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Three Serial Killers Who Shook Sri Lanka

A series of murders that shook our little Island.

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“Creepy serial killer facts”: we’ve all googled it at some point in our lives, probably because you have run out of Agatha Christie murder mysteries to read. Thus the words “serial killer” will bring to mind grainy images of London Alleyways or speculations behind the identity of Jack the Ripper,- and nothing could be more removed from such a haunting atmosphere than our tear-drop shaped little island with its unassuming villages, paddy-fields and coppery beaches.

Or so we thought.


The years 2000-2003 saw a series of eleven murders take place in the vicinity of the Weyangoda, Warakapola and Nittambuwa areas. Ten of the victims were women, and one was a four-year-old boy. The cause of death in all cases was strangulation.

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With the special task force deployed, it didn’t take long to apprehend the murderer: 28-year-old Nawarathna, who – plot twist!- had even served as a Police Constable in the mid-nineties. 

Quitting a life of keeping the law, he sought out women who lived on their own, showed up to their doorstep under the pretence of selling wares, and murdered them to rob them of their jewellery and other valuables. His final victim before the police caught up to him, was a young girl from Pamunugama whose body was discovered in Hamilton Lake at Uswetakeiyawa.


Possibly one of the most chilling series of murders in recent history is the Kahawatte Murders. It sounds like the title of a detective novel, and it might as well have been a whole franchise, considering it took place over the span of seven long years from 2008 to 2015, which saw the murders of 15 women in total, all within the vicinity of Kahawatte.

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The first of 15 victims, 56-year-old Sellamma Mariyamma, whose body was found by the villagers, had been strangled to death. And according to post-mortem reports she had been sexually harassed as well. All the victims excluding one were aged over 40, and the exception was a 19 year-old-girl.

Despite a very similar modus operandi, however, most of the killings were unrelated to each other and committed by different murderers with different motives. In 2011, police apprehended a suspect who pleaded guilty to three of the killings. Later, another suspect who was released on bail committed suicide. An 18-year-old was also arrested on charges of having killed his mother.

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While most of the above murders were isolated incidents, Neil Lakshman was responsible for the murder of six women. He was finally arrested after the killing of Naadhan Paapu, 48, when his DNA matched the DNA found at the crime scene. It was revealed that his desire to kill was rooted in an incident that occurred when he was a boy when he was angered as an old woman had made fun of him. A wave of anger and an emotional scar that left behind an insatiable bloodlust resulting in the loss of lives of six innocent women.


The beginning of the last decade was heralded with a series of killings of beggars in Colombo streets.

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The first corpse, found in Wellawatte, had his head bashed in with a brick. 13 more followed, all killed in a similar manner, all beggars except for one drunkard who had been attempting to find shelter on the pavements. 2 women were numbered among the victims.

The papers began theorising that the police themselves were behind the killings, carrying them out to rid Colombo of the beggars who frequent its streets.

However, the actual murderer was arrested eventually, and he turned out to be a beggar himself, sleeping by a pile of concrete in the Galkissa area. Upon interrogation, he confessed to the killings, admitting that he had murdered due to his profound hatred toward the begging community, that arose from a fight with one of them where he had sustained a scar on his neck.

Perhaps it’s not Jack the Ripper- and thank goodness for that, but we have certainly accumulated our own share of serial killers over the years; bitter men who, over time, have developed mental illnesses based on certain incidents that have left them forever scarred, with the blood of innocents dripping from their hands.

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