The suspect in the murder of senior economic reporter Mel Gunasekera, Samson Joseph Anthony was produced before the Kaduwela Magistrate on Monday (3) and remanded into police custody for 48 hours more to permit investigators to interrogate him further.
Anthony was arrested by police investigative teams from the Mirihana Police in Dompe on Sunday evening.
The former Journalist’s mobile telephone – a blackberry – was also recovered from the suspect’s possession. Police Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana said that the suspect had been a painter at Gunasekera’s home about a month previously and noted that the entire family attends mass every Sunday morning. However, Gunasekera had been unexpectedly at home last morning and surprised Anthony when he entered the house through a window early Sunday. The victim had been stabbed with a kitchen knife that had been obtained from Gunasekera’s own kitchen, Police said.
Gunasekera was found stabbed to death in her home in Battaramulla in the early hours of Sunday (2) morning, and discovered by her parents and brother after they returned home from church.
She was 40 years old and Assistant Vice President of Fitch Ratings Lanka at the time of her murder. She had previously worked as a correspondent at the AFP’s Colombo Bureau and was also the founding editor of Lanka Business Online. Gunasekera also served on the business desk of the Sunday Times.
Mirihana Police held a press briefing today (3) to tell the public about how efficiently the murder investigation had been handled, with the use of sniffer dogs and CCTV and fingerprint evidence from the scene. Gunasekera’s neighbours had several CCTV cameras pointed towards the road and it is believed the suspect was captured on the film. The murder case was solved and the suspect arrested within about 12 hours of the killing, the police said.
However questions persist about Gunasekera’s murder that have not been raised due to the speed and efficiency of the police investigation and the arrest of a suspect connected with Gunasekera’s residence that was unrelated in any way to Gunasekera’s journalism career. Police have made it a point to note that Sunday morning’s killing had nothing to do with Mel Gunasekera the Journalist.
However the Colombo Telegraph highlighted in a story yesterday (2) that Gunasekera was the third business journalist to be targeted in what the police have repeatedly referred to as burglaries. In February 2013 The Sunday Leader journalist, Faraz Shaukatally, was shot by unidentified men and admitted to hospital. In August 2013 there was an attack on the house of the business editor of the Sunday Leader Romesh Abeywickrema, who was married to the Associate Editor of the same paper Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema. The couple subsequently fled the country. Reporting on Sri Lanka’s economy has become an increasingly risky profession as it often unearths allegations of corruption involving top politicians.
In light of these facts, the Colombo Telegraph has the following questions to pose regarding the brutal and senseless murder of journalist Mel Gunasekera. It is hoped that the autopsy into her death will reveal some of the answers:
1. The Suspect Samson Anthony has no prior record of crimes, according to the police report. Yet he was able to murder Mel Gunasekera by slashing her neck, despite being untrained and Gunasekera, by the police account, had struggled in her home before her death.
2. If a thief was observing the Gunasekera residence in order to break in and enter, would he not perform a reconnaissance mission before hand, just to double check that all the members of the family had left the house?
3. Slashing with a knife would result in a great deal of blood. Eyewitnesses at the scene said it had been a messy crime. Police reports said the suspect had washed the knife before he left the house and also changed his clothes. Do all robbers carry a change of clothes with them when they attempt break in and entry?