11th January, 2004 Volume 10, Issue 26

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SPOTLIGHT

Countdown for Thilanga

Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom and President, Sri Lanka Cricket, Thilanga Sumathipala

Dhammika Amarasinghe, Bada Mahinda and S. B. Dissanayake


By Frederica Jansz
 

The case against Thilanga Sumathipala and the dreaded underworld killer Dhammika Amarasinghe took a chilling turn on Friday, January 9, when Dhammika was shot dead while being produced for a non-summary inquiry at Court No. 6 in Hulftsdorp.

His killer, while pulling the trigger six times shouted, "You killed my brother." Dhammika was shot in the face, chest and legs.

Dhammika's murderer, another underworld figure known as Chaminda Sirivardanage Chaminda Kumara was almost immediately apprehended by an army lance corporal who having heard the commotion inside Court No. 6 rushed in and spying the killer holding a gun and a hostage had kicked the gun out of his hand. 

The Colombo Magistrate's Court

Hailing from Grandpass, Chaminda told CID sleuth IP Samudrajeewa, "I did this because he killed Baddegana Sanjeewa."

Chaminda however is not Baddegana Sanjeewa's brother. The latter was a former member of the Presidential Security Division (PSD) as well and a well-known underworld thug.

Samudrajeewa, who is familiar with Chaminda retorted, "Don't lie." Chaminda thereafter stopped talking. According to the cops Chaminda is closely connected to another underworld leader by the name of Prince who was also in court that day as a case against him was also being called.

Prince is reportedly backed by a former deputy minister who is a man about town and sleuths are now probing whether Chaminda's shouting was a red herring to cover the real contractors of this murder.  Police on Friday verified that none of Chaminda's brothers have been killed.

Chaminda resides at V 4/6, Kamkarupura Mahal Nivasa, Orugodawatte. He was apprehended by Grandpass police on March 2, last year after cops on suspicion searched him and found him to be in possession of six bullets of a T56 weapon.  The bullets were found hidden in his underpants. He was placed in remand for a period of three months and released.  The court case of this incident bearing no: 46016 is scheduled to be called for hearing on February 16, this year. On Friday, police determined that Chaminda is an army deserter bearing no. 408740 from the Kuruwita army camp. He has another residence address listed as 134/176, 2nd Adiyara, Stace Road, Colombo 14.

Dhammika was wanted for more than 50 murders when he finally met his bloody fate on Friday at around 11:15 a.m. following a highly publicised and controversial case involving Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom and President, Sri Lanka Cricket, Thilanga Sumathipala.

Gunned down

Dhammika was gunned down less than 24 hours after the hearing of this case filed by the Attorney General's Department naming him and Sumathipala as the first and second accused respectively, for having used a forged passport to travel to the UK in 1999 and utilising Cricket Board funds to do so.

The daring daylight killing on Friday sent shockwaves through the country. Some 10 days prior to the murder, Dhammika's former partner in crime, Mahinda Godage alias Bada Mahinda making a second confession before the Kaduwela magistrate pleaded for extra security for him and his family who he claimed were under repeated death threats issued by two individuals, namely, Dhammika Amarasinghe and Thilanga Sumathipala.

Irrespective of whether Godage was exaggerating or not, the magistrate took heed and ordered for his security to be increased at the Welikada prisons.

When making this second confession, Godage once more implicated Dhammika in a triple murder he claimed he was a witness to having been carried out at Kaduwela by Dhammika and two others.

It was Godage's first confession made on September 19, last year before the Gangodawila magistrate, which revealed that Thilanga Sumathipala had hired the underworld kingpin Dhammika Amarasinghe for criminal activity.

The shocking disclosures by Bada Mahinda accused Sumathipala of having financed first class air travel and a holiday to England for Dhammika Amarasinghe to attend the 1999 Cricket World Cup matches in England.

Amarasinghe was at the time in remand having surrendered to police headquarters three months prior to this confession. It is an open secret in political circles that it was Sumathipala who had advised Dhammika to surrender with an assurance of taking care of him. Sumathipala had also spoken to several top government members on getting bail for Dhammika. In his police statements Bada Mahinda repeatedly said that Sumathipala contracted Dhammika to attempt the murder of Editor in Chief, The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Stunning revelations

He has further claimed that Sumathipala assisted Dhammika and a gang of underworld figures to stay at a house he owns jointly with his wife at Dehiwala after having assassinated Baddegana Sanjeewa.

