Police probe string of suspicious suicides, request public help

Sri Lanka Police have issued a warning to individuals who had attended a religious sermon by a person named Ruwan Prasanna Gunaratne, stating that he had advocated self-harm.  The warning comes after Police launched an investigation into a string of suspicious deaths, reported since the last week of Decemberr 2023. 

Police Spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the 46-year-old Gunaratne had committed suicide on December 28. Afterwards, his wife and three children had also taken their lives by consuming a poisonous substance in Malabe, Police said. 

Thalduwa said initial investigations were on the assumption that the deaths were the result of a family dispute. However, another death of a 21-year-old woman in Yakkala, who had consumed a poisonous substance, had revealed that there were similarities between the deaths reported earlier in Homagama and Malabe. Police said the young woman prior to her death had attended the funeral of Gunaratne with her family.

Meanwhile, a 34-year-old man was found dead at a lodge in Maharagama, after consuming poison. Police said investigations had revealed similarities in all four incidents, prompting an investigation into the possibility of instigated mass suicides. 

Thalduwa said that Police are investigating into the extremist nature of Gunaratne’s sermons which had also been shared on social media. 

“We request the public, to provide us information if anyone you know are following the preachings of this supposed religious leader. The deceased had glorified death, and have had several sermons in Galle, Anuradhapura and Kurunegala, which the Police are currently investigating,” the Police Spokesman said.