Eerie texts sent by murder victim

Text messages showing a man's rising concerns on the night of his murder have been read to a High Court jury at the trial of the two men the Crown alleges carried out the killing.

The series of texts were sent to a close friend by Sameera Madurangana Manikka Bathtalage, whose charred body was found with fatal neck wounds at the scene of a fire at his house at Oxford, in North canterbury, on February 23 last year.

The trial is in its fifth day today in the High Court in Christchurch before Justice Christian Whata and a jury.

Evidence is being translated into Sinhalese for the two Sri Lankan men on trial, in a case that may last for six weeks.

The Crown says Bathtalage was killed at his home early on February 23 after a night of socialising and watching cricket on televison at the Oxford Workingmen's Club with the two men who have been charged with his murder.

Mudiyanselage Viraj Wasantha Alahakoon, 34, and Thuvan Prawash Sawal, 24, are charged with the murder of 28-year-old Bathtalage. They also face a joint charge of arson of the house in Domain Rd, Oxford, on the same date.

Alahakoon, a jeweller from St Albans in Christchurch, also faces charges of assaulting the woman and assaulting her with a pair of scissors on two dates in December 2011. The woman has name suppression.

The men deny all charges and are accusing each other of having carried out the murder and arson.

The jury was told that about 10.30pm, the friend received a text from Bathtalage saying, "Something going wrong".

The friend replied, but his texts have not been admitted as evidence.

Ten minutes later, he received another text saying: "Don't know. They came without telling me."

He also wrote: "I got a feeling. If something goes wrong."

The last text came in at 1.03am on February 23, saying: "Not yet."

Another witness, Udara Joseph de Silva, told of sending a message to Bathtalage during the night but getting no reply.

He noticed in the morning that he had a text from him, saying that "if something was wrong" he was with Alahakoon and Sawal.

Fire officers told of attending the fire in Domain Rd, Oxford, and checking for a body in the bedroom, bathroom, and toilet, but finding no-one.

When the farm owner said the occupant was missing, and his vehicles were at the house, firemen returned to the house and found the badly burnt body in the dining or lounge area, on a chair.

When they sighted the body, they backed off so they would not disturb the scene.

The trial resumed early today and is continuing to hear Crown evidence in the course of a shortened day.

The Press