More stunning were revelations made by Bada Mahinda that Sumathipala recently ordered the killing of Executive Director, Airport and Aviation Services Limited (the managing company of the Bandaranaike International Airport), Gamini Abeyratne.

Bada Mahinda has maintained that Dhammika when contracted by Thilanga was paid his financial dues by a man they refer to as 'Podi Sir' whose real name is D. S. Perera and who presently works at the Cricket Board.

The latter is a former teacher and a close confidant of Thilanga Sumathipala. He has told police that Dhammika used to be told to come to various points in Punchi Borella where 'Podi Sir' would meet with him and hand out the cash.

Mahinda also said that Dhammika used to visit Sumathipala at the BCCSL at Maitland Crescent where he sometimes collected monies for various 'contracts' he carried out for Sumathipala.

'Protection money'

Bada Mahinda has said that he and Dhammika grew up together having both studied at St. Thomas' College in Kotte. Dhammika, he claims, also extorted monies from drug mudalalis.

One man he has named is the crippled drug baron 'Thotalanga Bandu,' who allegedly paid Dhammika between Rs. 20 to 30 lakhs every month as part of 'protection money.'

Mahinda claims that Dhammika was also responsible for the shooting at Minister Ravi Karunanayake's residence during the 2000 general election. He has said that Baddegana Sanjeewa and Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra were falsely accused for this shooting.

The attack during that same election period on the UNP headquarters, Siri Kotha, which is located at Pitakotte, Bada Mahinda says was also carried out by Dhammika and Baddegana Sanjeewa.

According to Bada Mahinda, the attack on Rukantha and Chandralekha Gunetilleke in January 2001 was carried out by Dhammika, Baddegana Sanjeewa, Captain Ranji and some officers from the PSD.

Mahinda further maintains that the Lake Club and press in Kandy belonging to the Balasuriyas were also burnt down by Dhammika at the behest of Thilanga Sumathipala. Dhammika at the time of his death was the main suspect in over 50 murder cases.

Meanwhile for a man who claims to be innocent, Thilanga Sumathipala has done everything possible these last three months, to portray the image of a man totally and completely guilty.

As pointed out by Senior State Counsel Vijitha Malalgoda in the Colombo Magistrate's Court last Thursday, January 8, Sumathipala has lobbied other judges and courts in an attempt to avoid being produced in court last Thursday as deemed by law. His last ditch attempt must indeed seal Sumathipala's hour of shame.

Yet, Sumathipala is streetwise and according to reports on Friday he was being 'prepared' for 'routine surgery,' whatever that means.

Professing to have unbearable pain in his back last Tuesday, Sumathipala finally resorted to now what is a well-known gambit of influential individuals faced with a jail sentence. He booked himself into a prestigious and expensive private hospital, namely, the Apollo Hospital in Colombo, and has succeeded in persuading no less than three medical doctors to issue a medical certificate.

Sumathipala together with his lawyers planned the saga well. On the evening of January 6, prior once again to a Poya Day, Sumathipala and his cronies got into action.

A long time friend and confidant, Prabath Nanayakkara, who has been heard boasting of his 'close' links with various members of the judiciary and the police was the willing tool this time in Sumathipala's game of deceit.

Catch

Nanayakkara, who is known to drop the name of the Chief Justice at every turn, telephoned the mobile medical service Medi-Calls Private Limited and requested a doctor and ambulance to be sent post haste to No. 59, Campbell Terrace, Borella and informed Medi-Calls who the patient was.

The catch however is that Thilanga Sumathipala was not even a registered client of Medi-Calls, yet the mobile medical service rushed to his house, together with an ambulance and doctor, who having checked Sumathipala agreed with him that he should be admitted immediately to Apollo Hospital.

And a suite, came to be booked for Sumathipala.

Anyone who is a client of Medi-Calls is fully aware of the stipulations and rules by which this service is run. A ground rule is that the caller must be a member. In fact when the service is called, a patient is immediately asked for his or her registration number and if the patient has lapsed in the annual membership fee, immediate payment is demanded before a doctor is sent.

