Foster Group (name changed) is a fairly big estate in Akuressa, with an Assistant Superintendent on each division under overall charge of a PD. It was mainly a tea property with a little rubber.
Alexander Charles Cramer, a Burgher, was in charge of one division and Bertram Dexter de Silva of the other. The chief clerk, T. Narayanan, was of Indian descent. His wife, Rani, and de Silva’s wife, Daisy, both taught at the Matara Convent traveling together to school every day in a van. However, they were not particularly close to each other as their husbands were on different levels in the estate hierarchy.
Both women each had a grown daughter. Veronica de Silva was boarded at a reputed Catholic Convent in Bambalapitiys while Madurika Narayanan went to the Matara Convent every day with her mother. Veronica was very pretty and came to the estate only for the holidays and sometimes long week-ends.
Bertram de Silva got permission from the Colombo agents of the estate to hire a young man to be trained to drive his car and also work as a houseboy in the bungalow. Hearing that de Silva was looking for a young driver trainee, an engine driver at the estate tea factory told him that he had a JSC passed nephew and requested that the boy be tried out for this post.
De Silva decided not to advertise the vacancy and interviewed the young man who was a very likable fellow living at Hakmana. He was a good looking young man, Kapuge Sirimal Perera, 20-years-old and living at Hakmana.
Sirimal came to work at de Silva’s bungalow as a driver-cum-houseboy on August 1 one year. There were two other female servants working in the bungalow, Maggie Nona, an elderly woman and pretty 22-year old Asilin.
Veronica came home for the holidays and was attracted by Sirimal who was good looking. Before the long holidays were over, she had fallen head over heels in love with the young man and was tempted to remain on the estate without going back to her hostel at the Bambalapitiya Convent. However, better sense prevailed and she went back to school in Colombo.
Although time seems to move slowly for Veronica before the term ended and she could return to the estate and Sirimal, the holidays came round at last. Sirimal was still in the bungalow and Veronica was on top of the world. Since her parents were not at home most of the time, the two young people indulged in long conversations which Maggie, the elderly servant, noticed. Although she wanted to bring this to the notice of her mistress, she thought she would not be believed and would fall into trouble as a result of telling tales.
Before Veronica went back to school after the holidays, she told Sirimal that she would like to elope with him but to be patient and wait till the beginning of the next year.
After she had gone back to school, Daisy de Silva was cleaning her daughter’s room and found a half written letter written to Sirimal by Veronica. It was dated a week previous to the discovery. Agitated, she rang her husband at the estate office, got him to the bungalow and showed him the letter. Maggie Nona was listening to the conversation between husband and wife and thought that a thorough search of Veronica’s room would yield more letters.
Mr. and Mrs. Bertram de Silva mapped out a strategy of making a false complaint of theft against Sirimal. Daisy removed her wedding ring from her finger and planted it in Sirimal’s suitcase in the servant’s room of the bungalow and accompanied her husband to the Akuressa Police to make a complaint.
PC 1464 Romiel of the Crimes Branch brought this theft to my notice as it was a grave crime. On my instructions, he recorded Daisy de Silva’s statement. She said she had left the ring on the window sill of the bathroom and forgotten to put it on after her bath. When she looked for it, it was missing. She valued the ring at Rs.350 (remember it was many years ago) and said it was made of 24 carat gold and bore the initials of her husband and herself (BdeS and DMF) and the date of their marriage, 13.6.52 engraved on the inner side of the ring.
While the couple was at the police station, the elderly servant, searched Veronica’s room and found two more letters, one from Veronica to Sirimal and the other from Sirimal to the girl. The letter Veronica had written two weeks earlier had apparently not been passed on. The letters were in the dirty linen basket under the newspaper lining its bottom.
The de Silvas drove back to the estate and PC Romiel and I followed in the police jeep. On our arrival, Sirimal was in the bungalow. I took him to a side and asked him whether he had taken the ring. He was very upset and denied the allegation. We accompanied him into his room, searched his bag, and found the lost ring under a folded pair of trousers. He burst into tears and denied ever stealing the ring. We brought him to the police station with the production and recorded his statement. He maintained he had not stolen the ring.
On the following day I filed plaint in the MC Matara under Section 369/394 of the Ceylon Penal Code. The accused was asked by the courts whether he stole the ring and he denied the allegation. The Mudaliyar asked him whether the ring was found in his suitcase and he admitted that this was so. The magistrate found him guilty on the second count on his own plea and ordered him to be fingerprinted in court. As he had no previous convictions, Sirimal was bound over for a period of one year at the next hearing.
Meanwhile, Maggie Nona who was disgusted with the whole business wanted to leave the bungalow forthwith and told the lady that her mother was ill and she was leaving immediately. Veronica was still at the convent in Colombo and did not know anything at all about the drama unfolding in the estate bungalow.
Two weeks later, the chief clerk of the estate handed to me the letters that Maggie Nona had found in Veronica’s room. She had given them to Narayanan’s wife when she left the estate bungalow and said that Sirimal had been framed because of the love affair between him and the superintendent’s daughter.
I messaged Hakmana police and got Sirimal down to Akuressa and questioned him. He admitted the love affair and said that arrangements to elope next January had already been made. He said that he pleaded guilty to the second count as he did not want to implicate Veronica.
I got down the de Silvas to the police station, showed them the letters I had and told them that I intended reopening the case. The magistrate could not do anything after the conviction and it was only the Hon. Attorney General who could act to correct the injustice. The District ASP had to write to the AG outlining the facts of the case for the necessary action to follow.
I briefed my ASP on what I had found and he undertook to write to the AG. He directed me to see him at his office with the information book extracts and any other evidence I had to support the case.
When Veronica came back for the holidays she found Sirimal gone. Maggie Nona too had left the bungalow and the young servant woman was the only remaining domestic. She asked her what had happened and was told that Sirimal was taken to the police station over the theft of her mother’s wedding ring and he had been sent to jail.
Veronica understood what had happened, quarreled with her parents the whole day and committed suicide that night by hanging from a roof beam in her bedroom. PC Romiel who had earlier inquired into the false complaint went for the suicide inquiry as well.
Chief Clerk Narayanan who came to the police station two days later told me that Veronica was buried at the Roman Catholic Church burial ground at Matara after a postmortem examination and an inquest. He had attended the funeral and seen Sirimal standing on the other side of the road looking grief stricken.
Three days later, I was reading the daily information sheet from Police Heaquarters where I found an item from the Hakmana police of a suicide by drinking insecticide identifying Kapuge Sirimal Perera, aged 21 years as the deceased. I rang up the Hakmana OIC who said that the motive for the suicide was unknown.
(The fact of the case are all but the names have been changed)