Life Abroad Pt. 130 - BANDIYA’S CONTRIBUTION TO HELP DIG
Continuation of a fascinating true to life story of Wijesim Peelige Bandiya, son of a Kandyan ‘ hack & burn’ peasant farmer, who sailed away from the Colombo harbour to the UK at a very tender age, with only three Australian pounds in his pocket, accompanied by Sir Oliver Goonatillake in 1948, married a German girl and transformed his life into something unimaginable over the years and returned to his roots as a ‘ laxapathiya’ (millionaire) and is now settled in a spacious house at the age of 86 with his brother Wijesim Peelige Ran Kira, 98 years old in Pahatha Dumbara, Kandy. Following are excerpts from an interview the writer had recently in Kandy with Wijesim Pelige Bandiya.
One of the extra ordinary cases in the British judiciary took place as far back as in 1982 when one of the brilliant CID Police officers in Sri Lanka, who during whole of his career having worked hard in extricating some of the defiant crime cases, had to face the most brutal & deciteful case against him in the UK, whilest he was convalescing after after a heart surgery in London.
It has gone into the legal and historical records in the UK and elsewhere to show how the late DIG Tyrell Goonetilleke had the courage to fight a demorasing battle to clear his name and managed to conme out of the woods victoriously at the end of an arduous struggle against fabrication.
The late DIG Goonatillake, who later became the Inspector General of Police in Sri Lanka, served the Police Force with pronounced excellence. He was the only police officer to have been awarded the President’s Order for Merit during his time. However, on that fateful morning, he went shopping in London, to Selfridges at Oxford Street, with his wife and was taking a glance at the garden tools in the basement, while carrying on his back a small satchel carrying his passport etc.
A few minutes into the shopping, and out of the blue, he was dumbfounded when a store detective by the name of Tanikie (Babu), who had been an ex-police officer, approached him inside the store and accused him of shoplifting and that he was going to be charged for ‘stealing a set of spanners’ from the display counter! Immediately after this confrontation, Tyrell Goonatillake and his wife were taken to Marylebone Police Station in separate Police vans and held ‘in comunicado’ in two separate rooms for questioning.
It turned out to be a nightmare from that moment. For a jiffy, it certainly appeared as the end of ‘joie de vivre’ for the DIG, but he was determined to prove his innocence. In the meanwhile news spread in Sri Lanka thick and fast, like wild fire, for gossipmongers to make a meal out it!
DIG Tyrell Goonatillake had many friends at the Scotland Yard, as he had been involved in some of the most sensational cases of the time that brought him into contact with the higher echelons of the Scotland Yard. During his police career he was respected for his indefatigable exertions and painstaking capability and aptitude to probe every minute detail in an investigation, which at times crossed national boundaries
Subsequently, ‘the shoplifting’ case was heard in the Magistrate’s Courts. According to Solicitor Watkins LJ, “ the shop detective lied like a Trojan and was very economical with the truth. Tyrell was convicted, but he appealed. The appeal came up before the Crown Court, and after two days of legal arguments and deliberations, an order of absolute discharge was made; Tanikie in evidence at the trial had said that he left the police service because he did not like it. That was misleading”.
Tyrell Goonatilake’s lawyers wanted an acquittal to clear his name, but he had to return home with the sword of Damocles still hanging over him. However, in the course of natural justice, a silver lining started to emerge through the dark clouds that concealed Tyrell Goonatilake’s reputation when Peter Wijesinghe (Wijesim Peelige Bandiya) attached to the Sri Lanka High Commission (during Mr. Wimalasena phase of service as the High Commissioner) read about the Selfridge’s incident in a London tabloid. Peter knew three Sri Lankans, Ariya, Peter Kandiah and Sankaran (Sandy) who worked at Selfridges at the time, and contacted them immediately seeking their cooperation and assistance in a ‘private investigation of his own’. Simultaneously he (Peter) read in a different newspaper about this security officer Tanikie’s involvement in 78 incidents on theft and perjury alone that had been concealed in his previous convictions. Such omissions had amounted to ‘fraudulent misrepresentation of material fact purposely intended to deprive the lawful court in assessing the value of the evidence’.
Peter’s Sri Lankan collaborators who were working at Selfridges briefed him about the latest developments that were taking place concerning Tanikie. Peter spared no time in intimating those elaborations to Tyrell Goonatillake in Sri Lanka by letter on 23 September 1982. Tyrell Goonatillake promptly wrote back to Peter thus:
Thank you so much for your letter of 23.9.82. It was so kind of you to have taken all the trouble to write it. The information given by ‘ your very reliable source’ is indeed quite useful. I agree with you that the name of the source should be kept confidential and therefore please do not even give me the name.