Sumathipala however did not have a registration number at the time Medi-Calls was asked to come to his home, having never enlisted with the service. It was Prabath Nanayakkara, the well known influence peddler, who was a client of Medi-Calls.

Here too, Medi-Calls for some unknown reason made an exception, as the service has never been known to rush to a patient's home on the registration number of another. As one wag pointed out, Sumathipala's 'severe back pain' must have been got from having stooped so low. Soon, like Pinocchio, his nose too will begin to grow, given the damnable lies he continues to utter.

Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, that Sumathipala has been aided and abetted in his game of deceit and manipulation by medical doctors is just one more sorry reality in a country besieged by crooks.

It is now a fact that some of those in the medical profession are hypocritical and without a conscience. Far from honouring the Hippocratic Oath, they have brought shame to their profession, bending as they do to influence and big bucks.

Meanwhile, Minister S. B. Dissanayake also lobbied hard for Sumathipala to be released from possible remand last Thursday. Even the Maha Nayaka Thero of the Malwatte Chapter was not left in peace and Dissanayake has been moving heaven and earth in an attempt to have Thilanga Sumathipala absolved from all guilt.

Dissanayake and Sumathipala called on the Maha Nayaka recently and explored the possibility of getting the high priest to put in a word for Sumathipala with the Chief Justice.

Likewise, another Buddhist monk, Palitha Thero was also approached to use his influence with the powers that be in the judiciary.

Both Sumathipala's and Dissan- ayake's focal complaint is that the charges against Sumathipala are all part of a Christian conspiracy against the Buddhists. We wonder where and how in this conspiracy documents have surfaced proving that Thilanga Sumath- ipala aided and abetted an underworld criminal.

Unafraid

The Sunday Leader has also been lobbied by pals close to Prabath Nanay- akkara to refrain from naming him in this ugly game. This newspaper continues to reiterate that Thilanga Sumathipa- la is a thief, a liar and a crook beyond par and we stand unbowed and unafraid to name any individual who dares tread into our offices and attempt any 'deal' with us to withhold information.

A section of Sumathipala's legal advisors, D. N. Thurairajah & Co. on January 5, this year, have sent us another long missive, completely unrelated to the charges against him demanding publication. We can only but reiterate that Thurairajah's veiled threats and insinuations against this newspaper hold no water and have ended in the WPB.

We are more than ready to challenge their accusations in a court of law, armed as we are with ample documentary evidence proving beyond all doubt Sumathipala's connivance with Dhammika Amarasinghe, who during his lifetime was a dreaded underworld killer.

Unlike D. N. Thurairajah & Co., we are not indebted to Sumathipala for our bread and butter.

Meanwhile there is yet another power base operating from a house down Ward Place working round the clock to help save Sumathipala.

The campaign manageress of this exercise is an intimate associate of the Prime Minister's Private Secretary, Sudath Chandrasekara, who too resides at the same house and whose medical needs for example are attended to by this 'busy body,' as identified at Temple Trees.

Using the influence of the Private Secretary, the Ward Place 'busy body' has been phoning Interior Ministry Secretary, M. Junaid and top cops at the CID to provide assistance to Sumathipala with a view to subverting the process of justice.

Her interference reached such a level, she even started calling Temple Trees incessantly to solicit the Premier's support and the telephone operators were finally told not to connect her calls to the Premier.

As this case continues to dramatically unfold, apart from members in the medical profession, already one magistrate has fallen for having discharged Sumathipala from this case.

The first accused is now dead. With the court order on the call for an arrest warrant on Sumathipala due tomorrow, the nation is closely watching, whether Sumathipala will once again walk a free man.

The AG's Department has already ruled that a prima facie case exists against Thilanga Sumathipala. Last Thursday, January 8, Senior State Counsel Vijitha Malalgoda pointed out to Magistrate Boyagoda that Sumathipala has made a mockery of the judicial system. That he did so exactly a month back to the date on December 8 is a fact.

Not properly noticed

Jayampathy Wickremeratne appearing for the first accused in this case, Dhammika Amarasinghe argued that his client had not been properly noticed under Section 139 of the Criminal Procedure Act and that court had not considered all the available evidence before ordering his client to appear before court.

Dhammika was in court on Thursday, unaware that death was lurking around the corner and he was to be fatally gunned down the very next day.

