Police insist main suspect attempted to hurl grenade

Leader of cop killing gang shot dead


Police spokesman SSPā€ˆAjith Rohana addressing the media. Pic by Dharmasena Welipitiya

by Shamindra Ferdinando and Norman Palihawadana

The main suspect in the recent abduction and killing of police constable, Chandana Sampath in the Kurunegala police division was killed in the early hours of yesterday. The police identified the suspect as Kahandawala Arachchige Tharuka Nilusha alias Tharuka Nilan, a 32-year-old gangster allegedly involved in a spate of armed robberies including the recent Rs. 1.9 mn heist at a Commercial Bank branch at Katunayake.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) apprehended the suspect at Ududumbara in the Teldeniya police area on Saturday. Having recorded his statement, the CID team took the suspect to Kudugala after he claimed that the T-56 assault rifle used in the killing was hidden there.

Police headquarters spokesman, SSP Ajith Rohana yesterday said that a CID officer had opened fire when the suspect tried to hurl a hand grenade at sleuths accompanying him which was kept near the T-56 weapon. The official insisted that the CID had no option but to open fire to thwart the grenade attack when the media why no precautions had been taken by law enforcement authorities to prevent suspects being killed in police custody.

SSP Rohana said that a Magisterial Inquiry would establish the circumstances under which the main suspect died.

The police spokesman said that the main suspect was among four persons involved in the killing. The gang abducted two traffic policemen near the Getituwana junction on the Dambulla-Kurunegala road around midnight on May 5, stripped them and shot dead Chandana Sampath near the Badagama forest in Kurunegala. His colleague managed to escape after grappling with the abductors.

Responding to a query, SSP Rohana said that the police had intervened to settle a dispute between a couple.

The officer insisted that there was absolutely no basis for media reports that the constable had been killed on a contract given by an SLAF officer because the policeman was having an affair with airman’s wife. He also rejected allegations that the policeman who had survived the ordeal had given contradictory statements.

The gang robbed a petrol station at Naramala around 11.05 pm, killed a policeman at 12. 05 am and then robbed another petrol station at Weweldeniya.

After having seen the CCTV footage of the gang robbing a petrol station at Weweldeniya released by police headquarters, several television viewers contacted the CID.

Among those who had contacted the CID was a person from Wennappuwa who had rented the van used by the gang. The Police Spokesman alleged that a person held at the Negombo Prison had facilitated the hiring of the van, though he never expected the gang to kill a policeman.

Investigators arrested a suspect called Tilak Chandrakumara, a resident of Kekanadura, Matara on May 15. Having established the involvement of three others in the killing of the policeman, the investigators arrested Herathmudiyanselage Tennakoon, formerly of the Sri Lanka Army. Chandrakumara had deserted the army while he was undergoing training, SSP Rohana said, adding that Tennakoon deserted in the rank of Lance Corporal.

"Now that the main suspect has been killed, we are looking for the remaining suspect. We have established his identity."

The police spokesman said that suspects as well as the main suspect had been addicted to liquor and narcotics including ganja.

Asked whether the main suspect, too, had served in the armed forces, SSP Rohana said that the police were still conducting investigations.

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