Crime that shocked the nation | Sunday Observer

Crime that shocked the nation

21 February, 2021

It was a cold and misty December morning in the hill station of Nuwara Eliya when the private security officer left his guard room and headed towards the washroom near the main entrance of the sprawling garage.

As he was about to enter the washroom the guard was forced to stop in his tracks when the piercing and frightening scream of a woman tore through the stillness of the morning.

Turning around almost instantly the man looked towards the location from where the screams had originated and from where he stood, the guard could vaguely notice some figures as clear visibility was poor owing to the prevailing misty conditions.

Security guard

The woman screamed again and then everything was silent and the guard noticed that the figures quickly vanished into a nearby wooded area.

The guard quickly ran up to the spot where the screams had started only to stumble on to a gory sight.

On the centre of the road a neatly clad woman lay in a pool of blood with a ghastly wound on her head and there was no one else to be seen.

Even at the same time he heard some hurried voices coming from the wooded area and he thought he had recognised the voice of one person, something that would be of much help later on.

The guard raised the alarm and cried out for help which brought two estate labourers to the scene and the group later took the unconscious woman to the nearby Nuwara Eliya Base Hospital where she was immediately wheeled into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a life-threatening condition. And then the police were called in to investigate.

Poor visibility

Investigators had very little clues to go on since there were no signs of robbery and had to rely on the statements provided by the security guard.

Here again the guard was not able to identify the attackers owing to the poor visibility on that morning but nonetheless he mentioned the name of the voice he thought to have heard.  

The police were not convinced and were forced to detain the security guard for further questioning until such time the victim would recover and provide more information.

And recover she did after three days and the security guard was produced before her for identification purposes.

The woman, a mother of two and serving as a Grama Sevaka in the Nuwara Eliya Division quickly told the police that the man before her was not among the group that had attacked her.

She added that one attacker was dark in complexion and had protruding teeth and that is all she could remember.

This was music to the ears of the security guard since the voice he heard on that day was that of a man with that description who he knew and this was immediately conveyed to police.

The man who was identified only as Ganesh was a labourer attached to a sprawling state guest house close to the spot where the woman was attacked.

Police line-up

The suspect was also known to the security guard since their workplaces were in close proximity.

Shortly thereafter the man known as Ganesh was arrested and immediately identified by the woman at a police line-up.

After intense interrogation Ganesh would give the names of four others involved in the same attack and provided more gory details in the crimes they had committed over one year and more.

The modus-operandi of the gang was evil and simple as investigators were to find out.

The gang would monitor the movements of their intended victim for several days before making their grab.

The victim is at first bashed on the head with a heavy garden scissor and then later the lifeless victim is dragged into the state estate and later bound and gagged and left in a cow shed.

The group, later systematically gang-raped the semi-conscious woman for over two days. The victim is later strangled to death and dumped in a shallow grave in a wild lily patch sandwiched between the main Nuwara Eliya Colombo Road and the sprawling golf links.

The group was responsible for 17 such killings and all the victims were dumped in shallow graves in the same lily patch.

The suspects also robbed cash and whatever valuables from their victims prior to the funeral.

Armed militias

The killings took place at the height of the uprising of the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) where there were a lot of movements of armed militias and insurgents and a lot of people went missing without a trace.

The women targeted by the gang had also been reported missing by their relatives and even employers but it grabbed limited interest of the police since such happenings were practically the order of the day during that dark era.

However, if the police had carefully scrutinised the list it would have been discovered that the 17 persons were all females something that should have needed more scrutiny but that was not the case and the rest is history.

The remains of the murdered women dug out from the graves were subsequently identified by national identity cards, handbags, hairpins, footwear, pieces of tattered clothing and so on.

It was also found out that the suspects were addicted to pornography movies which they would watch for a fee at a clandestine make-shift theatre close proximity to the Mayor’s office in the heart of the town.

It was also revealed that the women were dragged to their graves mainly in the night since there were no movements during that time due to a dusk to dawn curfew that was in force during that time.

American millionaire

The state owned compound in which the suspects were employed also gave them the perfect cover since it was a high security zone and outsiders were strictly prohibited from entering the premises.

Interestingly it was around the same time that an American millionaire visited the country in search of his daughter who had gone missing without a trace.

Her name was Sandra Vallentine and the local print media provided front page space to highlight the case.

The father had also offered a million rupees to anyone providing information that would lead to his missing daughter’s whereabouts.

The suspects were not aware of all this but during interrogation they did say that the missing white woman that was published in many newspapers was included among their 17 victims. Then at the end of it all the suspects too went missing without a trace…… closed!