Kadugannawa postal bomb case:


 That love, in such abnormal and perverted cases, can turn to terrifying hate, was tragically and dramatically demonstrated in the sensational Kadugannawa Postal Bomb Case. Some poets describe the thwarted love as ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’, and others as, ‘Heaven knows no Hell like Love to Hatred turned’.

This was an unusual case, as it was not between a man and a woman, but between a man and a man. That brilliant and revered Judge, the late Walter Thalgodapitiya, described this foul deed: “For sheer diabolical cunning in the conception, planning and execution of the foul deed, this case is without parallel in the annals of crime in this Island.”

The victim was S M Samarasinghe, a Kandyan lad who was attending Dharmaraja College, Kandy. This was in 1944, one year before the World War II ended. The man who took a passionate liking to this young boy was Lenaduwa Lokuge Jayawardene, who had migrated to Kandy from the Southern Province, and set himself up as a Tailor in an establishment called Jayasiri Tailoring Mart in Trincomalee Street.

Homosexuality was hardly known in the villages. This relationship developed when the boy Samarasinghe was boarded at the tailor Jayawardene’s. The boy did not relish the amorous advances of Jayawardene. So, in 1946 he told his parents that he will not continue to stay with Jayawardene. Thereafter he was boarded at Buwelikade at one Alwis Appuhamy’s, and in 1947 went to reside at the Tarzan Bus Company, which was then situated at Kadugannawa.

Jayawardene made desperate efforts to get the boy back, but when all his efforts were of no avail, he decided that enough was enough and hatched a diabolical plan. His uncontrollable hatred was boiling over. Therefore he was determined to destroy this boy for whom he had developed such an all-consuming passion. Not only the boy, Jayawardena plotted to kill the boy’s family as well.

Parcel bomb

On January 20, 1948, two parcels were handed in at the Havelock Town Post Office: one was addressed to the boy S M Samarasinghe living at Kadugannawa, at the Tarzan Bus Company, and the other, to his sister one Seneviratne at Nelundeniya.

In both parcels, the sender’s name was stated as A M Seneviratne of the Training College, Colombo. Seneviratne was the boy’s brother-in-law, who denied at the Trial that he had sent these parcels. On the same morning, two other parcels were handed in at the General Post Office, addressed to Podi Nilame and one Miss Dissanayake. The sender’s name was stated as W B Wickremasinghe School, Galapitamada. Miss Dissanayake was the boy’s girlfriend and Jayawardene thought that she had weaned the boy away from him. That is why he decided to destroy her as well.

One of the ablest prosecutors then in the Attorney General’s Department was A C M Ameer, who later was appointed Attorney General and conferred Silk. Ameer in his address to the Jury stated: “His plans should not miscarry and therefore the names of the senders of the parcels had to be selected with care, so that the recipients will be disarmed of suspicion by mere reason of the senders’ names.”

The man who posted the bombs at Havelock Town PO and at the GPO was not identified.

On that fateful day, the boy came after school and on seeing the parcel, opened it. The parcel bomb was of such magnitude that the roof of the Tarzan Bus Co was blown sky high, and the boy was blown to smithereens. Fortunately, the other recipients of the parcels acted with caution and did not open them.

The Police took charge of all unexploded parcels. They forthwith arrested the tailor L L Jayawardene, as there was overwhelming evidence against him.

The case came up at the Midland Assizes, on May 8, 1949, (Monday) before Puisne Justice Dr R F Dias (LLD) and an English-speaking Jury. A C M Ameer appeared for the Crown. Aelian Pereira, a flamboyant and a first class Jury lawyer, was the leading counsel for the Accused. Incidentally, Aelian’s father Walter Pereira (King’s Counsel) was acting Attorney General in 1906. He, along with C M Fernando, appeared for the prosecution in the Francis Attygalle Murder Case, in which John Kotalawela Sr was charged with the murder of his brother-in-law.

Ameer had woven the web in which the Accused L L Jayawardene, was well and truly cornered. The only hope now lay in Aelian Pereira’s powerful advocacy in his final Address to the Jury. He had been known to wrest a verdict in his favour from a reluctant Jury, by the power of his Address alone. It was not unthinkable that he would not repeat this feat in Jayawardene’s Defence. Aelian concluded his Address by quoting Sir Edward Marshall-Hall KC. Marshall-Hall KC was the ablest Criminal Lawyer in the British Empire, in the 19th Century.

“Gentlemen, in the hands of Justice are held two scales and you are the people who watch and decide, as the blind figure of Justice holds those scales aloft. It is you who decide what is the result of the weighing. One scale is the Scale of the Prosecution, the other is the Scale of the Prisoner. The prosecution comes under your careful and acute scrutiny as they begin to put into the scales of the Crown, the bits of evidence which are to weigh and make the scale go downwards to a lower level than the other, and convict the prisoner of the crime of which he is charged.

