Doctor’s brazen daytime heist | Sunday Observer

Doctor’s brazen daytime heist

14 June, 2020

A real-life money heist played out in Colombo on Tuesday (9) when an armed gunman made away with Rs. 7.9 million from the National Hospital. The robber, later revealed to be a medical doctor by profession had held an accountant of the hospital at gunpoint before making away with the money, intended to pay the overtime allowances of hospital staff. It now appears that sheer desperation and debt had driven the suspect to carry out the brazen robbery.

On the day in what can only be described as a movie sequence, the man, grabbing the money box, had hurriedly made away in a three-wheeler. Unknown to him, having been alerted by hospital staff and their commotion two rookie police constables of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) who were on duty at the hospital had pursued the robber in yet another trishaw.

Weaving through the traffic to nab the suspect, the police officers in pursuit were able to finally catch the robber near the Prof. Nandadasa Kodagoda Mawatha in Punchi Borella. According to the three wheeler driver who helped the police pursue the suspect, at the junction, the suspect had attempted to alight from the three-wheeler he was travelling in.

“He leapt out while brandishing a pistol,” he said adding that a tussle ensued between the man and the policemen. “One officer managed to knock the pistol from his hand and they wrestled him to the ground” he recalled. According to the driver, the suspect had merely declared “I am very drunk today,” when being arrested.

In a matter of minutes it was all over, the suspect was in police custody and the money recovered. “But they had no way to take the suspect,” he said.

It was then that Chief Inspector Varuni Bogahawaththa, the OIC of the Matara Women and Children’s Bureau had arrived on the spot after witnessing the commotion. She had not only assisted the police officers to arrest the suspect but had also provided her vehicle to transport him .

The pistol brandished by the suspect was found out to be a toy. It was also revealed that the suspect had attempted to disguise himself by wearing a fake wig.

As many lauded the efforts of the two constables who pursued the armed robber even though they themselves were unarmed, the Cheif Inspector was also praised for her bravery. According to Police Spokesman, Jaliya Senaratne, the Acting Inspector General of Police C.D Wickramaratne also commended their efforts.

However, as questions arose on the identity of the suspect, to the shock of many the police later in the day revealed that the suspect was a doctor attached to the National Hospital temporarily.

The 33-year-old resident of Horana had been transferred to the National Hospital from the Anuradhapura Teaching Hospital to pursue a postgraduate training program. “Our investigation will explore why a person of this calibre was moved to carry out such an act,” Police Spokesman SP Jaliya Senaratne told the media.

On questioning by the Police, the suspect had claimed desperation had driven him to carry out the robbery. The doctor had said he was Rs. 2.5 million in debt and had wanted to pay it off from the money robbed from the hospital.

The police said initial investigations show the doctor had no accomplices. While the medical history of the doctor showed he had taken treatment for depression, the police are also said they were investigating to ascertain if the suspect suffered from any mental illness.

However, according to the police, they now have a hunch that the suspect doctor may have been involved in at least one other crime previously. According to one officer from the Anuradhapura Police Division, a similar theft had occurred in the Anuradhapura teaching hospital last year where Rs. 6.2 million had been robbed from the hospital. He said the police will seek a court order to investigate if the doctor was connected to this robbery as well.

According to him in March last year, an unidentified person had entered the administrative building of the hospital in the night, broke open a safety locker and made away with Rs. 6.2 million in cash. While the police were not able to nab the robbers, they found evidence that the person had worn a wig to carry out that robbery as well. “This has led us to suspect if this doctor had a connection to it as he was employed at the hospital during the time,” the officer said. Police also said there is evidence to prove the recent robbery had been planned for some time.

While all this played out in Colombo, on the same day the wife of a doctor and two other suspects were arrested in Vavuniya for treasure hunting.

According to the poice the trio had been attempting to excavate for treasures at an archaeological site close to the Kimbulagala Mountain in Nandimithragama, Vavuniya.

The suspects identified as Samarasinghe Gunasekera Liyanage Wasantha Kumara (48), Samarasinghe Arachchilage Heshan Wasantha (32), Pahahena Gedara Mudiyanselage Pushpa Irangani (42) were arrested while digging in the archaeological site by the Bogaswewa Police officers.

According to a health care professional the loss of private practice during Covid -19 has led t some doctors to desperation.

“Some tend to live beyond their means and the recent situation and ensuing financial difficulties have taken a toll on them,” he said.

Adding to the suspect’s woes the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) has now taken steps to suspend his membership.

The Association has also called for a report on the incident from its branch at the National Hospital to initiate further action against the suspect doctor.

As Maradana police continue to investigate, the doctor, now fallen from grace has been remanded till June 24.