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
• 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.