The arrest of a former top cop in connection to the assassination of The Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge is imminent after groundbreaking testimony from a senior police official leading the murder investigation blew the case wide open, inside sources from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) said.
Investigations by the CID had found that the high ranking officer had played a role in concealing evidence in connection to the editor’s death, sources revealed.
The CID investigations in to the Police enquiries carried out during the time has unraveled important information on how evidence of the killing was covered up by several senior Police officers including a DIG, hampering efforts by local police officials to nab those involved. The CID has gone on to obtain lengthy statements from them before a magistrate in which they have reportedly implicated this high ranking Police Officer.
After former retired SSP Hemantha Adhikari, the then SP of the Mount Lavinia Division who is also accused of concealing evidence gave a closed-door lengthy statement to Mt. Lavinia chief magistrate Mohamed Mihail this week, the CID now says further statements are to be obtained from the arrested former Crimes OIC of the Mount Lavinia Police SI Sugathapala on March 2.
“We hope to arrest one of the main suspects in connection to concealing evidence thereafter” the source revealed.
According to SSP Adikari, who came forward with evidence even though he is no longer a police official, on the day of Lasantha’s murder on January 8, 2009, DIG Prasanna Nanayakkara had called him and instructed him not to allow a serious forensic examination or take too many statements from eye-witnesses.
DIG Nanayakkara is currently under arrest.
On January 16 when OIC Crimes Mount Lavinia S.I. Sugathapala had informed Adhikari of his discovery of Lasantha’s notebook containing licence plate numbers and made entries about it in the Information Book (IB), he had informed DIG Nanayakkara. While the notebook evidence made it clear that Lasantha had written down the registration numbers of the bikes that were following him.
DIG Nanayakkara is said to have then summoned Adhikari and Sugathapala with the IB and notebook and had them read it to him.
According to the statement given by Adhikari after explaining on the call what was discovered, DIG Nanayakkara took the original IB pages and notebook, and told him that they would be handed over to then Inspector General of the Police (IGP) Jayantha Wickramaratne.
DIG Nanayakkara had then made a call from his landline in the presence of SSP Adikari, which he presumes in his statement was to IGP Wickramaratne. SSP Adikari and OIC Crimes Sugathapala tell a consistent story which has been corroborated by multiple sources, police sources confirmed.
While the original notebook remains missing to this day, sources from the CID believe this book was passed on to a senior government official after which the notebook may have been destroyed.
But several pages of the notebook were preserved as photocopies with a junior officer hanging on to these pages after Adhikari had mentioned these could be important. At the time, copies of the notebook were also made and preserved for future reference.
The pages are confirmed to have Lasantha Wickrematunge’s handwriting mentioning the motor registration numbers of the motorcycles following him. These copies are now with the CID.
Sugathapala is also said to have kept copies of the IB original pages before they were doctored which have also been handed over to the CID now.
Evidence gathered by the CID has proved a telephone call from DIG Nanayakkara’s personal landline to the IGP and from IGP’s command line to Nanayakkara was placed at the time in question. The CID investigation has found that all mobile tower signals have corroborated all these locations.
While the CID has now closed in on Former IGP Wickramaratne he in turn recently has filed a Fundamental Rights petition against the CID in order to prevent his arrest. According to sources having studied the B-reports filed by the CID, Wickramaratne claims his arrest could be deemed illegal.
“However a FR petition cannot prevent his arrest” a highly placed officer in the CID said.
The magistrate is set to send the statement made by Adhikari to the attorney general’s department which will refer it to the CID.
The AG will also submit its excerpts to the Supreme Court when it takes up the FR petition filed by former IGP Jayantha Wickramaratne seeking an order against his arrest.