Vijitha Malalgoda meanwhile took the position that Section 139 is not applicable in these circumstances. He pointed out that Section 139 is referred to for an individual not already in custody.

Dhammika was not in custody for this particular case but for another. Court cannot issue summons or a warrant on someone already in remand. Hence, Malalgoda asserted that court could only order the suspect to appear before court.

This order was made by the courts on December 4, for Dhammika to be produced on January 8, 2004. Even on December 10, when this case came up the order was not overruled.

Attorney-at-Law Lakshman Ranasinghe meantime maintained that he was appearing in this case for a limited purpose mainly to submit to court the medical certificate secured for Sumathipala.

Ranasinghe claimed that Sumathipala had got a severe back pain while in consultation with his lawyers last Tuesday and was thus rushed to hospital. He maintained that Sumathipala may have to undergo surgery and is at present undergoing a series of medical tests.

It was Minister S. B. Dissanayake who approached Ranasinghe to appear for Sumathipala.

Medical certificate without a seal

Vijitha Malalgoda however pointed out that the medical certificate did not state anywhere that Sumathipala is unfit to attend court. The medical certificate also bore no seal, Malalgoda observed, reiterating it is indeed strange that upto Tuesday Sumathipala was in good health but no sooner he failed to obtain anticipatory bail from the Court of Appeal he evaded the Magistrate's Court on Thursday by admitting himself to hospital.

Counsel for Sumathipala, Rienzie Arsecularatne argued that the Magistrate's order on December 10 accepting the fresh plaint filed by the AG's Department is per incuriam or bad in law and based without proper legal position.

Arsecularatne based his argument on former Magistrate Ananda Ganlatharachchi having discharged Sumathipala from this case on December 8, 2003. But on December 10, Magistrate Balalle on the same material that the discharge order had been made issued summons to Sumathipala to come to court on January 8.

Material not considered

Arsecularatne stated that Ganlatharachchi on December 8 (which was Unduwap Poya Day) had considered all the evidence before him before ordering Sumathipala's discharge. He charged that Magistrate Balalle on December 10, when hearing this case had not considered properly all the material placed before him.

Malalgoda disagreed reiterating that Magistrate Balalle's order on December 10, was made after having considered all the facts placed before Ganlatharachchi two days before on December 8.

Malalgoda maintained that Sumathipala's defence, having sought anticipatory bail, gives credence to the fact that Sumathipala is guilty enough to have been remanded on January 8.

Malalgoda pushed for a warrant to be issued on Sumathipala but Boyagoda deterred and instead finally agreed on Malalgoda's insistence to direct Colombo's Judicial Medical Officer to examine Sumathipala and determine the veracity of his physical state.

Arsecularatne meantime argued that an arrest warrant was unnecessary in this instance as Sumathipala is not in hiding but warded at room 630 at the Apollo Hospital in Colombo. Kolitha Dharmawardena, Ananda Hettiarachchi and a team of other lawyers appeared for the accused.

The court was packed with members of the Cricket Board too, including Vice President, Sri Lanka Cricket, M. J. M. Muzammil and Secretary Mohan de Silva. Conspicuous by his absence was the other Vice President, Aravinda de Silva

The bloody trail of Dhammika Amarasinghe

Dhammika Amarasinghe is believed to have over the years carried out a spate of killings to avenge the murder of his brother Chintaka Amarasinghe. Chintaka was killed at Thotalanga by underworld figures called Kalu Ajit, Chutta and Victor in 1998.

Dhammika later killed Chutta at IDH. At the time he was accompanied by Moratu Saman, his cousin Thajit, Tharawatte Ajit who is the main accused in the killing of Satana Editor Rohana Kumara, Jackpot Chaminda, Bada Mahinda, Baddegana Sanjeewa and three other unnamed officers from the PSD.

Chutta was killed at a restaurant at IDH while in the company of one Tuwan who was also shot dead in the shoot out. Both bodies were taken by Dhammika to an isolated area close to the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital where he, according to Bada Mahinda, cut the neck of Chutta and shot the decapitated head three times in a rage and a fit of vengeance for his brother Chintaka's killing.

