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Sunday, 11 October 2015

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The Sadewmi saga takes a new turn

The unresolved case of sexual abuse and murder of five-year-old Seya Sadewmi in Kotadeniyawa is still in the news even after several weeks of the unfortunate incident which sent shock waves across the country. The public was initially curious about the incident because of the brutal manner in which such a small girl was murdered.

The public are now concerned about the manner in which the police are conducting investigations on incident and the arrests that are being made on suspicion.

The first was the 17-year-old student and 32-year-old father of one who were both arrested on suspicion. The arrests were made in a controversial manner and the DNA tests done on both, did not match the DNA samples collected from the body of the victim. The two suspects were then acquitted by Court on October 1.

Then it was Dunesh Priyashantha alias Kondaya who had apparently made a statement to the Police that he committed the murder of Seya Sadewmi and the Police directed investigations based on the statement given to the Police by him after his arrest on September 23 and he was also subjected to a DNA test. But this too did not match the samples collected from Seya's body. The CID informed the Minuwangoda Magistrate on October 7. Four days later, the CID arrested his elder brother, 36-year-old Saman Jayalath based on the statement given by 'Kondaya' to the Police to verify 'Kondaya''s statement.

According to the Police, Saman Jayalath had also made a statement that he had committed the murder of Seya.

According to reports he had made a confession before the Minuwangoda Magistrate. Upon his confession he was further remanded and directed to undergo a DNA test. The DNA report of Saman Jayalath will be produced before the Minuwangoda Magistrate.

Now the father of Seya Sadewmini has also volunteered to undergo a DNA test to clear his name. The Minuwangoda Magistrate has granted permission for a DNA test to be carried out on him. The investigations has turned into a jigsaw puzzle as far as the public are concerned as the Police were arresting suspect after suspect but with no substantial evidence against them and later releasing them.

The question is, who is misleading Police investigations? If Dunesh Priyasath alias Kondaya is uneducated as his mother claims, there is a question as to how he can mislead the Police.

The only hope now the Police have is the DNA report on Saman Jayalath. This investigation would prove their inefficiency.

To enlighten the public on investigations carried out by the Police based on forensic evidence the Sunday Observer spoke to Professor Ravindra Fernando, Senior Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology and Acting Director, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, University of Colombo.

Q: What type of cases can be proved based on forensic evidence including DNA tests ?

A: Forensic evidence, including DNA, is helpful to prove some murders and sexual assault cases. DNA profiling is now a routine test, yet it has only been 27 years since its first use. During the intervening years, the science of DNA profiling has undergone many changes, and it will continue to do so in the future. DNA profiling has revolutionized forensic human identification.

This is a relatively recent addition to the forensic science tool kit and that it is constantly undergoing development.

Q: It seems the Police are trying to find out the person responsible for Seya Sadewmi's murder case based on forensic evidence. What is the correct procedure to make such attempts to prove a case based on forensic evidence from the date of finding the victim's body?

A: Apart from DNA evidence, Police must be looking at trace evidence such as blood stains, hair and fibre to link the murder to Seya.

Q: According to you what are the basic facts that the Police could have used to conduct investigations based on the JMO report on the Seya Sadewmi murder case?

A: I cannot comment as I did not see the JMO report.

Q: On what basis can the Police subject a person to a DNA testing or any other forensic based evidence testing and use them as evidence against any suspect to prove the case?

A: If Police suspects a person, a sample of blood or saliva can be used as evidence against a suspect.

Q: Is there any chance for any suspect to manipulate forensic evidence specially in a rape and murder case ?

A: If properly collected, packed and transported to the laboratory, it is not possible to contaminate samples or mislead the police.

Q: Is there any possibility of forensic evidence getting destroyed in a situation when the victims body is thrown into the water?

A: Forensic evidence may be destroyed in water.

Q: What are the other possible forensic evidence Police can use if the DNA does not match with that of the suspect or suspects ?

A: Then it would be the hair, cloth fibre and blood.

Q: Can the Police prove any case based only on forensic evidence in the absence of eyewitness accounts ?

Q: Yes, the Police can prove cases based only on forensic evidence.

Q: Do you think the Police is on the correct path on investigating Seya Sadewmi's rape and murder case ?

A: I cannot comment without knowing the JMO report and police procedure.

 

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