If you are reading this in a few years from Sri Lanka or as it may be called by the time this story gets to you, Southern China, don’t worry we got your back as you could read our amazing articles while you slave away for the Chinese.
So, let’s begin with the story.
On the 5th of December 1906: – (this was the time Great Britain ruled 1/5 th of the world) Francis Dickman Attygalle standing in his Veranda, was shot by Pila in his stomach. How did we get here? Let’s rewind a few years into this story.
A monument built for Mudliar D.P. Attygalle.
In the days of yore (A few years before 1906), on an island named Ceylon, (heard of it? Singapore wanted to be like them), the 19th century was a very prosperous time for few Ceylonese families. These guys made a fortune and one such was Mudliar D.P. Attygalle from Pilyandala.
Let’s start with Don Charles Gemoris Attygalle. For future reference, I’m going to call him Attygalle, I mean what’s up with Sri Lankan’s having so many names. At a young age, he started working at the Botanical Gardens and also supplied plants to Europeans and Businessmen. This is how he came across a Graphite mine in Kahatagaha, the first in Ceylon at that time. He also had rubber and coconut plantations with over 9,000 Acres of land.
Next, let’s speak about the man behind this article. He is John Kotelawala Sr. He was a well-respected Police Inspector, where he started out as a constable clerk. He was famous to raid illegal gambling houses and was portrayed in a play called “Nainage Sooduwa”.
John Sr. married Attygalle’s eldest daughter Alice Elisabeth Kotelawala. It is still not known whether this marriage was a love affair or a proposal. Anyways let’s not be a typical aunty and dwell on that. They had 3 kids John, Justin and Freda. Sir John Kotelawala was the 3rd Prime Minister of Ceylon from 1953 and 1956, Justin became a Barrister and his son was Lalith Kotelawala who was a founding chairman of Seylan Bank and Freda married C.V.S. Corea who was one of the first people to specialize in Homeopathy.
On the 12th of December 1901: – Attygalle passed away, this was a huge problem for Attygalle’s wife as she was left with two unmarried daughters and a son Francis Dixon Attygalle who was still schooling at Wesley College.
So, for the sake of the family, Kotelawala Sr. Resigned from the Ceylon Constabulary so that he could manage the large estates with the help of his Police Sergeant Singhoni Perera. Petronella Attygalle who was Attygalle’s wife accused Kotelawala Sr. of misappropriating the funds and took legal action against him and tried to remove him from the business. Well, Petronella Attygalle did what any rational person would do to save their company, she had Letters of Venia Aetatis conferred for Francis, making a major out of a minor (Who knew that could be done) using the Governor of Ceylon.
Lena Attygalle (D. P. Attygalle second daughter) was married off to T. G. Jayewardene, who had four brothers who were lawyers, which made the fight to keep the bulk proceedings even harder. During this wedding John Sr. insulted the Jayewardene’s by making offensive remarks. This naturally pissed of Francis, which made him walk up to his uncle and slap him across the face. In which John Sr. replied (So disclaimer, I asked multiple people what Kotelawala Sr. said in sinhala and didn’t get a proper response, what all of them said was that it was Trash Talk LOL). So, this is what I interpreted “You are too young to know what awaits ahead in your life.” (And you thought Indian and Mexican soaps were dramatic)
And in 1905, John Sr. created the Ceylon-Japan Trading Co and set sail to Japan. This was supposedly to create an alibi for what was to come.
Singhoni Perera who was Kotelawala Sr.’s right-hand man recruited his cousin Baron Perera to help him take out Francis. Since these two didn’t know how to use a gun, they found a soldier who fought under the command of Winston Churchill in the Boer War who went by the name Piloris alias Pila. So, a gun was purchased from Walkers for a very expensive sum of 25 Rs.
On the 5th of December: – all 3 men got together to execute the murder. There was no electricity in 1906, so Singhoni called out “Francis, Francis.” and naturally Francis came out to his verandah. Pila opened fire at this point and like cowards, Singhoni and Baron fled the scene. Pila was instructed to meet these two at a rendezvous point so that he could be killed as he was a witness. Pila realized this. The safest place to be right now for Pila was in a jail cell. So, he directly went to the nearest police station and confessed. Well, things did not go out according to plan for Singhoni and Baron. Do things ever go according to plan, I mean like ever? But their main objective was completed though.
So here we are, if you went back in time and could see the murder unfold, you would see Pila running away from the crime scene and straight to the nearest police station and it gets just a wee bit unusual from here.
Soon after the death of her brother Alice sent a cable to her husband saying “Francis died. Funeral took place.” Well, Kotelawela Sr. was not known for brains he cabled back with “Who shot him?”. I Mean his wife’s cable clearly didn’t mention anything about anyone getting shot. This gave away the entire alibi he created for himself.
On the 24th of January: – Kotalawela Sr. arrived at the Colombo port in a Hitachi Maru. Before Kotalawela Sr. could come ashore, Assistant Superintendent, J. H. Daniel came aboard and arrested him. He was taken to the Fort Police Station and bail was not granted and he was remanded until the 30th, As most of the British cops hated Kotalawela Sr. and did not grant him bail purely out of pettiness (I’m assuming).
Even though Piloris was the murderer, the attention wasn’t really on him and the AG with the powers vested in him, made him crown witness. There was a catch though (He had to spill the beans).
For the trial, 3 English Barrister were brought down from India for the three accused as no one from our country wanted to take on their case.
On the 15th of April: – preparations were made at Hulftsdorf to ensure that the trial will go on uninterrupted
On the 20th of April: – Pila gave some damning evidence that would put the three accused away for a very long time. That night Kotelawela Sr. was rushed to the hospital, post postmortem shows that he had died from poison which was smuggled into his cell after the trial. But his homeboys Singhoni was given the death sentence and Baron was acquitted of all charges.
So, during one of the court hearings evidence was brought up that when Kotelawela Sr. went to his mines in Dodangaslande it was occupied by other people and with the assistance of the police he arrested 2 people. After that, he had gone to Maduragoda. Here, large crowds of Attygalle supporters came to attack them. Mind you he was not alone, he had police back up. Well, they fled leaving Kotalawela Sr. and the Sergent to hide in a house nearby. Kotalawela Sr. was reportedly fuming by this incident and reported to have said that Attygalle would not live long.
The Carters (Not talking about Jay-Z and Beyonce) thinking that their boss was killed by the opposition, got into a frenzied mob and started storming the houses of Crown Counsel, Fernando and Attorney General Walter Pereira.
Before committing suicide Kotelawela Sr. wrote a letter to his wife saying that he was innocent and he did not plot the murder of his brother-in-law but after Pila’s testimony, he had no hope whatsoever. This letter was sent even after all the evidence pointed out to him.
On the 14th of June that year, (Imagine you walking to your death bed and there is very little you can do about it to escape). With the attendance of a Buddhist monk, Singhoney Perera appeared at the place of execution at Welikade and submitted himself to the death penalty.
This ended the first sensational murder trial in Ceylon.