I am informed that there was a news item about this matter in a paper over there by the name of “Kentish Times” of 9.9.82, but it did not contain the details given by your source. This paper may also be known by the name of “ The Bexleyheath and Welling Observer”.
It would have been so useful for my matter, if this had taken place when I was there, but anyway it may prove useful to me. Can I trouble you to find out from your source, whether this man has been sacked or interdicted by the source; did the police search his house and find any stolen property belonging to the Stores? Any other useful information….?
Your source must, of course, find these things out carefully without making any fuss. It is best to keep this matter very confidential. I understand the case is to be called on 30.9.82 at M.C. Marlborough. Kindly keep a look out for any news items in the papers and send me the press cuttings giving the name of the paper, the date and the page.
My wife and I are so sorry to hear about Mrs. Wijesinghe. Please let us know whether she has fully recovered. Please give her our good wishes. I hope you are keeping well and happy. You must see us when you next come home. Thank you again for all the trouble you have taken, and please thank the source on my behalf.
Peter Wijesinghe monitored Tanikie’s episode closely and wrote to the DIG again on 28 October 1982. Tyrell Goonatillake wrote back to Peter Wijesinghe as follows:
30 November 1982
Thank you for your kind letter of 28 October.
I must thank you for having taken all the trouble to attend Courts on 28, October, and for the useful contents of your letter.
My Solicitor was attending Courts on my instructions. Please let me know as soon as you hear when the case of Tanikie is fixed for trial in the Crown Court. This is very important.
You may have heard by now, that I’m back at work as D.IG (Crimes Operations) since 29 October. I have been very busy and today is the first day I am having a little free time.
Tanikie had been convicted and fined £100 on 10.11.77 in giving false information. In my case, we did not know about this, as it was a private prosecution and as there was no police investigation.
Kindly try and obtain this information carefully through your confidential source. I hear that Tanikie was dismissed from Selfridges after my false detection on 19.03.82; he was then re-engaged and finally dismissed after the burglary attempt on 31 August.
What I want to know is; when and why was he first dismissed? (ii) When and why was he re-engaged; (iii) When was he actually dismissed finally? (iv) Did Selfridges know that he had a previous conviction on 10.11.77, if so, why did they employ him?
It is poor Asians like us who are trapped when they employ convicted liars like this, then conceal their previous bad records and Courts act on their uncorroborated evidence. Please do your best to get me this information without revealing that you are doing this for me.
With kind regards to you and your family,
During Tanikie’s trial later it had come to light that, as far back as in October the store detective who accused Tyrell Goonatillake had been caught stealing from his own employer, Selfridges, and upon investigation the Police had found several stolen items at his home. By the time such news was unearthed, it was too late to re-open the case against Tanikie as the legally allowed time frame had lapsed to reopen the case against DIG Tyrell Goonatillake, but a brilliant young lawyer took up a point of law and applied for a certiorari on behalf of the DIG and the case went up to the Appeal Court in London. It was a stroke of good fortune that the appeal court accepted the young lawyer’s submission on behalf of Tyrell Goonatillake.
On 12 September 1983 Peter Wijesinghe wrote back to Tyrell Goonatillake with more up to date information on the appeal and how the defence lawyers were armed with more information on Tanikie’s past record. Tyrell Goonatillake wrote back to Peter as follows:
TYRELL GOONATILLEKE (P.M.M)
(Deputy Inspector General of Police) Colombo 5
TEL. Nos. 86679 (Residence) Sri Lanka
23 September 1983
Confidential BY HAND
Thank you for your kind letter of 12.09.83.
I shall be grateful if you will arrange, the bearer, Mr. S. Ratnapala, Senior State Council to meet Mr. X referred to in your letter, if this is possible.
Mr. Ratnapala knows all the facts of my case.
The case was reopened, and the young lawyer argued for two days. At the end of it, the Judges made an order to the effect that ‘the lower court was unable to come to a decision because of the inaccuracy of the information made available to them’.
This no doubt became an important case in British Law, and an excerpt of the judgement was published in the February 14th New Law Report (1984), as ‘Regina vs. Knightsbridge crown court and another Ex parte Goonatillake’.
Finally DIG Tyrell Goonatillake was paid the maximum allowable sum by a British Court as compensation, cleared his good name and the more rewarding factor being a public apology was extended to DIG Tyrell Goonatillake by the British. Bandiya was happy that he managed to help to a certain extent for the DIG to clear his name.