Everything else.. Buildings in Sri Lanka with a Dark Past

Buildings in Sri Lanka with a Dark Past

2020 Oct 31

With Sri Lanka’s Antiquities Ordinance law, we have no shortage of old buildings and homes. However, while they may look iconic and beautiful, some hold a dark past. 

The Tintagel Boutique Hotel 

The Tintagel Boutique hotel is a high-end boutique hotel but, despite this building’s beautiful setting, it holds a dark history. This building was the private residence of former Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and tragically, the location where he was assassinated by Talduwe Somarama Thero on September 25th, 1959. On this day, Mr Bandaranayake was seated in the verandah of his home listening to matters of concern from the public when the Thero who had come to speak to him, pulled out a concealed revolver and shot the Prime Minister at point-blank range in the chest and abdomen. He shot off 4 more rounds before being shot and overpowered by a police constable. 

No. 7, St. Alban’s Place Bambalapitiya
Source: https://quadrangle.lk/mahdevan-sathasivam-the-greatest/

At the address of No. 7 St. Alban’s Place in Bambalapitiya, there sits a very non-descript two-story building. The plate on the wall states “Albans Villa”, yet it is unclear if this is the name of the home or of a guest house. Yet this modern and crisp looking building has a story it hides. In 1949, this house became the home of Mahadevan Sathasivam a famous Ceylonese cricketer, and his wife Paripoor Nam Ananda Rajendra and their 4 daughters. On October 9th, 1951, Mrs Sathasivam was found lying dead on the floor of her kitchen having been strangled. Both Mr Sathasivam and the cook were arrested on suspicion and Mr Sathasivam was charged with murder owing to a confession by the cook. However, evidence showed that Mr Sathasivam was innocent, and the cook was later charged with perjury.

The General’s House, Nuwara Eliya
Source: https://traveltriangle.com/blog/haunted-places-in-sri-lanka/

A classical old bungalow available for parliamentarians to rent out rooms for stays, the story of this hotel’s eeriness stems from how an old lady passed away in Room 16 under mysterious circumstances. Records vary from the ominously vague to saying she killed herself. In October of 2016 MP Nalin Bandara, who was a guest at the bungalow, to newspapers a story of how he had been shoved and pushed to the ground by some unseen force while he had been walking to the washroom at 2 in the morning. When looking around, the MP did not see anyone and owing to the lateness, none of the MPs’ accompanying guests had witnessed the event. 

Stellenberg Estate, Nuwara Eliya
Source: https://www.historyofceylontea.com/tea-estates/estates-registry/stellenberg–1125.html

The Stellenberg estate murder at midnight is the story of how Mr. George Pope was beaten to death by at least two assailants, one of whom Mr. Pope had had a serious disagreement with. Mr. George Pope was famous for being a tough manager. However, in 1940, with the creation of the All Ceylon Estate Workers Union, Mr. Pope found himself constantly locking horns with the estate’s union leader Mr. Meiappan. Things came to a head when Mr. Meiappan was fired by Mr. Pope but union actions forced that he be hired back. Things came to a fateful end for Mr. Pope in May of 1941 when Meiappan with 5 others had ambushed and beaten Mr. Pope to death as he arrived late at night from dinner. Of the 6 people accused, Meiappan and one other were found guilty of murder and were given the death sentence and executed in February of 1942. 

Independence Square Arcade

One of Colombo’s most popular hangout spots is the renovated Independence Square arcade. However, this colonial building with its hardwood floors and glistening chandeliers were not always as iconic as it is now, at least not for the same reason. The building was originally built in 1889 to serve as a mental asylum. It was abandoned, however, due to overcrowding and deteriorating facilities. The asylum was closed down as the Angoda mental asylum was constructed as an alternative.  

The Duff House, Bagatalle Road

In 1933, Bagatalle road took on fame for a very sinister reason. This is due to the murder by Mr. Stephen Seneviratne of his wife, Lillian Roslin with Chloroform. The case was not a straightforward case as Mrs. Seneviratne had on previous occasions threatened to end her own life. The relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Seneviratne was a strained one where a fight had stemmed due to an alleged affair of Mr. Seneviratne with a servant girl. Mr. Seneviratne was tried for these crimes and a 5 – 2 verdict convicted him of murder. However, on appeal, the sentence was squashed, and Mr. Seneviratne was released after being in prison for 30 months.  

The St. Paul’s Church Colombo Vicarage 
Image from https://thinkworth.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/the-medico-legal-mystery-of-sri-lanka-of-the-70s/

St. Paul’s Church vicarage in Colombo was the site for the famous murders by Father Mathew Peiris. The murder of his wife, Eunice, on the 19th of March 1978, where she had been given insulin and caused to go into a coma was preceded by the murder of his secretary Dairene’s husband on the 10th of August 1979 in a similar manner. Father Mathew and Dairene were both convicted for murder while Dairene was later acquitted. 

Capri Club Colombo

The Capri Club in Colombo was the private residence of the Burmese Ambassador Mr Boonwaat and his wife Madam Shirley Boonwaat. On a Sunday morning on the 15th of October 1967, shots were heard from the diplomat’s residence and three Sri Lankans witnessed a woman fleeing out to escape by a car, only to be shot once more and be dragged back into the house. A rushed death certificate was signed without permission being given by the diplomat for a postmortem and by 1.30 pm that same afternoon, the body was cremated, and the gates of the diplomats’ residence were closed off. A few days later, the Burmese Ambassador returned to Rangoon and no party was legally convicted for the death, nor was the potential murder fully investigated owing to a shroud of diplomatic immunity. The reason for this tragic sequence of events was assumed to be owing to a rumored illicit affair between Shirley Boonwaat and a musician, Mr. Rex de Silva.