Royal Park Murder

The gruesome murder of Yvonne Jonsson

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

On July 1, 2005, a housemaid climbed the stairs from the 16th floor to the 19th floor of the Royal Park Condominium Complex in Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka. The time was around 9:30 AM. As she climbed the stairs, she was suddenly shocked to see the body of a girl lying in a pool of blood with the face down. The housemaid then immediately alerted the manager of the apartment complex.

"The body looked like that of a doll. I later managed to identify the body as that of Roger Jonsson's daughter Yvonne. Her jeans had been pulled down to her ankles and wrapped around her neck." - The manager.

After that morning, the news flew like the wind across Sri Lanka. Under the title "Royal Park Murder." The Royal Park Condominium Complex is a luxury housing complex for the affluent in Colombo. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough security for a girl in such a place.

Yvonne Johnson

Yvonne Jonsson and Caroline Jonsson are sisters born to a Sri Lankan mother with a Swedish father. Their mother, Chamalka Saparamadu Jonsson, and their father, Roger Jonsson. Roger Jonsson first came to Sri Lanka in 1975 as a tourist. Eventually, he settled in Sri Lanka and owned two rubber manufacturing companies in Piliyandala and Horana.

Yvonne was born on August 15, 1985. She was the eldest daughter in the Jonsson family. Yvonne and her sister Caroline attended the Colombo International School for their primary and secondary education. Yvonne then went to the United States of America to study fashion design.

Childhood friends became lovers

Yvonne and Caroline had a mutual friend named Jude Shramantha Anthony Jayamaha. The Jayamaha family is a well-known business family in Colombo. But a year after Shramantha was born, the family divorced, and ever since, Shramantha lived with his father on Bagatale Road, Colombo.

However, both families were close friends. Therefore, Yvonne, Caroline, and Shramantha have been friends since childhood. Shramantha also attended Colombo International School along with Jonssons.

Yvonne and Shramantha were the same age. Caroline was two years younger than them. During his studies at the Colombo International School, Shramantha showed signs of delinquent and rebellious behavior. Despite all these, Caroline maintained a romantic relationship with Shramantha.

Shramantha later went to Australia for his higher education.

Although they were childhood friends, Yvonne wasn't happy about Caroline and Shramantha's relationship. Because of Shramantha's delinquent behavior. While Yvonne is studying in the USA, She called their mother and strongly advised her mother not to allow Caroline to have an affair with Shramantha. Yet, Caroline continued her relationship despite her sister's opposition.

A miserable night under neon lights

Yvonne and Shramantha both returned to Sri Lanka during their vacation. Whenever they meet, Yvonne behaved in a friendly manner despite the reluctance.

On June 30, 2005, they were all invited to a party by a friend. At 8:30 PM, Yvonne and Caroline left their apartment by one of Roger Jonsson's vehicles. Yvonne drove the vehicle. They picked Shramantha up from his home on Bagatale Road.
Then they went to the White Horse, a popular pub on Nawam Mawatha in Colombo. There they met four of their friends. Next, Yvonne, Caroline, and Shramantha started bar-hopping.

From the White Horse, they went to the Glow, another club on Galle-Face, Colombo. Then they went to the Blue Elephant at the Hilton Hotel, Colombo. At the time, there wasn't enough crowd in the Blue Elephant. They went back to the Glow. There they met a Korean girl who was a friend of Jonsson's family. She also lived in the Royal Park Condominium Complex. Then four of them went back to the Blue Elephant at Hilton Hotel.

After spending ten minutes at the Hilton Hotel, Caroline and Shramantha started arguing over a boy waving at Caroline. As the argument heated up, Caroline was crying. The tears in Caroline's eyes made Yvonne angry with Shramantha. Yvonne blamed Shramantha for her sister's tears.

Caroline wanted to go back home when the argument continues. Yvonne then returned to Glow from the Hilton with the Korean friend while Caroline and Shramantha went to the Royal Park Condominium Complex by a Hilton Hotel cab.
Caroline and Shramantha reached the Royal Park Community Complex at 2:02 AM on the morning of July 1. They both had gone to Caroline's home on the 23rd floor of the complex, and then they have spent about 20 minutes in Caroline's bedroom. Shramantha then called a cab to leave Caroline's apartment. It was between 2:20 AM and 2:30 AM.

The last few minutes of Yvonne's life

At the time Caroline leaves her sister behind, Caroline didn't know that the last time she would see her beloved sister's face. After Shramantha left, Caroline has written a note to her sister.

"When you come home, please wake me up." - Caroline.

Before going to bed, Caroline has left her bedroom door unlocked for Yvonne to come in.

Yvonne has arrived at the Royal Park Condominium Complex at 2:50 AM. Yet, she couldn't make it home alive. From then on, only Yvonne and the killer know what happened.

