Attygalle murder and John Kotelawala Senior’s suicide

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By 2017-12-17

By Sriyani Vithana

A feud erupted between the families of Mudliyar D.C.G. Attygalle and John Kotelawala Snr. John Kotelawala Snr. was the father of late Premier Sir John Kotelawala. John Kotelawala Snr. who had married the eldest daughter of Attygalle also received 2,058 acres of rubber and coconut lands as dowry. It was the motive of Kotelawala Snr. someday to lay claim to the entire property of the Attygalle clan, while after the demise of Attygalle Snr. the properties devolved on the youngest of the Attygalle family Francis Attygalle.

By the age of 21 when Francis Attygalle was starting to take over the family business Kotelawala Snr. refused to allow the former to take it.

This was because Kotelawala Snr. knew that the only obstacle for him to grab the Attygalle wealth was Francis.
This led to regular feuding between them while those who worked in mines owned by the Attygalle clan threw their support behind Francis.
At this time the Leena Atygalle -T.G. Jayawardene wedding took place with Leena being offered 2,861 acres of rubber and coconut lands.

At the marriage of Ellen and F.R. Senanayake the former gained 3,027 acres of rubber and coconut lands.
Meanwhile, Kotelawala Snr. set in motion a conspiracy to secretly bump off Francis Atygalle and for this task he employed Piloris Fernando a 23-year-old resident of Wadduwa.
Kotelawala Snr. gave money to Fernando to purchase a gun from Walker and Sons. This gun which was bought on 16 November 1901 was hidden by the buyer.

For the conspiracy, Kotelawala Snr. also employed a police inspector who was close to him by the name of Singhoni Perera.
Piloris, who went to the residence of Francis Attygalle on 5 December 1906 informed the servant that he had come in search of a job.
After being informed of it Francis had gone to the verandah and Piloris had shot him and after two days in hospital Francis succumbed to his injuries.

As per the conspiracy John Kotelawala Snr. took wing to Japan for a week. As Piloris who was apprehended had spilled the beans, subsequently, Kotelawala Snr. who arrived on 24 January 1907 at the Ratmalana Airport was promptly taken into custody by Police HQI Herbert Dowbiggin. This Court case which was well-known at the time as the Attygalle murder case went to trial before an English-speaking Jury at the Supreme Court.

Among those who were indicted were John Kotelawala Snr., Singhoni Perera and Piloris Fernando.
Before the verdict was to be given on 15 April 1907 John Kotelawala Snr. who had fallen sick after food poisoning died at the Colombo Remand Prison.

It had later been revealed that Kotelawala had carried with him poison hidden in his possession for two months the case had been heard.

Both Singhoni Perera and Piloris Fernando were sentenced to death over the murder of Francis Attygalle.
When John Kotelawala Snr. committed suicide, former PM Sir John Kothalawela was only an 11-year-old boy.
Though Sir John had a sister and brother named Justin and Freda they both had not stepped into politics.
It is said the Kotelawala – Senanayake families had started their links upon the marriage of Ellen Attygalle with F. R. Senanayake the former resident of Bothale Walawwa of Mirigama.

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