Prisoner’s scale

The other scale is empty when they begin. You must take away from your eyes any faulty vision which you may have, caused by prejudice or suspicion. You are sworn to do your duty according to the evidence and upon your oaths, you must give your verdict. And you must not let any faculty lie dormant in the most minute examination of the line, the balance of those two scales. But remember this, the other scale is not empty. The Prisoner’s scale has something in it, invisible to the naked eye, invisible to anyone who examines it, however skillfully, however scientifically, because on that scale is a thing called the Presumption of Innocence, which if the scales go level is to bump the Prisoner’s Scale down and outweigh the scale on the other side.”

Sir Edward Marshall-Hall was a fearless defender of men. Apart from Aelian Perreira, the other famous Jury lawyer was H Sri Nissanka QC, a batchmate of SWRD Bandaranaike at Oxford University.

Incidentally, the Trial Judge of the Case under review Dr R F Dias was the father of Felix Dias Bandaranaike, one time powerful Cabinet Minister in the Sirima Dias Bandaranaike Cabinet. Dr R F Dias was, I believe, one of the five Doctors of Law, Ceylon produced. The first and still the youngest was Sir Lalita Rajapakse (LLD, QC), the first Minister of Justice in the D S Senanayake Cabinet. Sir Lalita was awarded the LLD from the London University back in 1925, and even after the lapse of 88 years, he is still the youngest Sri Lankan to have achieved this highest academic qualification. His portrait hangs in the London University.

The other Doctors of Law are Dr H W Thambiah QC (Judge of the Supreme Court), Judge Dr C G Weeramantry of World Court fame and Dr J A L Cooray who for many years continued as Lecturer in Constitutional Law at the Law College.

Crown Counsel Ameer analysing the evidence for the Crown addressed the Jury, “You will remember that no one of the 40 witnesses for the Crown has told you that any of them saw the Accused make a bomb or send a bomb. They have each spoken to certain facts and circumstances, the Crown invites you to draw the inference that it was this Accused and no one else who, either, sent the parcel to the boy or caused it to be sent to him in order to kill him.”

Of that era, the ablest Prosecutor was A C M Ameer. Of recent times, the ablest Prosecutor in the AG’s Dept was President’s Counsel Tilak Marapone, later elevated as Attorney General.

Before the Prosecution concluded this Case, an unusual and unexpected thing happened. The Prisoner made a request that his Counsel should call on him at Bogambara Prison. When Aelian went to meet him, he saw papers scattered all over the cell. The Prisoner was well versed in hieroglyphics. He informed Aelian that according to his horoscope if the verdict came before 11 am on a particular day, he had to be acquitted! If the verdict was after 11 am, he would surely be convicted and sentenced to death.

At 9.30 a.m. on this day, two witnesses were called and Aelian, abiding by the instructions given to him by his client, said “No questions” in any event they were formal witnesses. Just then, to the amazement of those present in Court, and the hundreds outside, Justice R F Dias said to the Jury: “Gentlemen, we must do Justice as we conceive it.

This Case is based on circumstantial evidence and owing to the brutal nature of the killing of this boy, our minds have not been free of a considerable degree of prejudice as well. If prejudice is allowed to cloud the issue it is not a thing that will enhance the accuracy of our reasoning and ultimate judgment.” In his restricted charge to the Jury, he said, “No human eye saw this Accused make the bomb, no human eye saw the Accused post the bomb. Consider Gentlemen whether you would want to go on with this case or whether you would not prefer to stop it at this stage.” The Judge put it as strongly as that.

According to Aelian, his eyes and the eyes of the Accused were glued to the clock in the Court. As the minutes crept by, it was 5 to 11, 4 to 11, 3 to 11, 2 to 11 and 1 to 11. Still, the Jury had not returned. The Accused had then told Aelian, “Now Sir, I am doomed. I will be sentenced to death.” At 5 minutes past 11 am, the Jury returned and indicated that they would prefer to go on with the case.

As usual, Aelian addressed the Jury in his inimitable style. The Trial Judge commenced his Final Charge to the Jury. He was scrupulously fair. He commenced his Charge in VERSE, by describing the making of the bomb:

“Little sticks of dynamite, torch-like cells acquire,

Ceiling wax will them unite, to a copper wire.

Insulated switch now fix, make a parcel neat,

Detonator cap affix, and your bombs complete”

He went on and on, and wound up with another VERSE;

“Criminals their arts employ and their foes entrap,

Sure the Law will them destroy, in their toils enwrap.

Circumstantial evidence gleaned from here and there,

It is the way how Providence, malefactors snare.”

On May 20, 1949, the Jury by a unanimous verdict found the Accused L L Jayawardene GUILTY. Therefore the Judge had no alternative but to sentence him to death.

Finally, the Accused appealed to the Privy Council. The Petition for Leave to Appeal ‘in forma pauperis’ came up before the Privy Council on January 30, 1950, but the Application was refused and the appeal was Dismissed.

The Prisoner thereupon made a last request that the place of execution be changed from Bogambara Prison in Kandy, to Welikada Prison in Colombo. The authorities granted his request. He was hanged on March 18, 1950.

Thus ended the most sensational case of that era. All those who figured in this Case were colourful personalities: Justice Dr R F Dias, Defence Counsel Aelian Pereira and Crown Counsel A C M Ameer.

Several people are said to have travelled all the way to Kandy to witness this Case which evoked so much of public opinion. 

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