Savagery At Madampitiya Graveyard: The Untold Story
It is popularly thought that the arrest of Sri Lanka’s ‘Napoleon of Crime’, Makandure Madush, and his confederates, last May, has helped contain the underworld. There has, in fact, been a decrease in the incidents of organised crime, during the last several months. But this let-up is deceptive, for criminal gangs, like some animals, opt for suspended animation, when the environment they operate in turns hostile.
Hardcore criminals, caged in state pens continue to run their crime syndicates from their cells, with the help of venal prison officers who ensure that they have access to mobile phones and even some creature comforts, behind the tall walls. They have to remain active for their own survival lest their rivals at large should overtake them. It is only natural that turf wars occur, from time to time, among gangs who step on one another’s corns or choose to push the envelope in their efforts to expand their empires.
An incident at the Madmpitiya cemetery, Grandpass (Colombo 14) a few weeks ago received a great deal of media attention. Two persons were chopped to death, in the most barbaric manner, in full view of scores of mourners. These two murders were the result of a longstanding turf war between two gangs led by notorious hell dust dealers in the area. Counterpoint chose to dig deep, with the help of veteran crime busters investigating the incident. And this is how they put the jigsaw puzzle together:
It was close to noon and mourners were trickling into the Madampitiya cemetery, where the funeral of a popular resident of the area was to take place. The cemetery had been decorated with white flags and banners and several youth were busy making last minute arrangements for the grand funeral. Two among them stood out as they were giving instructions to others.
Several trishaws suddenly appeared from nowhere and zipped, like bats out of hell, through the cemetery, shoving the mourners off, before coming to a screeching halt simultaneously like in a South India blockbuster flick. Out came about 20 ferocious looking persons, armed with machetes and other such sharp weapons. Everybody froze, scared out of their wits, and the duo leading the group engaged in decorating the cemetery looked terrified. It was obvious that they wanted to flee, but it was too late. They were already surrounded. The machete wielders closed in menacingly and pounced on their targets.
What frightened onlookers saw next was a scene of absolute butchery. The shining machetes in the hands of bloodthirsty assailants turned red in next to no time. The victims’ screams gave way to groans, which ceased within a couple of minutes. The attackers went whence they had come.
Aanamulu Ranga and Mohammed Imran, the two victims, were rushed to the National Hospital, Colombo, but pronounced dead on admission. A turf war thus snuffed out two more lives.
Kudu Roshan and Chuti Ukkun were sworn enemies, trying to wrest control of the lucrative heroin trade in the Grandpass, Mattakkuliya and Summitpura areas which are considered hotbeds of crime. Clashes between the gangs led by these two drug dealers often turned bloody and Ukkun perished in one of them on 23 Nov. 2016.
Ukkun was killed together with four others at Summitpura. Kudu Roshan and several of his hit men were arrested and prosecuted for the multiple murders. The case dragged on for three years, as usual, and the killers were acquitted for want of evidence to prove charges against them.
No one in his or proper senses dares come forward to give evidence in cases involving gang warfare. Witness protection is conspicuous by its absence in this country, though there are said to be laws to that effect and, therefore, why eyewitnesses to gruesome crimes choose to remain silent is understandable. Who wants to give evidence against mobsters and be killed or maimed for life?
Criminal gangs are adept at suppressing evidence and eliminating witnesses. This is one of the reasons why crime busters have their work cut out, and the conviction rate remains as low as 4% percent. You heard it right; out of 100 criminals prosecuted, 96 get away with their crimes mostly due to lapses on the part of the prosecuting authorities including the police, lack of facilities for carrying out criminal investigations efficiently, corruption in the police and fear of witnesses to come forward and testify. These serious systemic flaws have stood criminals in good stead.
After being released, Kudu Roshan resumed his campaign to eliminate his rivals, and turned on two of Ukkun’s trusted lieutenants, Aanamalu Ranga and Imran. These retaliatory killings have a history.
Residents of Summitpura, Kudu Roshan and Chuti Ukkun were childhood buddies. They grew up together and took to drug dealing as partners. They remained thick for years, but with the passage of time and a huge increase in profits, they let greed get the better of them at the expense of their longstanding friendship.