Setting fire to the bodies, Mahinda says in his confession that Dhammika then took the dismembered head of Chutta and deposited it at the same site where his brother Chinthaka was murdered at Thotalanga.

While carrying the dismembered head, the group was stopped at a police checkpoint at Ingurukade but Baddegana Sanjeewa had shown his ID and said he is from the PSD and the group with its gory possession proceeded.

Tharawatte Ajit, wanted for the murder of Rohana Kumara, has also escaped the police net and is believed to be hiding in France.

Subsequently, Dhammika had a fall-out with Moratu Saman and tried to kill him at Thalahena. He missed his target but shot dead in the process one Gihan Mendis who happened to be travelling in the same vehicle as Moratu Saman.

According to Bada Mahinda this attempted murder was carried out by Dhammika, Jackpot Chaminda and another underworld figure called Lanka. Moratu Saman meantime was gunned down in May this year by another rival underworld gang.

Meanwhile, Thajit (Dhammika's first cousin) had by this time begun a love affair with Chintaka's wife. Incensed and angry at the affair, Dhammika on another occasion travelling in the company of his wife, mother, two brothers Chaminda and Buddhika, Kotte Pradeep, Wanigasekera, Susila Amarasinghe and two other cousins called Bunty and Deepa, shot Thajit.

Dhammika had stopped at the timber depot at Kotte where Thajit had been standing, got down from the vehicle and shot him at point blank range in the knee demanding he end the affair with his sister-in-law who had also been inside the vehicle at the time of the attack. Bada Mahinda says he was a witness to this incident as he had also been inside the same van.

Thajit was warded for his injuries but refused to divulge who had shot him fearing for his life. He later staked a hideout at Dambulla but was tracked down and arrested by CID sleuth CI Samudrajeewa who led a police party and arrested Thajit for his connection with previous killings.

Bada Mahinda further maintains that Dhammika met and formed a close alliance with Lohan Ratwatte via Baddegana Sanjeewa. Dhammika, according to Mahinda, later assisted Ratwatte in the 2000 elections to "stuff thousands of stolen ballot papers into ballot boxes."

Dhammika during this time had been detected at a police checkpoint at Kadugannawa with a haul of weapons and arrested but later released after Lohan Ratwatte had prevailed upon the Kadugannawa OIC to free him.

The triple murder at Kaduwela where Kaduwela Wasantha's brother Raja and two others were killed according to Bada Mahinda was also carried out by Dhammika, Jackpot Chaminda, Moratu Saman and Lanka. Bada Mahinda says he drove the van in which the killers travelled.

Kaduwela Wasantha was later killed by another gangster known as Karate Dhammika.

Dhammika's deadly tentacles spread far and wide. He was later involved in the killing of another underworld figure known as Tudor of Negombo. This killing he carried out together with another underworld kingpin from Negombo known as Capt. Ranjit. Even Capt. Ranjit has escaped the police and is hiding in Italy.

Dhammika meantime did not forget his brother's murder and targeted yet another underworld figure called Harrison Chandrasiri. Using Harrison's mistress Margi, Dhammika convinced her to reveal Harrison's whereabouts and shot him dead at Dehiwala while he was distributing invitation cards for his daughter's forthcoming wedding.

Harrison became a target for Dhammika as the latter believed that Harrison had financed Kalu Ajit who killed his brother Chintaka.

Harrison allegedly enjoyed a close relationship with the OIC (Crimes), Grandpass Police IP Mahindasiri. In his confession Bada Mahinda has said that Inspector Mahindasiri narrowly escaped death the day Harrison was murdered as he was due to travel in the same vehicle together with Harrison that day as he often did but later changed plans.

In fact it is Mahindasiri according to Bada Mahinda who even telephoned Margi and informed her that Harrison had been gunned down, unaware that she had assisted the killers to murder her lover.

Police believed that Dhammika continued to call the shots from prison. Using a mobile phone, he apparently threatened adversaries and issued instructions to other underworld figures to carry out various contract killings and extortions.

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Promotion for an act of bravery

The Lance Corporal of the 17th Batallion of the Sri Lanka National Guard who apprehended the assassin, Chaminda Kumara at the court complex in Hulftsdorp has been promoted to the rank of Corporal for his bravery.

