Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 4 October 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Murder No 17

Kotakethana back in the news with another gruesome killing:

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 gem mining.

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.

Not reported

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.

According 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 since 2008.

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 area.

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.


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