‘According to Mathew’ is now been screened.The Sri Lankan English film has been directed by Chandran Rutnam. It is a romance, crime and thriller film based on the crimes of Father Mathew Pieris, Anglican priest of the Church of St Paul the Apostle, Kynsey Road, Colombo 10, who was convicted of the double murders of his wife (Eunice Pieris) and Russel Ingram, the husband of his lover in 1979
The film stars Jacqueline Fernandez, a former Miss Sri Lanka Universe and Bollywood actress and Alston Koch.
Rev. Mathew Peiris
After successfully murdering Mr. Russel Ingram, his lodger at the Vicarage, in Kynsey Road, Colombo, Rev. Mathew Peiris gathered enough courage to murder another person, this time his own wife, Mrs. Eunice Peiris, hoping that he would escape justice again. This did not happen. A team of smart and intelligent police officers, renowned medical specialists, family physicians and junior medical officers ably assisted the administration of justice.
Professor Ravindra Fernando
Professor Fernando, Senior Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, University of Colombo, who was involved in this case from the beginning, gives the details of the police investigation to arrest and prosecute Rev. Peiris and Mrs. Dalrene Ingram. He has summarized the evidence led in the case giving the reader an account of what happened in Court gave evidence in this case – consultant physicians, consultant surgeons, consultant psychiatrists and consultant forensic pathologists – whose complex medical evidence was scrutinized by
Professor Fernando has described how he rushed to ward 47B of the General Hospital and met a house officer when he heard about the second patient admitted unconscious by Rev. Mathew Peiris. The house officer explained the circumstances of the admission of 59-year-old Mrs. Eunice Felicia Lois Peiris by Rev. Peiris on 31st January. Mrs. Peiris was deeply unconscious. He informed the house officer to inform the police immediately about their suspicion of poisoning and he himself informed Dr. S. Subramaniam, the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO), Colombo.
Death to both her and Russel’s death ended with the conviction of Rev. Peiris and Dalrene. However in the appeal Dalrene was acquitted
Mathew George Frederick Peiris was the son of Canon T.C.J. Peiris and Mrs. Peiris of Moratuwa. He was the eldest in a family of six. Mathew has said that he never had any desire to be a priest. He married Felicia Lois Eunice Mendis on 16th September 1944 and had four children. One died at the age of nine months. After the marriage he took up a position as manager of civilian repairs during the war.
In 1950 Mathew Peiris suffered from a serious illness, what was thought to be a brain tumour. He was in hospital for six weeks with his limbs paralyzed. Lying ill and anguished, Mathew said he had a series of visions where his godmother appeared to him and said that he would be healed by God, and to seek solace in the Ministry working for God. She asked him to go to London via India, and also to exercise the Ministry of exorcism. In India, Mathew Peiris lived for a while in an ashram. It was there that he decided he would never shave nor cut his hair.
In 1951, he went to London and met the Bishop of Lincoln who took him to Lincoln. He was well by then and after the Bishop spoke to him, he was a given a place in a College in Lincoln. In 1954, he was ordained as a priest by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The investigation into the two deaths began only after Mrs. Peiris died in a coma of 47 days.
Among the witnesses in this case were a galaxy of eminent medical personnel including Family Physicians Dr. J. G. C. Peiris (a Sri Lankan doctor working in the UK) and Dr. Lakshman Weerasena, Surgeons Dr. A. H Sheriffdeen, Dr. Dayasiri Fernando and Dr. P. A. P. Joseph, Physicians Dr. N. Nagaratnam and Dr. E. V. Peiris, Pharmacologist Professor K. Jayasena, Pathologist Dr. (Mrs) Ganeswari Sri Balasubramaniam, Neurosurgeon Dr. S. C. Abeysuriya Psychiatrist Dr. S. Sathanandan and Forensic Pathologist Dr. S. Subramaniam (JMO, Colombo).
In the 612-page judgement the three judges, Mr. Tissa Dias Bandaranayake, Mr. P. Ramanathan and Mr. D.C.W. Wickramasekera analyzed the complex medical evidence to prove that the accused used an anti-diabetic drug glibenclamide (trade name Euglucon) to kill their victims. Any layman or doctor interested in diabetes s must read the judgement to learn what diabetes is, the symptoms and signs, side effects of anti-diabetic drugs and how to kill a person with drugs!
Mathew Peiris case is unique for another reason. On 30th September 1979, two detectives from the CDB Headquarters, ASP Mr. Hema Weerasinghe and IP Mr. Cyril Selvaratnam left for England to record statements of a number of persons in connection with the two deaths. These officers were the first to go abroad from Sri Lanka on a homicide investigation. They recorded the statements of the three children of Rev. and Mrs. Peiris: Mihiri, Munilal, and Malrani, and the statements of their son-in-law Mr. Alistair Wickramasinghe, and Dr. (Mrs.) G. Balasubramaniam, Consultant Pathologist.
Professor Fernando’s book shows how the senior defence counsel Mr. R.I. Obeysekera and Mr. Cecil Goonewardena made a sterling effort to defend the two accused. It gives the readers a taste of complicated medical issues, especially on diabetes, as the murders were accomplished by administering anti-diabetic drugs. Like his other book, ‘A Murder in Ceylon – the Sathasivam Case’, where he analyzed the forensic evidence of Professor G.S.W. de Saram of the Colombo University and Professor Sydney Smith of Scotland’s Edinburgh University, Professor Fernando gives a summary of the medical evidence of the specialists in this book, that assisted in the conviction of the accused.
After describing the deaths of Russel Ingram and Mrs. Eunice Peiris the details of the extensive police investigation shows the intelligent and scientific methods used to apprehend the suspects. After the arrest of Rev. Mathew Peiris and Dalrene Ingram, the pre-trial events that led to the trial as well as the trial is described in the book.
Professor Fernando describes an interesting fact where the assassin of Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon, Buddhist priest Rev. Talduwe Somarama on 22nd June 1961 in Welikada prison, made an application to the prison authorities that he be granted permission to discuss with Rev. Mathew Peiris matters pertaining to the Christian faith. On 5th July, Rev. Somarama was duly baptized as a member of the Anglican Church by Rev. Mathew Peiris and given the name ‘Peter’. Two days later he was hanged. What a strange irony that Rev. Peiris escaped the executioner at Welikada because of the Presidential pardon!
“I now have a manuscript to be published as a book called Gautama Buddha and the Creator God. It deals with all four religions. Who knows what tomorrow will hold? I have many enemies and a few friends, I hope they are still my friends,” said Rev. Peiris after his release from the prison for good conduct.
Professor Fernando has described the first case of murder by an anti-diabetic drug, insulin, published in the British Medical Journal in 1958.
Kenneth Barlow, a 38-year-old unemployed state registered nurse, from Bradford, England, had discovered his wife eight weeks pregnant Elizabeth unconscious in the bath at about 11.20 p.m. on 3rd May 1957. Kenneth had married Elizabeth eleven months earlier and was to all outward appearances, living happily with her and his 10-year-old son by his first wife.
At a second post-mortem examination on Elizabeth’s body, two hypodermic injection sites were identified in each buttock. Forensic Pathologist Dr. Price removed these, with their surrounding tissues, and their analysis showed 84 units of insulin!
Kenneth Barlow vehemently denied the charge of murder by injecting insulin but the jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to life imprisonment on 13th December 1957. He was released from prison twenty six years later, in 1984, still maintaining his innocence.
Mathew Peiris case, according to celebrated film-maker Chandran Ratnam, who has directed the film “According to Matthew” is “…an amazing true story about a double murder by a very enigmatic and complex person…”