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Close up with Dhammika

On January 8, Dhammika Amarasinghe was a calm and confident man. He did not look perturbed or plagued with worries when he walked into Court No. 1 at the Colombo Magistrate's Court.

Dressed in a white shirt and dark trouser, sporting a long beard, Dhammika coolly took the stand and when he had to step down again, since the case was to be heard later in the day, he took a seat in the courtroom with two jailors on either side of him.

Dhammika then made it a point to stare around, not threateningly, but in an appraising manner, like he was taking into account his surroundings - little knowing it would be the last time he would do so. His eyes were blank but it was obvious that he was paying attention to what was happening around him.

Rumours were also abound that Dhammika would be making a confession if his patrons did not ensure his liberty.

Dhammika also spoke to his jailors from time to time and smiled at them. At no point did he show signs of fear or apprehension.

His 'friends' or partners in crime, as they may be, filled the courtroom and looked at him with open admiration, smiling ingratiatingly each time he looked their way - not knowing it would be the last time they came into close contact with the man, a man whose life came to a bloody end on January 9, on the same premises he walked the day before.

- Marianne David

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Dhammika's family shocked and furious

Following the chilling murder of Dhammika Amarasinghe at Court No. 6 last Friday his family were both shocked and furiously angry.

A woman who identified herself as an aunt of the slain Dhammika alleged to media personnel, "we are convinced that Thilanga Sumathipala and Bada Mahinda are behind this killing."

Wiping her tear stained face the grief-stricken aunt recounted snippets from Dhammika's childhood, revealing an amazing detail that Dhammika's sole ambition while in school had been to join the seminary and become a Catholic priest.  She said however that he had "fallen to this level" after both his father and brother were murdered.

She alleged that each time Dhammika was to be produced in court he informed his family and cohorts.  But that on Friday none of them had been aware Dhammika was being brought to court again.

She further charged that contrary to procedure the police had not carried out any security checks on those attending the courts on Friday. "This was a well planned operation to have him killed," she alleged.

When Dhammika's blood soaked body was brought out of the court house his family began weeping loudly. Amidst the wailing, police personnel who were nearby were heard telling the family, "the families of those that Dhammika killed during his lifetime also wept in this same manner... these are the tears you are all shedding today..."  The cops' verbal observations were met with a burst of abuse by Dhammika's womenfolk who screamed filth at the police - cursing the cops with dire consequences.  "Wait and see this will not end here..." they threatened shrilly, warning that worse was yet to come. They further charged that the press was also partly responsible for his murder. They added that the high security given to Dhammika's partner in crime and now bitter foe Bada Mahinda was never given to Dhammika who had requested in writing for additional security claiming a serious threat on his life existed.

Drama in court on Friday 

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema 

Friday morning last, the Colombo Magistrate's Court complex in Hulftsdorp was converted into a police hub, with officers in khaki suits rushing about and police jeeps zooming in and out of the court complex. Lawyers and security personnel were walking about in a hurry, while crowds gathered outside the courts trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on inside.

At first, police officers and lawyers were hesitant to speak about the events that took place in the courthouse. However, once the media personnel made their way to Court No. 6 a gory sight greeted the press.

Barely 24 hours after the hearing of the controversial case involving Thilanga Sumathipala and Dhammika Amarasinghe, Dhammika named as the first suspect in this case was shot dead.

The shooting took place at around 11.15 a.m., minutes after Dhammika's case was heard in Court No. 6.  Police immediately apprehended the murderer, Chaminda Udayakumara from Grandpass.

The case taken up for hearing on Friday was one out of 45 murder charges against Dhammika.  The hearing on Friday was taken up before Magistrate Izzadeen. Attorney-at-law Anton Senanayake appeared for Dhammika while State Counsel Prasanna Wimalaratne represented the state.

After the hearing, the jailers were in the process of taking Dhammika out when Udayakumara, who had pretended to be an apprentice/law student, had also walked towards the door. It was at this moment that Udayakumara, who had apparently concealed the weapon in his shoe, had suddenly taken it out and shot at the crowd including Dhammika. Udayakumara it was initially believed had fired six shots.  At first glance six bullets were seen on the courtroom floor.

The upper floor of the courtroom complex had patches of blood and two others were also injured. Dhammika fell on the floor before the killer was apprehended.