Yvonne vanished into thin air.

The next day Chamalka woke up Caroline and asked about Yvonne after confirming that Yvonne wasn't home. At the same time, Caroline also received a message from Shramantha. Then she replied that Yvonne hasn't come home yet. His reply was:

"She must be still rocking it." - Shramantha.

Then Caroline called the Korean girl who went with Yvonne to ask about the sister. The Korean girl mentioned that she left Yvonne in Glow and went to the Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo.

Subsequently, Caroline and Chamalka left the house at 9:30 AM to attend a class. There they saw Yvonne's vehicle parked downstairs. On the way, Chamalka began to worry about Yvonne's missing. Because usually, Yvonne doesn't leave home without informing her mother. Then Chamalka realized that Yvonne hadn't come home the last night. Amid the horrible feelings, Chamalka asked the driver to drive them back home.

Police arrived

When Chamalka and Caroline returned to the apartment, there was a police jeep near the apartment gate. However, she asked her younger daughter to wait until she came, and she went upstairs. There she met several police officers standing in front of the door of her house. It boosts Chamalka's fear.

She called Caroline to come upstairs while a police officer showed Yvonne's Identity Card and asked Chamalka if she knew about Yvonne. At that moment, Chamalka and Caroline learned about the horrible murder of their beloved daughter and sister.

The prime suspect was also among the aggrieved crowd

The CID immediately launched an investigation. They questioned all the friends and family except Shramantha. Shramantha and his family weren't in Colombo on that day. Since Shramantha's statement is most important to the investigation, CID has informed the Jonsson family to call CID when they reach out to Shramantha.

On July 2, the CID had interrogated a friend of Shramantha named Shafraz Rilvan Mohamed, who had come to pick him up from the Royal Park Condominium Complex on the morning of July 1. According to his statement, the CID's suspicions about Jude were growing.

On the same day, Shramantha came to the Royal Park Condominium Complex to pay his last respect to Yvonne. Along with his mother and brother. At that moment, the Johnson family informed the CID of Shramantha's arrival, and they took him to custody for questioning.

Important statements

According to Rilvan, he received a call from Shramantha asking him to come to the Royal Park Condominium Complex on July 1 at 3:03 AM to pick him up. At first, Rilvan has hesitated. However, at Shramantha's persistent request, he has agreed to come. Rilvan then hired a taxi to go to the Royal Park residence.

Shramantha has instructed his friend Rilvan to come to the basement. When the taxi approached the Royal Park residence between 3:25 AM and 3:30 AM, Rilvan couldn't spot the Shramantha in the basement. He then has gone to the lobby and asked Shramantha to come there.

While Rilvan was in the lobby, he has seen Shramantha come out of the elevator wearing his boxer shorts and shirt, holding a pair of folded pants in his hand. At a glance, Rilvan had felt a little doubt to see Shramantha in such a state though he hadn't questioned Shramantha at the time. Next, Shramantha and Rilvan had proceeded to the taxi.

According to the taxi driver, a short while after they both got into the taxi, Shramantha suddenly turned off the hood light. Shramantha then got off at Bagatale Road. Latter, Shramantha had called his friend Rilvan to confirm his safe arrival home.

According to Caroline, on the morning of July 1, Shramantha's habitual was different than the other days. Even though Caroline usually gets a few calls from him every day, she hadn't received a phone call for one and half days since the incident.

Detectives unfolded the mystery.

According to the police, the struggle has begun between Yvonne and the killer from the 23rd floor. Evidence suggests that the killer has hauled Yvonne to the staircase from the elevator. Attacking Yvonne has started from the stairs on the 23rd floor.

There was a price tag of her sunglasses on the stairs on the 22nd floor. Her earrings, bangles, and handbag were on the stairs between the 21st and 20th floors. Those provide evidence of a scuffle between Yvonne and the killer.

Finally, Yvonne's body was lying at the foot of the stairs on the 19th floor with her pants tied around her neck. The killer had hit her head on the edge of a step until her face fractured.

The CID was able to find a partial palm impression on the handrail. A few steps above the dead body with Yvonne's blood. The expert witness confirmed that a person descending the stairs had placed the impression. After comparing three images of the palm impression, Shramantha's fingerprint has matched with one of them.

The CID has raised suspicions regarding the clothes worn by Shramantha, which had gone missing mysteriously after the incident. Apart from that, Shramantha's palm impression provides evidence of his existence at the crime scene.

Although Shramantha had denied any involvement in the murder, he had confessed that he had bathed in the pool at the Royal Park residence before Rilvan came to pick him up. The detectives believed that is why Rilvan couldn't see blood on Shramatha in person.

