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Sunday, 9 February 2014

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Life is precious:

House break-ins that lead to gruesome murders


Slain journalist Mel Gunasekera

Last week was a sad time for many of us in the journalistic fraternity who mourned over the untimely yet gruesome death of fellow scribe Melicia Gunasekera popularly known as Mel.

Although I never knew her personally my weekend started with a shocking wake up call from a friend on Sunday morning that Mel Gunasekera has been murdered at her residence.

Having gone through the past where media workers met with untimely and unnatural deaths, the news made me reflect for a moment as to what has gone wrong this time.

But soon it was learnt through the media that she had been murdered as a result of a house break-in that went wrong. Within 24 hours of the incident the police managed to identify and to apprehend the culprit displaying its skills and techniques in crime fighting which was questioned on many occasions through out the past few years.

It was confirmed through suspect's confession that a person who had already worked at her house as a painter few months ago had tried to break-in to the house on a Sunday morning believing that the occupants would vacate the house to attend the morning mass. But all went wrong when the burglar was unexpectedly confronted by Mel who was at home at the time of the break-in.

Some gashes visible on her neck revealed that she was hacked using a kitchen knife and the crime scene gave evidence that there had been a severe fight prior to the murder. The Police Scene of the Crime Officers (SOCO) who went through the scientific evidence as well as statements recorded from the suspect revealed that Mel had struggled with her assailant before being overpowered by the latter.

Struggle


Police Spokesman SSP
Ajith Rohana


Police Scene of the Crime Officers (SOCO)

According to detectives the suspect had entered into the house from the kitchen where Mel also happened to walk in. Seeing the unexpected intruder she had reportedly shouted at him perhaps having recognised him to be the painter who colour washed their house few months back. This had lead to a forceful struggle between the two where Mel had reportedly bitten a finger of the suspect. However it all ended in matter of seconds putting an end to a valuable life.

The law enforcing authorities classified this case to be a house break-in went wrong or ended up in a murder in an instance where the burglar had been identified by the victim. This was not a uncommon scenario where two similar cases have been reported in Rajagiriya and Boralesgamuwa in the recent past. In both cases the intruders had murdered the occupants whether or not they were given a confrontation and a struggle by the latter.

One of the two cases that was given a wide publicity was the murder of Lida Margaret, the mother-in-law of senior film maker Tissa Abeysekara. The 68-year-old lady was living with her husband at her residence in Moragasmulla Avenue in Rajagiriya. On September 29th night last year she was found murdered on her bed by an unidentified person.

The killers had taken away gold jewellery worth around Rs.3.5 million from her residence.

Western Province South Special Crimes Detection Unit in November arrested two persons in connection with the murder who confessed that they killed her after breaking into her house.

It was revealed that one of the two suspects had known her before as he had worked as a mason in a neighbouring house.

Friendly chats

The suspect who developed an acquaintance with the lady realised that she was living there with her husband and was an owner of many fortunes. The suspect had confirmed this during several visits to the house that lead to friendly chats he had had with the old lady. He also learnt that sometimes her husband visits their daughter leaving her at home. The suspect with an accomplice broke into the house on the fateful night who had made her suffocate by thrusting a pillow on her face.

In Boralesgamuwa a 52-year-old woman was brutally stabbed to death by a suspect that broke into the house in the night on March 21, 2013.

The victim was sleeping with her 19-year-old son who had woken up hearing the presence of an intruder.

The panicked stricken suspect had stabbed the mother and son before he fled the scene. The son survived.

The suspect who was arrested by the same police unit on November 25 learnt that he was forced to commit the crime in fear of the residents would identify him later on.

A senior detective of the Western Province South Special Crimes Detection Unit said that there are common features in all three cases of these house break-ins which ended up in a gruesome murder.

The main point of all three cases was that the suspects feared of being identified by the occupants. The next is the pre-gathering of the information of the crime scene by the burglars prior to the break-in.

And thirdly the aggressive behaviour of the occupants when in confrontation with the burglar that leaves them with no choice but to do something rash to make the former not to identify them, which eventually will end up in a murder.

Police Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana said that public should be aware of certain guidelines to be followed to prevent such unhealthy confrontations with intruders and also how to act in an emergency like that. The senior police officer requested the public to be cautious in hiring individuals or groups for domestic work.

The background of those who are hired should be looked into. He also said that the occupants should not divulge personal or family details to strangers.The public is requested not to confront an intruder in an threatening manner. If you found yourself in a situation like this try to surrender to the orders of the intruder by giving him the upper hand.

And if possible try not to maintain a direct eye contact with the burglar who may have the fear of being identified by you.

In Mel's case it is reported that she had shouted at the suspect in an aggressive manner which had triggered to a struggle.

If she locked herself in a room she would have been saved.

 

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