Kudu Roshan’s father, Kudu Sumith, was also involved in the narcotic trade. Both son and father got together to take their business to the next level much to the consternation of Ukkun, who started planning to get rid of them.
Ukkun, doing dirty work for a powerful politician and enjoying protection in return, decided to eliminate Roshan and his father. The fact that Dematagod Chaminda, a leading underworld figure, was his mentor, emboldened Ukkun to carry out his plan. He knew that Chaminda, who supplied heroin to him, would always stand by him. Kudu Sumith sold heroin obtained from another underworld kingpin called Bloemendhal Sanka.
Chaminda and Sanka were enemies, all out to kill each other so as to wrest control of the heroin trade. Ukkun, however, was still on speaking terms with Roshan and his father despite their business rivalries. There were occasions when they even met and discussed some issues.
It was close to midnight on 13 July, 2014. Several hit men working for Chuti Ukkun were on a special mission, waiting for the go-ahead, at a hideout in Summitpura. They wanted to spring into action after everyone else had hit the sack. In some parts of Colombo, dotted with slums, shanties and other such substandard dwellings, people go to sleep much later than their affluent counterparts.
Two figures emerged from a corner and started looking around. It was Roshan and his father. They were there at Ukkun’s invitation to discuss a business deal. That was what Ukkun had told them.
Ukkun came there at the appointed time. So did his mobsters armed with machetes. Roshan and his father were stunned by the unexpected turn of events. Ukkun told them, in no uncertain terms, that he did not want anyone else to be engaged in heroin business in Summitpura and the adjacent areas. He ordered the son and the father to give up the narco business or be wiped out together with their families. Sumith, who had a short fuse, flew off the handle, abusing Ukkun, in raw filth. He dared the latter to do what he threatened to do. It was a blunder.
The next moment, Roshan and his father came under a machete attack. Badly injured Sumith asked his son to run away. Roshan was left with no alternative. He took to his heels but not before being attacked. That was the day when he determined to take revenge. He vowed to himself that not a single member of Ukkun’s gang would be spared.
Roshan managed to run all the way to the house of one of his gangsters and was rushed to hospital, where he started planning to avenge the killing of his father, who had been chopped in front of him. He wanted revenge to be swift and ordered his gang to attack Ukkun and/or his family.
Ukkun’s mother, Kumari, was also engaged in the narcotic trade. She was known as the Kudu Rajina or ‘Narcotic Queen’ in the area. Roshan decided to have her killed before his father’s seventh day alms giving. He planned the operation from his hospital bed. His men undertook to carry out the attack and planned the execution meticulously. They did not want it to go wrong.
With two days to go for the seventh day alms giving in memory of his father, Roshan’s men struck. They stormed Ukkun’s house while his mother was alone. She pleaded with the attacker for mercy, but to no avail. They shot her dead. She suffered gunshot injuries to the head. The killers made good their escape.
On hearing the killing of his mother, Ukkun wanted to take revenge immediately. He summoned his hit men and ordered them to kill Roshan in hospital. The killing squad had better sense than their boss, blinded by rage. They managed to convince him that it was too dangerous to kill someone in hospital and their operation was likely to fail. A plan was prepared to kill Roshan when he returned from hospital.
Meanwhile, Roshan knew Ukkun would strike any moment. He had his bodyguards at the ready and planned to wipe out Ukkun and his gang.
Ukkun was an elle fan. He lavishly spent his drug money to promote the game at Summitpura and in other parts of Colombo. He also went out of Colombo to watch elle matches and even took part in some of them. Following his mother’s murder, he took solace in playing and watching elle.
On 23 November 2016, an elle tournament was to be held at Summitpura under the patronage of Ukkun, who had spared no expenses to make it a success. He enjoyed watching matches the whole day, together with his mobsters.
Kudu Roshan got wind of Ukkun’s presence at the playground and hurriedly drew up a plan to get rid of him. He contacted Bloemendhal Sanka, who readily parted with some firearms needed for the operation. Roshan’s gang got ready for the attack, at night.
