The arrest of a retired senior Deputy Inspector-General has revealed how the police scuttled its own investigations to protect military intelligence men who carried out the assassination of editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.
Senior DIG Prasanna Nanayakkara who is currently in remand custody has allegedly instructed his juniors to not only botch the investigation, but also destroy evidence gathered from the crime scene, according to a confession by Senior Superintendent Hemantha Adhikari.
It was Adhikari who led the investigation into Wickrematunge’s assassination in January 2009 under the immediate supervision of DIG Nanayakkara who at the time was in charge of Western Province (south).
Fearing his own arrest, Adhikari, who is currently serving as a security officer of the Dhammika Perera-owned Hayleys Group, made a length statement to the Mount Lavinia magistrate who is inquiring in the murder.
The court has already been told that the military intelligence was involved in the killing and that the then head of military intelligence Kapila Hendavitharana was heading a killer squad and he reported directly to then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
Several former Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) officers who are currently serving in the army as well as two retired Inspectors of general are also likely to be arrested shortly, according to sources close to the investigation.
These arrests should have been made in July 2016, but official sources said political interference held up progress.
However, with consensus that the February 10 local council election defeat was due to the government’s failure to arrest high profile killers, there is new urgency in the Wickrematunge case.
A former minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, Mervyn Silva, had publicly accused Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of killing Wickrematunge, a charge he has denied.
Wickrematunge had told colleagues as well as many others that he planned to take “Gota to the cleaners” over an allegedly corrupt deal in purchasing four MIG jet fighters for the air force.
The so-called MIG deal is currently being investigated by the FCID and Lasantha was killed a few days before he was due to disclose details of the transaction at the Mount Lavinia courts.
Investigators have been told that Nanayakkara ordered his men to hand over to him some vital evidence found inside Wickrematunge’s car.
Wickrematunge had noted down the registration numbers of the motorcycles that followed him on the morning of January 8, 2009, the day he was killed. The assassins came on motorcycles.
Police scene of crime officers recorded their observations, senior officers had wanted them removed from the books maintained at the police station. Wickrematunge’s note book had been handed over to DIG Nanayakkara who in turn had passed it on to his superiors.
Eventually, the note book had disappeared after the case was handed over to the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID). A former head of the TID is also likely to be arrested shortly for tampering with evidence, official sources said.
Despite the police top brass making a valiant attempt at the time to conceal evidence, junior police officers had surreptitiously made photo copies of Wickrematunge’s note book as well as their own observations in the Grave Crime Information Book (GCIB) which have since been destroyed as part of the cover up.
These photo copies of the original police entries in the GCIB and a copy of Wickrematunge’s note book are now with the CID after almost nine years and the fresh evidence has given a new impetus to the investigation, according to sources close to the investigation.