Gang rape shakes Tissamaharama

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By 2018-01-21

By Leon Berenger in Tissamaharama

These days a family is mourning the untimely death of a 13-year-old girl who hanged herself after she was allegedly gang-raped by her secret lover and two drunken accomplices at a tiny village in Tissamaharama on Tuesday last week. It all began the previous day (8 Monday) when the girl had slipped out of the house unnoticed at late night, while the other occupants were asleep, for a secret tryst with her clandestine 25-year-old lover.

It has been revealed that the lover had persuaded the girl to an unidentified location where he allegedly raped her along with two other men until the early hours of the morning and filmed the entire episode.

The girl was last seen by her mother around 11:20 a.m. on that fateful day when she proceeded to her favourite tree-top perch along with her health science book to study the school's homework for the following day.

What the mother did not notice was the strip of saree that the girl had cleverly concealed, while leaving the house for the tree situated around 50 metres away.

Earlier in the day she had informed her mother that she was feeling ill and therefore would not be able to attend school.
The mother had also spotted her daughter awake around 3:30 a.m. on the same day and now she is convinced that it was around that time that she had arrived home after her horrible ordeal.

A short while later the victim's six-year-old brother had ventured out into the backyard with water for the family's single milking cow and calf only to be confronted with a horrific sight.

His sister was dangling motionlessly from her favourite Kohomba Tree and the toddler's screams brought in the family and neighbours to the scene.

The girl was cut loose and rushed to the Weerawila Hospital and subsequently transferred to the larger Hambantota Government Hospital where she was immediately placed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Despite the intense medical attention and commitment by the doctors, nurses and other staff the Grade Nine student of Thellula Maha Vidyalaya passed away on Tai Pongal Day, five days after being admitted to the hospital.

A post-mortem later ruled that the girl had been raped and died from a swelling in the brain owing to damage to the head nerves.

Mother's grief

"Here was a child that loved her books and school work and was never fond of roaming aroundthe village and kept to herself at most times.

"It was a shock to find out that she had a clandestine affair with an adult male of 25 years, and even more an immediate neighbour who had been a frequent visitor to our home.

"What is even more frightening is that this so-called lover was visiting our house when my daughter's suicide took place and even assisted in bringing down the limp body from the tree.

"This man and his two accomplices would still be at large if my daughter had not mentioned the incident and their names in her suicide note that was recovered from the Health Science book," the victim's 37-year-old grieving mother, Teckla Nishanthi Gajanayake told Ceylon Today.

She added that her husband had left the family some six years ago and was currently suffering from a mental condition so much so, that he could not remember or identify his daughter in the coffin.

The suspects were later found hiding inside a wadiya at the Yala Wildlife Sanctuary by villagers and later handed over to Police, but not before they were thoroughly beaten up, she said.

"It is a horrifying thought that the men behind the crime are known fellow-villagers that were raised together. If the perpetrators were outsiders it would be less hard to understand but that is not the case and we are now forced to live with it.

"Today (Friday, 19) we will hold a bana preaching for the soul of my dead girl that will be followed with an almsgiving tomorrow (Saturday, 20) with the hope that she is now resting in a safer and kind place," the weeping mother said.

No trust in Police

Janaka Suranga Gajanayake is the victim's uncle and he has no trust in the local Police alleging that they are working to an unknown agenda that is making matters more complicated.

"The Police are yet to trace the location or place where the alleged rape took place, although we have provided them with a suspected house.

"This house is occupied by the same person that owns the wadiya in which the suspects were hiding but the Police are not listening.
"In addition, the brother of one suspect had even offered his premises for a political campaign office of a top government politician in the region.

"This office was later torn down by enraged villagers and the politician even visited the funeral home and donated Rs 30,000 to purchase the coffin.

"However, we firmly believe that this politician who is highly respected in the area was not aware of the activities of the suspects although they may be his party supporters.

"It is now clear, that with the Police unable to trace the exact place where the alleged gang-rape occurred, all evidence must have been cleaned out which would lead to a difficult case for the prosecution.

"We now intend to take the matter up with the National Police Commission (NPC) at the very earliest and a known lawyer has pledged his assistance towards this end," Gajanayake said.

Other villagers alleged that the suspects came from sand mining homes and therefore they had links with regional politicians, the Police and other local officials.

They added that the suspects were also known to be a rude group throwing vulgar remarks and threats at lone females but the villagers remained silent fearing reprisals.

The Police for their part claim that everything that has to be done has been completed, adding that certain interested parties were attempting to make political mileage from an innocent death.

"There is no intended cover-up as alleged by the victim's parents and others, and certainly there is no political pressure from any side to influence the investigation," Officer-in-Charge of the Weerawila Police, Inspector (IP) Kumudu Kumara said.

He added that DNA samples were taken from the suspects and the victim and they have been sent to the Government Analyst for further investigation.

Previous offence

He also said that the suspects are known to have a questionable background and one individual has a sex offence case pending in Court.

This particular person had on an earlier occasion attempted to molest a woman while she slept at her home but was forced to flee after she resisted and raised the alarm.

The suspect was traced the following day after Police sniffer dogs tracked him down from his slippers that had left behind before fleeing the scene, IP Kumara added.

"We are hearing reports that these three men had been involved in a series of sex offences in the village but strangely no one has come forward with a complaint.

There may be several reasons for this behaviour that could include fear of reprisals and even the social stigma that comes along with such complaints.

It has also been established that the suspects had photographed and filmed last week's incident and this also could have been an attributing factor for the girl to decide on ending her life.

One suspect in the group is also known to have committed a similar offence earlier as the Police had recovered a nude photograph of a woman from his possession.

"The probe into the activities of these suspects is far from over, although it may be alleged otherwise in certain quarters," IP Kumara further said.

He added that a Police team had searched a suspect's house in the vicinity on Saturday where the alleged incident may have occurred but the entire place had been cleaned out. Meanwhile, a small group of protesters made up mainly of school teachers and students held a brief demo in the Debarawewa Town to highlight this case and create awareness among the local villagers.

However, according to Police the demonstration soon took up a political tone and the crowd had to be dispersed peacefully.
However, having said all that the Police are yet to trace the exact location where the alleged rape took place and while time is running out to find the required evidence that will be needed for a conviction in a Court of law, and the reservations and suspicions of the dead girl's family and others remain justifiable.

Pix by Akila Jayawardana

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