Dambulla murder: Photos may help police get the full picture

DIG takes over investigations into the killing of California medical student Indika Padeniya following a presidential directive
By Pushpakumara Jayarathna in Dambulla

The main ambition of 25-year-old village lad Indika Prasanna Padeniya was to become a doctor and serve his countrymen and humanity after qualifying from a US university. Alas! While he was well on his way to fulfil his dream, he fell victim to what appears to be a well-orchestrated murder plot, hatched both, here and abroad.

Indika, hailing from a remote village in Matale, had his early education at Nugawela Central and Kekirawa Madhya Maha Vidyalya at Inamaluwa in Dambulla. Later he joined Science College, Matale, from where he qualified to follow veterinary science at a local university.

Young Indika receiving an award from Mahinda Rajapaksa, the then Labour Minister.

But he wanted to achieve his ambition. He sat an entrance exam conducted by the American College Institute and won a five-year scholarship to study medicine at a Californian campus.

Based on statements recorded by police from witnesses and family members so far, The Sunday Times could string together the events that led to Indika's death. Indika left for the United States on August 7 last year. He was sponsored by his mother's brother, Rajakaruna Ekanayaka, who was domiciled in California. The story of Ekanayake's arrival in the US is also mired in a web of intrigue. While he was in Korea, he befriended a Sri Lankan monk. When Ekanayake returned to Sri Lanka, the monk had proposed that he travel to the US. The monk said that he knew a Sri Lankan woman, a US citizen, and Ekanayake could marry her and live there.

Accordingly, he married, 43-year-old Yaso Menike Herath, who hailed from Matale. The couple ran a restaurant in California and were in a position to sponsor Indika's visit to the US.

Indika carried on with his studies and he liked the campus and his new friends. His high performance at the university helped him to extend his visa till 2017. He was in the habit of visiting Sri Lankan websites to update himself with the happenings in his country. One day he was shocked to read a news items on a website that his mother had come under an acid attack on April 4. His mother, a Grama Niladahrini (village administrative officer), was returning home when two men on motorcycle threw acid at her. She suffered severe burn injuries.

The police investigation was slow and no arrests were made, though several persons were taken in for questioning. Indika wanted to return home, but he did not have the money. The Ekanayakes came forward to help him. They bought him a return ticket to Colombo. But his mother upon learning that Indika wanted to come to Sri Lanka pleaded with him not to return as she feared that he also could come under attack. In spite of this advice, Indika left for Sri Lanka on July 28.

Indika Padeniya

It took several days for Indika to come to terms with the reality that his mother's beautiful face and body had been disfigured. On the fateful August 15, a few days before Indika was to go back to California, he told his mother that he was going to Aluvihare to visit H, M. Jayathilaka, also known as Nilame, who was a brother of Ekanayake's wife. But little did he know that he was walking into a death trap.

This was what Indika said in his statement to the police before he died at the Colombo National Hospital one month after he was attacked. When Indika visited Nilame, they decided to go to the "Mini World's End' in Matale. They were joined by Nilame's friend Naleen Ranga Subasinghe, who had a car. Indika paid Rs. 3,000 for fuel. At the petrol shed, Indika saw Naleen filling a plastic can with petrol. When questioned, Nilame had said it was because they could run out of petrol. Indika also noticed a cricket bat and some stumps being loaded into the car, but did not ask any questions. The three of them spent the day at Riverton in Matale, but on their return, they stopped the car at an isolated place by a riverside and alighted. Nilame and Naleen then suddenly pounced on Indika and hit him with the stumps, poured petrol on him and set him on fire.

The duo left the scene assuming that Indika would not survive. But Indika had managed to jump into the Amban ganga and doused the flames. He had then dragged himself to a nearby house from where he had been rushed to Dambulla hospital. He was later transferred to the Kandy hospital and eventually to the National Hospital where he died on September 18.

Indika's mother told The Sunday Times that she was not satisfied with the initial investigations conducted by the Naula police. She charged that the police did not even record any statement from the suspects even after Indika named them in his statement.

She said Nilame and Naleen were handed over to the police only after she caught them with the help of villagers. The Sunday Times learns that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had directed the police to step up the investigations and take action against the culprits. The directive came after the President saw on a private television channel a photograph of Indika receiving an award from him when he was the Labour Minister.

Central Province Deputy Inspector General Pujitha Jayasundara said he had personally visited Indika's house and gathered vital evidence, including 17 photographs. Some of these photographs showed the Sri Lankan monk clad in shirt, jeans and baseball cap, with Ekanayake's wife. Suspecting something fishy, Indika is reported to have passed some of the pictures to his uncle as well.

"I have lost my son and I am disfigured. What we want is that justice is done in this case," Indika's mother said.

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