Inhuman and brutish: Crime against schoolgirl Vidya planned for porn mafia

Trial-at-bar sentences seven to hang; deputy minister reprimanded.

The brutal gang rape and murder of Punkuduthivu schoolgirl Vidya was well planned, masterminded abroad and the crime was committed in a very inhuman way, observed the trial-at-bar which sentenced seven of the nine accused to hang.

The suspects being led away from courts

Wednesday’s unanimous judgment of the first ever trial-at-bar in Jaffna received widespread welcome from the public who were shocked and angry over the brutal crime two years ago.

Two suspects were acquitted as the evidence against them was not conclusive.

In addition to the death penalty, the seven convicts were sentenced to 30 years in rigorous imprisonment and fines ranging from Rs 40,000 to Rs 70,000. Each of them was ordered to pay Rs one million compensation to Vidya’s family, who thanked all those who fought for justice in this case.

“No other mother should experience what I have undergone and the tragedy committed on my daughter should never have happened to any other daughter ever again,” Vidya’s mother S. Saraswathie, holding back tears, said.

At the time of the incident, 18-year-old Sivaloganathan Vidya was studying in the Advanced Level grade at the Pungudutivu Maha Vidyalayam.

On May 13, 2015, she failed to return home. The alarmed family began a search. Her brother, Nishanthan, learned that Vidya had not come to school on that fateful day. The family lodged a complaint at the Kayts police station.

Family members and neighbours continued the search the following day. Around 5 pm, they found the body in a thicket. The crime drew widespread protests in the north with angry residents demanding the arrest of the culprits. Several of the suspects were arrested by May 18, 2015.

Charged with 41 crimes, including abduction, gang rape and murder, the seven convicts claimed they were innocent when the three judges asked them why they shouldn’t be hanged for the grave crimes they had committed.

The trial-at-bar, headed by Vavuniya High Court Judge B. Sasi Mahendran, began its hearing on June 12. The other two judges who served on the bench were Jaffna High Court Judge M. Ilancheliyan and Trincomalee High Court Judge A. Premashankar.

The seven convicts were Poopalasingham Jayakumar, Poopalasingham Thavakumar, Mahalingham Sasitharan, Thillainathan Chandrahasan, Sivathevan Thushanthan, Jayatharan Kohilan and Mahalingam Sasikumar alias Swisskumar.

The acquitted were Poopalasighnam Indrakumar and Palanirupansingham Kuganathan.

Delivering the 345-page verdict, Judge Mahendran held that the bench found that the seven accused were guilty of all 41 charges. He noted that the evidence given by Vidya’s mother, a suspect turned state witness (eyewitness) and a schoolboy in the village was critically important in deciding on this case.

Judge Premshankar said he totally agreed with the verdict. Judge Illancheliyan, while agreeing with the trial-at-bar verdict, delivered a separate verdict. He criticised Deputy Women and Child affairs Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran for helping suspect Swisskumar to evade arrest, instead of handing him over to police. The Criminal Investigations Department later recorded a statement from Deputy Minister Maheswaran.

According to Swisskumar’s testimony made in open court, Deputy Minister Maheswaran intervened to rescue him from villagers who tried to attack him in Punkuduthivu. CID also recorded a statement from Colombo University senior lecturer V.T. Thamilmaran over his alleged intervention in the investigations.
Judge Illancheliyan also appreciated the role played by Chief investigation officer of CID Nishantha de Silva, the Attorney General’s Department team headed by Deputy Solicitor General Kumar Ratnam and other senior police officials of the Jaffna police for their role in bringing the culprits to justice.

He noted that the main suspect Swisskumar had tried to offer a bribe of Rs. 20 million to CID officer Nishantha de Silva. He observed that after the rape and murder of the girl, the convicts took the body to a nearby bush in a bid to put the blame on the security forces.

Earlier in his initial submission before the trial-at-bar, Senior Additional Solicitor General (SASG) Dappula de Livera noted that this crime could be considered as a transnational crime since the perpetrators were involved with a Mafia group in Switzerland.

He said Mahalingam Sasikumar alias Swisskumar, a Swiss citizen and mastermind behind this crime, was under contract with the Mafia group that produced and sold pornographic films showing South Asian girls. Therefore, Swisskumar and the accomplices planned and committed this crime which was video-graphed to be sold in the foreign porn market.

While the trial-at-bar was in session, new evidence emerged which led to the arrest of senior Deputy Inspector of Police (DIG) Lalith Jayasinghe. He was accused of helping Swisskumar to evade arrest days after the incident. An arrest warrant was also issued on Jaffna Police Sub Inspector Sri Kajan, who is still at large.

Hundreds of people, students and lawyers were present at the Jaffna High Court on Wednesday to hear the verdict.

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