Armed robbery at journalist’s residence: Two army deserters held – Five-member gang included three brothers
Posted on August 26th, 2013

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy Island

August 25, 2013, 10:00 pm


The scene of Saturday’s abortive robbery (pic by Ranjith Wimalasiri)

The police investigating Saturday’s abortive armed robbery at the Dickman’s Road residence of The Sunday Leader Associate Editor Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema, yesterday said that two of the four suspects, now in police custody, were army deserters.

Confirming the alleged involvement of deserters in the robbery, Military Spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya told The Island that the army would provide all information regarding the suspects required by the police. The Brigadier identified the suspects as K. P. Chamara Kumara of Weralupitiya, Avissawella and rifleman Asanka Ubeysiri.

Police headquarters spokesman SP Buddika Siriwardena told The Island that the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) and the Bambalapitiya police were awaiting clearance from doctors to question the suspects in hospital.

SP Siriwardena said that all four suspects now receiving treatment at the National Hospital, under police guard, were out of danger. Of them, three had gunshot injuries, he said, adding that of the five-man gang, three including Chamara Kumara were brothers.

The three included deserter Kumara and the person shot dead by a police sergeant when he resisted arrest. The police identified the dead person as K. Indika Sampath. The third brother was identified as K. Rohitha Lakshman.

Siriwardena quoted Mrs. Abeywickrema as having said that she had been confronted by a gang of five when she got up in the early hours of Saturday after hearing some noises. She, her daughter and parents had been at home at the time of the incident.SP Siriwardena said that the police had acted swiftly after receiving a call from the journalist’s husband, Romesh, who suspected something unusual was happening on returning home in the early hours of Saturday.

Siriwardena said: “Having received a call from Romesh, the police emergency directed a mobile unit whereas another squad operating in the same area rushed to the scene. The police mobile rushed in and the sergeant leading the group shot at gangsters who pounced on the police. During the confrontation four policemen suffered injuries, with one receiving serious injury to his neck.”

According to the SP, Romesh contacted police emergency as he couldn’t contact his wife on the land line as well as her hand phone.

The police spokesman said that the police team engaged in the confrontation and the second team which closely followed had managed to arrest four wounded robbers and recover millions worth of gold jewellery and some cash.

Explaining her ordeal, Mrs Abeywickrema quoted a member of the gang as having said that they were there to finish her off on a contract given by a person who didn’t like her work. Mrs. Abeywickrema said that the gang assured that her parents wouldn’t be harmed.

Responding to allegations that Abeywickrema could have been targeted by a group for her writing, SP Siriwardena said that initial investigations pointed to an armed robbery. The official said that the police were confident of establishing whether there was any other motive than robbery.

Army headquarters said that Kumara had been arrested in September 2009 for an offence and was ordered on Oct 6, 2009 to be detained at Gemunu Watch Regimental headquarters at Kuruwita before being moved to army correctional facility at Panagoda. Brigadier Wanigasooriya said: “The soldier escaped from detention on Oct 8, 2009. He surrendered to the army on May 24, 2010 and was again detained at Panagoda for a period of 90 days before being handed over to GW regimental centre at Kuruwita on Sept 9, 2010. He disappeared again on Oct. 6, 2010 and was subsequently declared a deserter. The Hungama police arrested the deserter on June 25, 2013 and handed him over to Kuruwita on July 9, 2013.

Responding to a query, Brigadier Wanigasooriya said that after a summary trial, the army had decided to discharge the soldier as per the due procedure and he was temporarily discharged (such temporary discharge is instituted until clearance from all army establishments is obtained) from 15 July 2013 to 20 August 2013. On 20 August the soldier reported back, but since his clearance from some institutes hadn’t been received he was given another letter of temporary discharge from 21 August 2013 to 25 Oct. 2013. The Brigadier said that the suspect had got involved in the Dickman’s road robbery during this period.

Rifleman Asanka Ubeysiri had joined the army on March 6, 2009 and deserted on May 25, 2010. However, he hadn’t been involved in any previous incidents, the military spokesman said.

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