Unsolved Murders

Sellathurai Balasingham

Age: 36

Sex: male

Date: 7 Nov 2001

Place: Kent Close, Pollards Hill Estate, Thornton Heath

Sellathurai Balasingham was on his way home from work when he was attacked around 11pm in a grassy area in between Kent Close and Huntington Close on the Pollards Hill Estate. Several people were convicted of his killing but later had their convictions quashed.

Sellathurai Balasingham was a Tamil and it was thought that he had been murdered by other Tamils.

He had driven into Huntingdon Close in his P-reg Honda Civic car at about 11pm on 6 November 2001 after returning home from work from the Sunlight Laundry in Deer Park Road, Wimbledon.

It was said that he was then dragged from his car, chased and kicked. He had a fractured skull, with serious injuries to his head and brain and also had a fractured shoulder blade, five broken ribs, bruising and defensive injuries.

Neighbours said that they saw Sellathurai Balasingham outside on a grassy area between Kent Close and Huntington Close on the Pollards Hill Estate being attacked and two teenagers said that they saw Sellathurai Balasingham being hit with a cricket bat.

After being attacked he was taken to the Mayday Hospital in Croydon where he was pronounced dead just after midnight on 7 November 2001. His post-mortem concluded that he had died from head injuries.

It was said that the men that were tried for his murder had attacked him because he had embarrassed a relative who also worked at the Sunlight Laundry. They were said to have followed him home from work in separate vehicles and used mobile phones to communicate with each other so as to block his escape routes. It was said that he was then dragged from his car, chased and when caught, beaten with the cricket bat.

The trial heard that one man had orchestrated the attack because of the insult at the laundry. It was heard that the attack was witnessed by several people, but none of the witnesses were able to identify the attackers although they had identified a Suzuki Swift vehicle that had been used which was later found burned out on 7 November 2001 in Kingston-on-Thames and which belonged to one of the men convicted and contained his fingerprints. It was said that the owner of the Suzuki Swift vehicle had driven three of the men to the scene. It was said that he had planned to plead guilty to conspiracy to assault at the trial and gave evidence for the prosecution which was backed up by mobile phone evidence that placed the other defendants in roughly the locations that he described.

As such, the owner of the Suzuki Swift vehicle was given bail and although not put on a witness protection scheme the police did help him to find accommodation away from the area where he had lived and he was given stringent curfew conditions. However, it later became apparent that he was not observing them and was going off to see his girlfriend and another friend and that at the trial it was found that he had vanished. However, the prosecution still put his written statement before the jury in the understanding that he had vanished and that all efforts had been made to find him.

In court, it was also noted that it could not be ruled out that he had been kept away from the court by or on behalf of the other men charged and the trial was allowed to go ahead. It was also noted that evidence was found in notes from his time on remand that he was going to present an alibi in the court and that on the basis that he had made previously inconsistent statements his evidence should be approached on that basis.

However, later, during the trial the court received a fax thought to be from the Suzuki Swift vehicle owner on 21 June 2004 from Chennai in India which read, 'I was supposed to attend the courts on 19th April 2004. But the statement that I gave was false. I was advised by the police to give a false statement. I left the country safely and now living in India. I don't want to be involved in this case anymore. I apologise for any inconvenience caused.'. However, it was later concluded that the fax was fake and was not from the Suzuki Swift vehicle owner and that it was from someone else trying to derail the trial.

The trial then went on and six men were initially convicted in relation to the murder on 19 July 2004, Four people for murder and another two for conspiracy to assault.

Then, shortly after the trial, the Suzuki Swift vehicle owner surrendered to the police and made a statement that read, 'In September 2003 I pleaded guilty to the offence of conspiracy to cause actual bodily harm. I was granted conditional bail from the Central Criminal Court and was awaiting sentence. I also was a prosecution witness and provided a witness statement implicating my co-defendants who were due to stand trial in relation to an allegation of murder. It had been my intention to attend court and provide evidence for the prosecution. Prior to the start of the trial, I was contacted by a number of Tamil males. I do not wish to name the males concerned. The males threatened me and told me that if I attended court to give evidence, I would be killed, together with members of my family. I genuinely believed these people would carry out their threats. It is for this reason I breached my bail, and I went into hiding. I do not wish to state where I went. I have been asked about a letter dated 21 June 2004 that was faxed to the Central Criminal Court from India. I have seen a copy of this letter. I have never seen this letter prior to today. I did not write this letter. Prior to today I had no knowledge this letter existed. I certainly did not sign the letter. I do not wish to say any more at this stage because I feel that if I do I may say things that put my life in danger.'.

He was then convicted and sentenced to fourteen months' imprisonment.

However, the Suzuki Swift vehicle owner was later questioned repeatedly by the police to determine where he had been during the time he had breached his bail conditions and it was found that he gave them explanations that were unsatisfactory and full of contradictions and implausibility’s and as a consequence the police submitted that there was doubt over the correctness of the judge's conclusion that the Suzuki Swift vehicle owner had failed to attend the trial because of things said or done by or on behalf of the other men charged.

Further it was then found that the Suzuki Swift vehicle owner's solicitor was thoroughly dishonest and had been convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, to contempt of court, and to an offence of conspiracy to obtain money transfers by deception and of falsifying a letter to the Inland Revenue. It was also further found that the solicitor had in another case advised a witness to give evidence to support a client, regardless of what the truth might have been, and that he had also advised the person that if they were pressurised by the police that the person should go somewhere they couldn't be found.

It was also later shown that the Suzuki Swift vehicle owner had been offered £5,000 by his girlfriend not to give evidence.

As such, the men that were convicted of Sellathurai Balasingham's murder were allowed their appeal and their convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeals in 2007.

However, at a retrial in July 2008 six men were convicted for charges related to his murder, two people being convicted for his murder, two for his manslaughter and another two for conspiracy to assault.

However, on 12 April 2011 all of their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeals due to new eyewitness evidence.

As such, the murder of Sellathurai Balasingham remains unsolved.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.