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Schaffter’s death, a murder – Magistrate

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Caused by pressure on neck and face:
MAJORITY OPINION OF medical committee:

Colombo Additional Magistrate Rajindra Jayasuriya announced that the death of former Janashakthi Group Director Dinesh Schaffter was a crime and that it was caused by pressure on the neck and face. She ordered the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) yesterday (1) to immediately arrest the suspects and produce them in Court.

Dinesh Schaffter’s father Chandra Schaffter walking out of the Court complex yesterday.
Picture by Nissanka Wijeratne

In the recommendations of the five-member forensic medical committee, based on a majority opinion (4 to 1) Dinesh Schaffter’s death was determined to be caused by compression of neck and face. When considering the recommendation, the Magistrate decided that this is a crime and that there is reasonable doubt regarding this death and ordered the Criminal Investigation Department to arrest the suspects immediately.

The Magistrate who ordered to issue copies of the relevant order to the Attorney General’s Department, the Criminal Investigation Department and to the lawyers, also ordered the Criminal Investigation Department to carry out further investigations on the advice of the Medical Committee.

As facts reveal that a crime has been committed, the Magistrate informed the Criminal Investigation Department to ensure justice.

President’s Counsels Saliya Peiris and Anuja Premaratne commended the medical committee. Court thanked the medical committee for the support they provided.

Colombo University’s Forensic Specialist Dr.Asela Mendis was the Chairman of this five-member medical committee, while the other members included Prof. D.C.R. Perera of the Ruhunu University, Prof. D. Fernando, forensic expert of the Peradeniya University,

Senior Judicial Medical Officer of the Peradeniya Hospital Dr.A.S Sivasubramaniam and Senior Judicial Medical Officer Dr.G.R. Ruwanpura of the Karapitiya Hospital in Galle. This five-member medical committee has spent eight months to gain consensus on this decision and focused their attention on investigation reports, documents of last treatments, personal statements, telephone analysis reports.

Although it was believed that death was caused by ingestion of cyanide, in order to determine whether the death was due to strangulation or suicide the committee had carried out a blood test regarding the failure of the heart, when the deceased was hospitalised and based on the blood acidity and oxygen report obtained through the test carried out, the opinion that the death was caused due to ingestion of cyanide was ruled out by the committee and they declared suspicion regarding the death and requested that the corpse be exhumed for re-examination.

The post-mortem report and the stomach containing cyanide was the reason for the request made to exhume the body. Although it was difficult to identify external injuries from inspection of the body, by carrying out an examination of tissues, doctors formed an opinion that that some pressure on the neck caused the heart to stop due to and gave rise to bleeding in the tissues, especially the neck and face which contained a trace of fibers. The medical opinion was that it was difficult to confirm who had given cyanide orally since not enough cyanide to cause death had been ingested.

In the investigation conducted regarding the blood samples, it was revealed that the blood sample taken from the leg veins did not contain enough cyanide to cause death. Subsequent to observing the nature of the fibers found in the neck and face area it was recommended that the cause of death was due to pressure brought to bear on the face and neck.

The medical opinion was that the death was not natural nor due to an accident and it was not a suicide, so it was a crime committed by strangulation with some sort of fibers.

Taking these facts into account, the Magistrate informed the Criminal Investigation Department to investigate based on a new way, immediately. She ordered that the suspects be arrested and be produced in Court.

On May 18, the five-member expert medical committee chaired by Prof. Asela Mendis, Forensic Specialist of the University of Colombo, asked Colombo Additional Magistrate Rajindra Jayasuriya to issue a Court order to enable the body of Schaffter to be exhumed, in order to enable them to reach a decision regarding the cause of death of Janashakthi Group Director Dinesh Schaffter.

The five-member expert medical committee that conducted the investigation had informed the court in writing that based on the evidence obtained in relation to the investigations conducted so far, it had been decided to exhume the body and conduct another post-mortem examination to determine whether the death of Dinesh Schaffter was a suicide or murder.

Colombo Additional Magistrate Rajindra Jayasuriya appointed the five-member expert medical committee chaired by Professor Asela Mendis, Forensic Specialist of the University of Colombo, on February 27 in order to arrive at a correct decision regarding the death of Dinesh Schaffter.

Autopsy reports, DNA reports, SOCO officer’s reports, the bed head ticket of Dinesh Schaffter who was admitted to the Colombo National Hospital and treated in the emergency department, all documents including psychiatric reports of Schaffter as well as all other documents of Dinesh Schaffter who died on December 15, 2022, had been given to the committee through the Registrar of the court.

Accordingly, based on the powers vested in the magistrate, through Section 375 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, she appointed the five-member medical committee to determine the cause of death.

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