East Secretariat on Human Rights Case Report,
Dr N Malathy, NESOHR Secretary General, 6 January 2006
The description given below of Tharshini’s disappearance on 16th
December 2005 and the discovery of her body in an abandoned village
well is put together from statements made by Tharshini’s relatives
and neighbours to one of NESOHR’s committee members. NESOHR has made
the decision to withhold the identity of the relatives and
neighbours from this report because their safety may be compromised
if these are revealed. NESOHR is ready to share this information
with any leading international human rights organization that is
willing to join us in taking up this case of the rape and murder of
Tharshini is a 20 year old, single young woman who lived with her
widowed mother in Pungudutivu (see map). Tharshini is one of three
daughters to her parents. Both of her sisters are married. One of
Tharshini’s sister, who is widowed, lived adjacent to Tharshini and
her mother. The two households functioned more or less like a single
Tharshini sat her GCE (OL) examination in 2001 from Kamalambikai
Mahavidhyalayam in Pungudutivu. She tried to follow the GCE (AL)
course, but gave up. Since then Tharshini has taught at the Uraitivu
preschool. She also coached the sports teams at her old school.
Tharshini and one of her female cousins earned money by weaving
boxes made of Palmarah leaves. They did this task from the home of
her cousin. For this purpose she visited her cousin’s house
regularly and spent nights at her cousin’s house. At the time of her
murder Tharshini was just finishing a course in sewing. She was
turning out to be a good seamstress.
On the day of her murder, Friday 16th December, she left her home as
usual around 6.15 pm to go to her cousin’s house and followed the
small dirt footpath shown in the attached map. That night, both
Tharshini’s and her cousin’s household thought Tharshini was at the
other house. Unknowing to both households Tharshini never reached
her destination. Next morning Tharshini’s mother started looking for
Tharshini when she did not come back home in the morning as usual
from her cousin’s house.
Discovery of body
More of Tharshini relatives, realizing that she has gone missing,
joined in the search. They first found one of her slippers not very
far from her home, along the small dirt foot path. During this
search a few Sri Lankan Navy personnel from the Navy camp nearby
came around and asked the family to show the place where they found
At this time everyone heard loud screams. The scream came from some
of the boys from the village who have been checking the unused wells
by stirring the well with long sticks. These boys had screamed when
they just managed to bring up the hair of Tharshini above water
level (Well 1 in the map). When the Sri Lankan Navy men heard the
screams they all ran back to their camp. By this time it was 6.00 pm
Tharshini’s relatives by now found a hat, worn by the Sri Lankan
Navy, placed over the trunk of a Palmarah tree near the well where
her body was found. They also found boot marks near the well. Later
they located a bloodied palm leaf near the well. Slightly further
away they found some dried palm leaves placed between two Palmarah
trees in order to create a screen (Site of screen in the map) behind
which one could hide on the side of the Navy camp. They also found Tharshini’s under clothes nearby which they said looked as if it was
cut with scissors.
Village people decided to camp near the well for the night to keep
guard. Next day, relatives informed the Judge for the area. Village
people refused to allow any of the Sri Lankan armed forces including
the police to come near the well. Village people recovered her body
from the well around 1.00 pm on Sunday in the presence of the Tamil
Judge. The judge ordered the body to be taken to Jaffna Teaching
Hospital for postmortem. Her body had been weighed down with heavy
stones on her legs and around her waist using very thick ropes. The
body was taken to the hospital still tied to these stones.
The judge ordered the Gramasevakar for the village, Ramesh, to take
all the related items discovered at the site to be taken away and
handed over to the Urkavalthurai courts.
The postmortem, conducted by Dr.Balasubramaniam, Judicial Medical
Officer of Jaffna Teaching Hospital, confirmed that she had been
raped and killed. Relatives who saw her body after the postmortem at
the hospital said that she had several bite marks on her face. Her
lips were ripped and they were stitched together by the hospital.
She had stab wounds in her chest and near her hip.
When Tharshini’s body was released to the family from the hospital
following postmortem it was put in a vehicle to be taken to her home
on Monday. Sri Lankan armed force personnel were standing near the
vehicle and offered to put sacks of rice, sugar etc in the same
vehicle in which Tharshini’s body was. Tharshini’s mother, furious
by this act which she saw as an act to placate her, screamed at them
Once Tharshini funeral was over, the CID arrived. While searching
the crime scene for clues they found the braces she used for her
teeth not very far from the place where her slipper was first found.
CID also found, further down the dirt road, towards the Sri Lankan
Navy camp and away from her usual path to her cousin’s house,
other slipper. They also found a blue “key tag” with a few keys on
it. CID has told the villagers that it is the type of key tag used
by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Since then, police, CID and other armed forces personnel have
visited Tharshini’s relative’s houses several times to investigate.
These officials who came to investigate have asked the family why
the crime could not have been committed by the LTTE. Before
Tharshini’s body was discovered, the investigating Sri Lankan armed
forces have told the family that Tharshini may have joined the LTTE.
Villagers also told us that the Sri Lankan security personnel are
for the people who stood guard around the well where Tharshini’s
body was discovered on the night of December 17th to take some
punitive action against them.
There were 32 households around Tharshini’s home. Most of the
households have displaced. These lands and the wells in them were
basically abandoned. These abandoned lands had many Palmarah trees
that provided many hiding spots.
Other young women of the area told NESOHR that Sri Lankan Navy
personnel hang around these abandoned land and if the girls ever
look in their direction the Navy personnel would sign them to come
near. They would also whistle and hoot at the young women.
Villagers also said that the well near the temple (well 2 in the
map) near the Sri Lankan Navy camp is used by the Navy to bathe.
This well has no fence and was visible to public from public places.
Navy men will stand around the well naked to take their baths.
Villagers also said they would like to displace from the area after
the rape and murder of Tharshini. However, the Sri Lankan armed
forces, manning the checkpoints, is preventing them from leaving the
area with all their household things. It must be noted these are
very poor folks for whom leaving their household items will make a
huge dent in their entire possession.
Tharshini’s mother, in spite of all that has happened is insistent
that she must complete the grieving period at her home according to
the culture and tradition. This, the people believe, will grant
peace to the departed soul. Given the gruesome way Tharshini’s life
was taken this will seem far more important to Tharshini’s mother
than any effort to lodge complaints or highlight her case at the
international forums. Such is the nature of these simple village
folks which act as a protective cover to those who have committed
There have been innumerable cases like that of Tharshini during the
three decades of Sri Lankan military occupation of Northeast. Only
one case, Krishanthi’s rape and murder in 1996, was raised at
international forum. Tamils often ask why the other cases were never
brought at the international forums.
Observing the simple nature of the village folks in Tharshini’s
village, the answer to this seems obvious. Krishanthi was from a
middle class family whose relatives were living in Colombo. Her
family could readily make links with the sophisticated international
human rights community. Where as most of the cases like Tharshini’s
of the last three decades that NESOHR has investigated are from the
lowest strata of the society who have no strong links with the
sophisticated international human rights forums.
NESOHR is appealing to the international human rights community, to
join with NESOHR, and show that they do sincerely mean the claim of
upholding universal human rights and come to the aid of this simple
poor village family who has lost their caring, hard working
daughter. By doing so they would also prevent many more future