Murder No 17
Kotakethana back in the news with another gruesome
The mystery over the murder of Nagam Pappu, a tea plucker from
Opathawatta, in Kotakethana on September 28, shows that the killing of
women in Kotakethana in crime-ridden Kahawatta has not come to an end.
The 48- year-old mother of two was found hacked to death in the upper
block of Opathawatta, an isolated and soggy area of the tea estate,
after she was reported missing from her routine visit to the No.2 hut (TNC)
of the estate to hand over the day’s output of plucked tea leaves.
Thirumathi Nagam Pappu alias Petta Pappu married to 54-year-old
Solamuttu Sinnathurai, a labourer from the same estate was living in a
line room of the estate like any other woman. Her two sons are now
married and live separately.
This innocent woman with a not-so-appealing figure had lived in the
estate for years and had no issues whatsoever in the family and also
with the community. Her husband also earned a living as a labourer in
On that fateful day, she had plucked tea leaves along with her fellow
workers as a group and on completing her day’s chores, she had reported
to the TNC hut, where they remove refuse from the tea leaves and weigh
the leaves. Then she had gone to the other hut, a few hundred metres
away from the TNC hut to hand over the tea leaves and had told the
Kankani, that she was not feeling well and wanted to leave early.
It was only after the day’s work that fellow workers realized that
Nagam Pappu was missing from the group and had not reported to the No 2
hut to hand over her daily collection of tea leaves. They then contacted
the Police and searched the estate to locate her and found that she had
been hacked to death in the estate itself.
to initial Police reports, she had been hacked to death, apparently with
a pruning knife, a sharp and curved knife fixed to a long wooden handle,
a common tool used by estate workers to prune tea bushes, and taken some
60 to 100 feet away from the usual track, a higher ground, from her
routine track. Her body was in a posture to give the impression that she
was raped and killed.
The blood stained tea leaves near the road showed that she was hacked
to death and later taken to the location where her body was found.
Though five days had lapsed since September 29, no arrests have been
made so far despite the Police intensifying investigations by deploying
crime investigating units from the Southern Province and the
Sabaragamuwa province, while the CID is conducting investigations on the
instructions of the Inspector General of Police.
The murder of the Nagam Pappu adds to the list as the 17th woman
killed in Kotakethana since 2008 in 14 incidents and has brought back
the crime scene back to Kotakathana, where it originated with the
killing of 56-year-old Sellaiya Mariyai, also a Tamil estate worker
living in the Opathawatta upper block on July 21, 2008.
Nagam Pappu’s murder goes on record as being the second Tamil estate
worker killed in the series of killings in Kotakethana and Kahawatta
Researchers looking into the series of murders specially targeting
women living in isolation in the area, believe that these murders had
been perpetrated as a sequel to resistance to a culture in the
Kotakethana area, by a group who had migrated from the south and settled
in Kotakathana for gem mining business.
Those who settled in this area formed their own group and were
engaged in the moonshine business and compelled villagers who were
living peacefully to consume alcohol. The murder of Sellaiya Mariyai, a
woman who helped the group after selling moonshine to estate workers
resulted due to a dispute she had with that group. The subsequent
killings that had taken place there had apparently targeted women with a
religious background and who had opposed the spread of the culture of
alcohol consumption in the area. But there was always a cover after
raping most of the women before or after they were murdered. The sub
culture with strange and abnormal sexual attitudes and behaviour
developed in the area due to their isolated lifestyles helped the
perpetrators of these murders to provide a cover up.
It was after this group which overpowered the local councils, with
the backing of a powerful politician in the area eliminating,
threatening and silencing the people who opposed them specially
targeting women. People in the area believe that this group is having a
strong backing from the Police for all the illegal activities in the
Those investigating the murders as teams and also as individuals due
to their interest to study it, believe that all the murders that had
occured in Kotakethana were interlinked to this group, though certain
individuals and groups were arrested for separate murders. The only
exception, being the murder of 39- year-old Chandrani Swarnalatha where
her son was arrested as a suspect and later confessed that he killed his
mother for not giving him money to buy a gift for his girlfriend.
But, some investigators still believe that this too was another cover
up story for the murder. According to Police spokesman, ASP Ruwan
Gunasekara except for three murders including that of Nagam Pappu, the
Police had arrested the suspects. The suspects in the rape and murder
case of a mother and daughter in Kahawatta on January 31, 2012 were
acquitted by the Colombo High Court recently.
According to Police sources in Kotakethana, Police patrols were
keeping a close watch on 68 women living alone in Opathawatta daily and
were looking into every call from residents.
Villagers in Kotakethana see strangers, they are cops in civies but
the villagers were confused as to whom they could trust when being
questioned during investigations. Despite all the security measures,
perpetrators of these crimes still executed these murders because of the
geographical location, as there is time to flee the crime scene, mislead
investigations and confuse evidence. However, these villagers are still
waiting for a permanent end to these crimes with the conclusion of
investigations on the Nagam Pappu murder, as they feel efforts were now
under way to track the perpetrators. Police believe that the
perpetrators were mingling with the villagers in Opathawatta.