Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 11 October 2015





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Psychotic predator of Kahawatte

An analysis of the murders at Kotakethana, based on news from the print and electronic media.:

The once quiet and serene village of Kotakethana in Kahawatta, has again witnessed a murder. Since 2008, Kahawatta was drawn into a fear psychosis, as 17 women have been slain in a manner and style that indicates a lone killer, who operates after stalking the victims and maybe on a few occasions, did it on impulse when an opportunity presented itself. There is also a mild possibility that the deranged suspect has an accomplice who acts mainly as a kind of scout or sentinel during the act of killing and then helps to conceal the body.

Advantage of terrain


In this case, the terrain has been most beneficial to the killer and unfortunately a great challenge to the police.

The calculating killer has used the many swamps, rivers and ponds to hide the victims’ bodies. Nature in turn quickly destroys the violated bodies leaving very little or no evidence of vital forensic clues.

Also the general area of lush tea estates and an abundance of dense thickets of trees and reeds are like a movie backdrop to indulge in sadistic acts, unseen and unheard.

The natural terrain also gives the killer a sense of invisibility, which only consolidates the diabolic mindset to strike again.

Though located away from the vibrant and modern town of Ratnapura, the areas where the victims were chosen from seem to be places where people lived a very humble life, earning a below minimum wage.

As stated in the news these villages lacked proper facilities and were also void of a religious influence, which paves the way for people to cling to superstition and belief in paranormal sentiment. This was proved as many still attribute the deaths of these women to some dark force. Perhaps lack of civil society is another plus factor for the killer to dominate.

All the victims were female. All aged between 30-65 years, with the exception of the 19- year- old girl. These women may have been less educated but certainly not weak. Life in the mountains is tough. They were used to hard work and had loads of stamina.

If not taken by sudden surprise or found in a compromising state (such as sleeping or burdened by load of a heavy tea basket), they could indeed have put up some form of resistance.

They were also skilled in using pruning knives and other sharp implements, in their occupations. Sadly, those same implements have been used in their deaths. Many are said to have lived alone, a sign that they were independent and resilient women.

Commonality of crime scenes

Information of this crucial aspect is somewhat limited, and is therefore based on speculation. The primary crime scenes differ. Some were said to have been murdered at home. Some within close proximity to their homes. Others, in the verdant hills away from their homes.

The Secondary crime scenes, where the bodies were actually recovered, were rivers or water-logged fields, owing to the terrain as stated before. The victims’ bodies were all said to show signs of sexual assault or rape. Yet we cannot draw conclusion to the style, motive or pleasure derived from the killer as the confessions don’t indicate that, at least in the news.

The killer in all these crimes, except for the matricide committed at home by the 18-year-old boy, have the following traits:

• The stamina to stalk and patience to observe the victims

• The strength to rapidly over power, subdue and inflict fatal injuries on victims

• The ability to maintain a calm outer self image

• Ability to communicate both in Sinhala and Tamil, gaining easy access into the community

• A person who has travelling access to Kahawatta area, from a radius which allows for a kill and a safe escape, without raising alarm

• Emotionally immature and unable to have a romantic relationship

• Has a flawed personality and may also have physical features that are not attractive to the opposite sex (such as facial displacement or scars) or a repulsive medical condition such as bad body odour or skin rash

• Extensive knowledge of the way people live and work on the plantations, which is used to time and implement the killing fantasy

• A contact or accomplice who gives information on vulnerable victims (for money or material reward)

• A calloused mind with zero empathy

• Knowledge and control in using a knife or sharp implement to inflict death with confidence (may also have worked in plantation/farm or in an occupation using a knife, such as a butcher)

• May have worked in a low position at a mortuary (and possess very low IQ), where exposure to corpse and blood is an everyday sight, which can stimulate within deranged minds, a desire to kill

• Displays no proper motive ( such as revenge or robbery) and may have one or more patterns of mental disorder ( bipolar or borderline personality) or Impulsive Control Disorder(ICD) which causes failure to resist a strong urge or temptation

• May have had the tendency to revisit the crime scene, the possible reason for hiding but not burying the body (like the case of Gary Ridgeway the Green River Killer, who killed 48 women. However, there were two bodies that were burnt at Kahawatta, perhaps the killer had no time for his river ritual or had done some major mutilation.)

Gender of suspect

I have not specified that the killer is a male, which is common public and police opinion.

The attitude of criminally profiling a suspect in Sri Lanka is often based on crime tradition. In most crimes, a suspect is expected to be a tattooed person, who smokes cannabis and wears a thick gold chain. This is not so.

Each case is unique. Yes, the higher probability is that the killer is a male, yet in crime mapping, we cannot rule out the possibility of a female killer. Criminal history has many violent women murderers.

As stated above, in this era, a woman in the estates can also have all the traits and physical skills. Perhaps the main suspect is a woman and that is why she was able to easily accost the victims and secondly evade suspicion and arrest!

Every crime has a motive, which will eventually be established by investigators. It is said that the murdered women were sexually assaulted. In the trial of American serial killer Ted Bundy, he was only convicted for the murder of 33 women whom he raped and killed. Prior to his execution, he confessed to have sexually assaulted many other women, some he did not murder.

The point is that there is a difference between mere sexual assault and violent rape. In our Kahawatta murders, the physical vaginal examination may have indicated penetration, but it could have been induced by inserting a foreign object (such as a knife handle).

This could have been done by a male or female killer to degrade and subjugate the victim. The bodies were found few days later, immersed in polluted water, which would have destroyed vital evidence. Maybe the killer as a child, had suffered abuse and trauma by an older woman. (This is possibly the target victim’s age)

We can speculate, with confidence that the killer operates alone. At times, with the help of a consenting accomplice. The theory that this is the work of a gang affiliated to the drug trade is absolute nonsense.

If they wanted to intimidate the village, they would shoot the victims as a warning, not going into the drama of creating a rape scene! Besides, if they do have political influence as opined, then they don’t have to fear arrest anyway? So why kill some poor estate women?

The timeline of the murders from 2008 to 2015 – seven years –and yields 17 victims, which indicates the killer had taken ‘time off’ to avoid the police manhunt but strikes back when opportunity presents itself – the common pattern of a serial killer.

We also cannot eliminate the role of a copycat killer, a person who imitates the style of a previous murderer.

This means, of the 17 killings some were done by one person, who may have fled the country. Given the media coverage, it could have prompted the ego of a copycat killer to take over and fulfill his or her delusional bloody fantasies (The elusive Zodiac killer in San Francisco was later imitated by Heriberto Eddie Seda).

For now, we must concede that the psychotic predator of Kahawatta will strike again.


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