Ukkun, unaware of what lay in store for him, left the playground, after nightfall, to return home. He was in the habit of creating a scene near Roshan’s house every time he happened to go past the place. On that fateful day as well, he started hurling abuse at Roshan and his dead father. Roshan’s hit men sprang into action. According to eyewitnesses, dozens of shots were fired. The shooting lasted for a few minutes as the killers wanted to make sure that their targets were dead.
Ukkun and four others lay in a pool of blood.
On reading Mario Puzo’s crime novels, especially, God Father, some of us may have thought the heinous crimes the Sicilian Mafia commits were grossly exaggerated. But one who has been following the bloody turf wars in this country knows that descriptions of violent incidents one comes across in such books and movies based on them are realistic.
Roshan’s plan was to eliminate Ukkun’s entire family, but he could not achieve his goal. Ukkun’s two borthers, Priyankara and Sandaruwan, managed to escape. They raised an underworld army, with the money they had inherited from their dear departed brother. Priyankara was arrested and remanded over some offence while their operation against Roshan was still at the planning stages.
Roshan, who was looking for an opportunity, decided to kill Priyankara’s wife. His plan, however, went awry. The abortive bid to kill his sister-in-law steeled Sandaruwan’s resolve to return tit for tat. He knew Roshan was a difficult target and, therefore, decided to kill one of the latter’s family members or gangsters.
Sandaruwan, finally, decided to eliminate Roshan’s trusted lieutenant, Gal Sampath, a notorious heroin dealer. One of his killers followed Sampath, who was travelling in a trishaw with his wife and child and shot him dead.
The news of the killing rattled Roshan, who was in remand prison, at that time, for the killing of Ukkun and his four men; he realized that Sandaruwan had become a formidable threat. Something had to be done to overcome it. He knew that Sandaruwan, who had been arrested for Sampath’s killing and subsequently bailed out, would have to go to courts. He ordered his men to kill him while he was returning from the Hulftsdorp courts complex.
Sensing that Roshan would target him any moment, Sandaruwan took all precautions. Having appeared in courts, he got some of his family members to travel in a trishaw to mislead his enemies and went to a friend’s place, riding a motorcycle instead of going to Summitpura. Roshan’s killers followed the trishaw and opened fire. Five persons including Sandaruwan’s father-in-law and accomplices were injured in the attack. A woman who happened to go past the place also suffered gunshot injury.
Aanamalu Ranga and Imran, joined Sandaruwan’s gang, after the killing of Ukkun, and carried out illegal activities of all sorts. They got noticed by Roshan, who was closely monitoring his enemies. Ranga got involved in a fight with Roshan’s brother, known as Chappu. The former damaged the latter’s trishaw and signed his own death warrant.
Kudu Roshan knew he had to act immediately to neutralise the emerging threat. He ordered his killing squad to follow and kill Aanamalu Ranga. They did as ordered at the Madmpitiya cemetery in full view of hundreds of people, on 15 August. About 20 assailants took part in the attack, according to the police.
Director of the Colombo Crime Division SP Udaya Hemantha, assisted by a team including IP Lalith Kumara Ranasinghe, commenced an investigation into the Madampitya killings immediately. They traced five sharp weapons and a trishaw, used for the attack.
A Special Task Force team led by Chief Inspector Nadeeka Silva launched a special operation to track down the killers and arrested three of them on the day of the incident itself, and netted three others, the following day. CI Silva, acting on a tip-off conducted a lightning raid on a hideout in Wellampitiya and arrested another criminal known as Aaji, who under interrogation squealed on Kudu Roshan. Acting on information elicited from him, the STF surrounded a guest house in Yakkala and arrested Kudu Roshan and seven others including his brother, Chappu, hiding there.
But Summitpura is far from safe. These criminals are sure to return after being bailed out or acquitted, for want of evidence. Or, other underworld figures will move in to fill the void in case Roshan and his killers are incarcerated for long periods.
(Next issue: Inside Madush’s Crime Syndicate)
(All photos are exclusive to Counterpoint)