Long-Awaited Verdict Handed Down 31 Years After Murder in Sri Lanka

In a case that has spanned over three decades, justice was finally served on October 10, 2023, as the Kalutara High Court Judge Pradeep Abeyratne pronounced the verdict for a heinous murder that occurred on January 15, 1992. The victim, Dhanapala Fernando, a resident of Pahe Kanuwa, Meagamwatta area of Dharga town, was brutally attacked with sticks and killed in Navuttuduwa, Keeranthidiya area.

The trial, which had been pending under the Magistrates of Matugama Magistrate’s Court and passed through the hands of several High Court Judges of Kalutara High Court, concluded with significant sentences for the accused.

Three of the accused were sentenced to death, while another was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor. The first defendant, Anagipura Prematilaka alias Ratta, a resident of Kalawila district in Beruwala, received a 10-year imprisonment sentence and a fine of Rs. 300,000. An additional two years of imprisonment would be imposed if the fine was not paid.

The second defendant had unfortunately passed away due to cancer before the verdict was delivered.

The death penalty was awarded to the third, fourth, and fifth defendants, namely Malmutuge Dayaratne alias Oliver, a resident of Walagedara, Pallegoda; Anagipura Ariyaratne alias Lokka, a resident of Navuttuduwa, Keeranthidiya area; and Dharmathilaka Fernando alias Prematilaka Fernando, a resident of Pahe Kanwu, Kirimatiya area.

Local sources indicate that these individuals had lived normal lives in the past, raising questions about the delay in delivering justice for the deceased. The verdict, though long overdue, marks a significant moment in a case that has haunted the community for more than three decades, leaving a lingering debate about whether justice has truly been served.

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