6 Sep 2013

Farmworker's killers sentenced to life

8:25 pm on 6 September 2013

Two men found guilty of the murder of a Sri Lankan dairy farm worker in Canterbury have been sentenced in the High Court in Christchurch to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years each.

Thuvan Prawesh Sawal and Viraj Alahakoon killed Sameera Chandrasena Battelage, 28, at his home in Oxford on 22 February 2012 and set the house on fire to cover their tracks.

During the trial the two men denied they were personally responsible for Mr Battelage's killing and tried to blame each other.

The Crown said the murder was fuelled by jealousy over a love affair and described it as a pre-meditated killing.

Holding back tears, the man who employed Mr Battelage, Chris Reilly, told the court the killing had had a lasting impact on his family and he would never get the image of Mr Battelage's charred remains out of his head.

Mr Reilly's wife, Odette, said she had great memories of Mr Battelage and was pleased a long sentence had been imposed.

In passing sentence, Justice Whata said the murder was brutal and callous.

Police have welcomed the sentence. All three of the men were from the small Sri Lankan community in Christchurch and the man in charge of the investigation, Detective Sergeant Mike Earl, says the incident has been particularly hard for them to comprehend.

"It was just absolute shock at the start after we made the arrests that two other Sri Lankans were involved."

Mr Earl thanked the Oxford community for their help in the investigation