A police officer who witnessed the whole episode stated that they could not figure out what had happened till Udayakumara had shot about two or three rounds. He went on to say that it was then that they witnessed a man dressed in a pair of black trousers and white shirt holding out a gun shooting at the crowd.

According to the officer, the Magistrate too witnessed the incident.

A lawyer who also witnessed the shooting  said that his reflex action at hearing the gunshots was to duck. Apart from the fact that the shooter was dressed as an apprentice, he was not in a position to identify the shooter.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader on how Udayakumara managed to sneak a firearm amidst heavy security checking, ASP Premalal Ranagala said that the police officers at the courts do not check lawyers and apprentices, adding that even though they check visitors they do not check their shoes.

Attorney-at-law Anton Senanayake told The Sunday Leader that Dhammika's case on Friday involved a double murder committed three years back in Borella. Senanayake stated that Dhammika in this case had surrendered to court. As for the proceedings in court on Friday, Senanayake explained that the Attorney General had instructed for the case to be moved for a fresh date. Accordingly, the case was to be heard again on January 22.

Senanayake went on to say that the case that was to be taken up after Dhammika's was also lawyer Senanayake's, in which the suspect was another underworld figure - Prince. According to Senanayake, when he heard the shots, he had thought that someone was trying to shoot Prince and had asked the police to remove him from the room.

Explaining the shooting in detail, Senanayake said that after carrying out the shooting, Udayakumara had taken an onlooker as hostage and shouted that he would shoot the hostage if anyone attempted to shoot him. Udayakumara with his hostage had then gone near the registrar's room and it was there that Udayakumara was overpowered by a lance corporal on duty. The person taken hostage was wounded and suffered a gun shot injury to his shoulder.

After the shooting, Senanayake had stepped out to see Dhammika, who had just stepped out of the courtroom with his jailors, fallen face down on the floor. When he turned Dhammika over, he had seen Dhammika's chest covered with blood, but still alive. Senanayake had then shouted at the police to take Dhammika to hospital and it was then that they had taken him in a three-wheeler. At the same time the police had also taken the two others injured in the shootout to hospital.

Senanayake added that the weapon used by Udayakumara was a small weapon, which was taken into the Magistrate's custody.

Hearing the gunshots, the lance corporal had rushed upstairs to room No. 6. It was then that he had seen Udayakumara with a hostage. The officer had requested Udayakumara to hand over the weapon and when he refused to hand it over, he had kicked Udayakumara's hand, and the gun had fallen. The officer had then grabbed Udayakumara and handed him over to the police along with the gun. Eyewitnesses, including security personnel at the court premises said they had been expecting a shootout on Thursday (8) at the hearing where Thilanga Sumathipala had also been named as a suspect.

A shocking experience

The shootout in the Magistrate's Court on Friday left two innocent bystanders wounded. One of them was even taken as a hostage by the killer, Udayakumara.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Hazmil Hamdoon from Kettarama said that he came to courts that day over a case involving his sister's baby.

"It was the first time I ever visited a court complex and I was looking forward to the experience," he said.

He went on to say that he was standing in the courtroom when a person who he could not identify started to shoot. "I was also taken as a hostage," he said, adding that "I don't know what happened, I panicked and fainted."

However, Hamdoon vaguely remembers the culprit being arrested by the police.

Naufer from Colombo 12, who was the other injured in the shooting visited the courts to simply meet his lawyer.

Naufer had an ongoing land case and he visited the courts to meet his lawyer. He was informed that his lawyer had gone upstairs and he too had gone up to meet him. Not seeing any sign of his lawyer, Naufer had turned and started walking towards the staircase when he heard 'a sound of firecrackers.' Wondering who could possibly be lighting crackers in the courtroom, Naufer had turned to look back. He had then seen a person falling on the floor. Not realising what had just happened, Naufer had turned and merely taken two steps when he was shot in his leg.

"I couldn't even look around. I just fell and didn't even see who shot me," he said. Naufer went on to say that never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that such an event could take place amidst heavy security.

*  *  *

SIM cards in his pocket 

A police officer who wished to remain anonymous told The Sunday Leader that when clearing Dhammika's pockets, he did not find a wallet or any other belongings, except for 15 cellular phone SIM cards. The SIM cards are now in police custody.


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