man who painted their house the previous year for Christmas decided to break into the Gunasekera house situated at Subhuthipura, Gemunu Mawatha, Battaramulla.
George was well aware of the routine of the Gunasekeras and assumed they would be all at Church.
When the parents and the brother returned from Church they had noticed the dogs, who were usually caged, let loose. In one of the hearings it was transpired that the dogs did not react to the burglar as he had worked at the house previously and was known to the family.
Mel’s mother, Manel Gunasekera, had run into the house to discover Mel in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Her father and brother rushed in afterwards to see Mel sprawled on the floor covered in blood.
A close relative of Mel told us that Mel’s father, Marcus Gunasekera tried to resuscitate her saying, “Putha, putha wake up, thatthi’s here. Tell me who did this to you.”
However, there had been no response. By then neighbours had rushed into the house. They had discovered a deep cut mark on her neck and several other inflicted injuries.
Marcus had closed her eyes and put her to rest.
Consequent to the call given to the Police Emergency hotline a team from the Thalangama Police station headed by Sub Inspector Prasanna Atapattu had arrived at the scene of crime to commence the preliminary investigations.
Mel with her parents and Brother
According to the testimony of SI Atapattu the killer had entered the house by removing a part of the window grill of the drawing room.
SI Atapattu had also found a chisel in a drawer in a room adjoining the drawing room, which did not belong to the family. It is assumed that the chisel was used to remove the grills.
There had been a broken knife in the drawing room, which suggested that Mel might have initially resisted the alleged burglar, Ramson George in self-defence and would have rushed to the kitchen expecting to escape through a rear door, where she was ultimately stabbed to death.
According to the report compiled by Prof. Ravindra Fernando of the Medical Faculty, University of Colombo, who performed the autopsy, she had sustained 53 injuries on the body.
SI Atapattu said that he had observed cut marks on the neck, the left side of the face, left hand and foot of the deceased. There had been a betel pack stained with blood near the body and there was a knife in the sink as well.
Police sniffer dogs were able to form a trail after sniffing the betel pack, chisel and the knife found in the sink.
The sniffer dogs directed the Police team to a nearby house, where CCTV cameras were attached focused onto the road.
The house belonged to former Chairman of the Ports Authority Bandu Wickrama and with the permission, the CCTV footages were obtained.
According to the CCTV footages the accused was wearing a yellow T-shirt and a pair of denims at 7.28 a.m.
At 7.39 a.m. he is found to be roaming around the same area with a pack of betel. However, the footage at 8.04 a.m. shows the same person wearing a blue shirt and black trousers.
Afterwards the Police summoned Dayan Gunasekera, Mel’s brother, who immediately identified the person in the footages to be Anthony Ramson George, who had painted their house the year before in December.
George had been recommended by his sister Annie Rose, who was employed at a Polythene Factory owned by the Gunasekeras.
Mel's Murder Suspect
George’s mobile phone was also tracked and it had revealed that he had made a call to the Gunasekera residence prior to breaking in. The Subuthipura tower details had revealed that the signal had been received and the connection had been made, according to Police.
Marcus Gunasekera, the father of Mel, provided George’s address, which had been given to him when he employed George as a painter, the previous year.
However, when a Police team went to this address in Hokandara, they couldn’t find him. Then the Police traced his identity card (NIC) and through the Elections Commission they were able to find that he was residing in Dompe. Through the Grama Seva Niladhari the precise location of George’s residence was discovered.
A team headed by IP Nimal Karunaratne from the Mirihana Police Special Investigations Unit went to Dompe the very day the murder took place, but realised that the accused had not returned.
They were lying in ambush, when George returned at 8.00 p.m. He was arrested immediately after his return and IP Nimal Karunaratne found that his vest had six brown coloured stain marks.
When IP Karunaratne asked for the vest be removed George tried to run away. He had then fallen onto a puddle of mud. However, his clothes were retained as production items. The vest was referred to the Molecular Medicine Unit of the Kelaniya Medical Faculty, which was headed by Prof. Menaka Hapugoda.
In her investigation it was revealed that the blood found on the vest matched that of the deceased.
At the time of his arrest the accused had been wearing the blue shirt and black trousers belonging to Dayan Gunasekera.
Dayan had provided the laundry number for his clothes, which was found attached on the clothes George was wearing. In the statement to the Police, the manager of the Rosmead Place outlet of Sunshine Laundry identified the clothes and testified that the laundry number had been given to the Gunasekeras.
The yellow T-shirt and pair of denims of Ramson George were found wet in the bag he was carrying at the time of his arrest and it seemed that he had washed his clothes after committing the crime, according to the Police.
The Police also found in his possession the Blackberry mobile phone that belonged to Mel and Rs.720. It is alleged that he had stolen Rs. 1,200 from the Gunasekera residence and had spent some of the money.
Giving evidence in Court Dr. K.G.Dasanayake, who examined Ramson George, said that there were fresh cut marks on the right hand fingers of the accused. The accused had, apparently, confessed his crime to the doctor. However, due to certain restrictions in the Evidence Ordinance this confessionary statement, could not be led in courts as he has been produced under Police Custody.
Thirty two witnesses have been listed in the prosecution case and at the moment the evidence of the Police Officers, who have been in charge of the productions are being read in Court.
A reliable source told us that the prosecution case was at its tail-end and that the main witnesses such as the family members of Mel, the Manager of Sunshine Laundry, Prof. Ravindra Fernando (Who conducted the autopsy) and assistant JMO Dr. Pratapan, who examined the crime scene, have given their evidence in court.
An acclaimed journalist
Mel Gunasekera, who was 40 years old at the time of her death, graduated from the University of East London. She worked for The Sunday Times as a journalist, Lanka Business Online as an Editor and AFP (Agence France Presse) as its first full-time female correspondent in Colombo.
At the time of her death she was the Assistant Vice-President of Fitch Ratings.
“I take life with a pinch of salt. I live for the day. I’ve stopped taking life seriously longtime ago partly because of my work and as I am a very private person,” she once told a TV presenter.
Her relatives and friends still mourn her loss. They say that she was vibrant and respected across the country. They say that she was kind and gentle, lending a voice to the countless, who were silenced by the war. But words can never encompass the true value of a human being.