Thilanga Sumathipala trial now in doubt January 9, 2004

Key witness shot dead in court

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Police guard the Colombo courtroom following the assination
© Getty Images

In the latest twist to the ongoing passport fraud affair in Sri Lanka, Dammika Amarasinghe, the central figure in the scandal involving Thilanga Sumathipala, the president of the Sri Lanka cricket board, was shot dead inside the court buildings on Friday morning by an assassin.

The gunman was reported by witnesses to have been dressed as a lawyer. He was immediately arrested and the weapon seized. Two other people were wounded in the shooting and were taken to a hospital.

Amarasinghe, a suspected underworld figure facing trial for a series of contract killings, was due to appear in court on Monday to answer questions regarding an alleged trip to watch the 1999 World Cup.

Meanwhile, Sumathipala was unable to attend court on Thursday after being admitted to a Colombo hospital. He was due to face charges on Thursday after allegedly becoming embroiled in the scandal with Amarasinghe.

Amarasinghe is alleged to have travelled to the 1999 World Cup as a guest of the cricket board on a fake passport. Sumathipala is accused of using £1500 of the board's money to help fund the trip.

Sumathipala's lawyers submitted a medical certificate to the court, saying that Sumathipala had felt faint at a meeting on Tuesday and had been admitted to Apollo hospital with back pain.

The state counsel accused Sumaithapala of evading the court and called for an arrest warrant to be issued. Sumathipala's legal team denied this and went to argue about the legality of the Dec 10 court summons after an earlier discharge.

Judge TB Boyagama said there was no satisfactory evidence as to whether Sumathiapala was fit enough to attend court and ordered that he be examined by a judicial medical officer, who would report to the court on Monday.

Last week, CID investigators had raided the SLC headquarters in Colombo to search for evidence in the case.