Trial and Conviction

After his arrest, Shramantha was indicted for the murder of Yvonne Jonsson, tried before a judge sitting without a Jury in the High Court of Colombo. On July 28, 2005, the judge found guilty of Shramantha culpable homicide not amounting to murder, based on knowledge. The High Court of Colombo sentenced him to 12 years of rigorous imprisonment. In addition, the court has fined him 300,000 Sri Lankan rupees. (about US $ 2,980 at the time).

Two appeals for challenging the sentence

Five years after his imprisonment, Shramantha filed an appeal against his sentence. The Attorney General submitted another one to the court mentioning that said judgment convicting the appellant for culpable homicide not amounting to murder set aside or reversed to have the accused-appellant convicted for murder and sentenced to death.

Moreover, the Attorney General noted that conviction based on knowledge for the murder is wrong in law. The evidence led at the trial court was sufficient to prove criminal liability and the murderous intention of the accused-appellant beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case for the prosecution

The prosecution apprised the state of the Shramantha at the moment when his friend Rilvan came to pick him up. Furthermore, they conducted the evidence of palm print to show the existence of Shramantha at the crime scene.

The prosecution maintained the time interval between the suspect leaving Caroline's apartment and the time his friend arrived to pick him up.

The prosecution version was that the palm print wasn't print created by placing a palm on blood but placing a palm with blood. Apart from that, the prosecution mentioned the medical evidence. The medical evidence that led to the trial proves that Yvonne Johnson died of head injuries and asphyxia following manual strangulation.

The case for the defense

The defense maintained that there wasn't any animosity between Yvonne and Shramantha after Yvonne came back to Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the defense argued that Shramantha's fingerprint isn't exactly matching with the palm print found near the dead body and that not a single item found at the crime scene belonged to Shramantha. Also, the defense argued that there was no evidence that the pair of shoes worn by Shramantha connected to the crime scene.

The version of the defense was, after leaving Caroline's house, Shramantha walked down the staircase to have a smoke while walking. As he descended the stairs, he saw Yvonne's body lying in a pool of blood. He was severely shocked and couldn't remember what he had done or what had happened immediately.

The defense called a psychiatrist to give evidence on behalf of Shramantha. The psychiatrist mentioned that the condition is called "post-traumatic stress disorder." the defendant stated that if the hand printing suited Shramantha, it could have happened when he passed the crime scene.

Further, the defense argued that the sputum sample at the crime scene no forensically matched with the Shramantha. They maintained that the Shramantha had intoxicated during the whole time. The defense argued that there wasn't direct evidence against Shramantha and the entire case depended on circumstantial evidence.

The final decision on the appeal hearing

The presiding judge mentioned that not all photographs in the palm print were required to match the suspect's fingerprints. The judge observed that Shramantha voluntarily handed over the pair of shoes and hadn't been found by the police.

Furthermore, the judge emphasized that there was no way that one could pass the place without even contacting a drop of blood on his person or at least on the sole of the shoes he was wearing at the time.

The evidence of the psychiatrist has rejected as the psychiatrist hadn't personally interviewed and examined the suspect. The items found in the crime scene only belong to Yvonne, and the judge observed that the items neither belonged to Shramantha nor the stranger.

The judge's idea was the sputum sample doesn't affect the crime scene. Considering the sputum sample was found not near the dead body, and it could have happened because several employees of the Royal Park had already visited the crime scene.

According to Rilvan, there wasn't unusual behavior of the suspect at the moment when he came to pick the suspect up. The judge pointed out the behavior and precautions that the suspect undertook during and shortly after Yvonne's murder, clearly show that he was in control of himself and that he was capable of carefully planning his actions.

Further, the judge emphasized that the evidence provided by the medical witness, the government analyst, and the photos marked in the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime has committed with murderous intent. The presiding judge has referred the many cases regarding his decision.

Ultimately, the judge found Shramantha guilty of murder. On July 11, 2012, the judge set aside the term of 12 years rigorous imprisonment and the fine of 300,000 Sri Lankan Rupees and sentenced him to death.

Shramantha once again appealed to the Supreme Court in 2014. That appeal also failed, and the verdict has upheld.

Presidential pardon

On November 9, 2019, outgoing President Maithripala Sirisena gave the presidential pardon to Shramantha based on the recommendations of Buddhist religious leaders. At the time Sri Lankan crowd was aggrieved by the action.

After release from prison, Shramantha has written an open letter to the Jonsson family and the public of Sri Lanka. Yvonne's sister Caroline also has publicly spoken out against the pardon.

Reference:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Yvonne_Jonsson#cite_ref-43
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/050710/news/22.html
http://archives.dailynews.lk/2005/07/06/news12.htm
http://courtofappeal.lk/index.php?option=com_phocadownload&view=category&id=19:july&Itemid=113
https://www.newsfirst.lk/2014/06/09/royal-park-murder-hc-confirms-sc-upholds-death-penalty-jude-jayamaha/39198/

 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Originally published at Crime Beat