Sri Lanka Police says that the five suspects arrested over the theft of the Golden Peacock award belonging to the late Dr. Lester James Peiris included several individuals who have been stealing valuable items at gatherings of crowds – specifically those of the rich, for the past couple of years.
Police Spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara, briefing the media on the investigation today (7), said that the award in question is the Golden Peacock Lifetime Achievement Award received by Dr Lester James Peiris at the New Delhi Film Festival in 2000.It was previously incorrectly reported that the medal received along with the Golden Peacock Award for best feature film at the New Delhi film festival in 1965, had been missing.
The spokesman said that Bambalapitiya Police received a complaint on May 2 regarding the missing award and that a team of police officers led by the OIC visited the residence of the veteran filmmaker after the conclusion of funeral activities. He said that a statement was recorded from one of the relatives who had said that even her valuable iPhone was stolen at the funeral that day. The theft is believed to have occurred between 10.35am-11.00am on Wednesday (2) morning.
Gunasekara said that Bambalapitiya Police obtained video footage of the funeral proceedings from television channels and reviewed them with the relatives, but to no avail. Police then obtained CCTV footage from neighboring houses on May 4 and while inspecting the said footage observed three suspicious individuals arriving at the funeral house in a three-wheeler and then leaving several minutes later. The following day (5), police stations in Bamabalapitiya and Kollupitiya received information that the award has been found inside a private bus plying the Kaduwela-Kollupitiya route. The driver and conductor of the bus handed over the award to police on the same day.
Investigations into the suspicious three-wheeler’s number plate had uncovered that the vehicle belongs to a woman living in Kiriwaththuduwa, Pitipana. She had revealed that the three-wheeler is now being used by her father, a resident of Gemunupura in Kothalawala, Kaduwela. The 61-year-old man was arrested by police and upon interrogation he revealed the names of three more suspects.
They were also arrested at Kaduwela after arriving from Gampola in a three-wheeler. The three arrested men (aged 64, 60 and 46) are residents of Gampola and Nawalapitiya and have been engaged in planning and carrying out theft of valuable items at crowded gatherings, especially those attended by the rich. Another suspect, a 47-year-old resident of Hiniduma, was arrested yesterday (6) near the Sugathadasa Stadium, the police spokesman said. The suspects, during questioning, admitted to the crimes and revealed that they had sold the stolen iPhone to a phone shop in Nawalapitiya for Rs 4,000. Eight more stolen mobile phones which were sold to the shop were also recovered by police, who arrested the shop owner for the possession of stolen goods. The arrested suspects are expected to be produced before the Aluthkade Magistrate’s Court today (7) and will also be presented for an identifications parade soon, he said.