A MAN who attacked a friend he believed had acted inappropriately towards his girlfriend has been jailed for manslaughter after his victim suffered bleeding to his brain.
Kirithas Sriskantharajah had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to the murder of 48-year-old Arunasalam Arunothayan during an incident at his victim’s Coventry flat in March.
But on the day of his trial, after a number of medical reports had been considered, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
The plea was accepted by the prosecution and Sriskantharajah (34) of Church Way, Bedworth, was jailed for two years and eight months.
Prosecutor Robert Price said Mr Arunothayan married in 2008 and he and his wife, who joined him in this country last year, lived in a flat over a shop in Foleshill Road, Coventry.
He was described as ‘a vulnerable figure’ as a result of a severe injury to his leg in a road accident and because he would drink vodka throughout the day, beginning in the morning.
The couple had many friends in the local Sri Lankan community, and on March 4 four people, including the defendant and his 18-year-old girlfriend, visited the flat.
Sriskantharajah – a Tamil who sought asylum here in 2001 and is now a British citizen – and his girlfriend, who was there without her parents’ approval, had bags and luggage with them, and the impression was that they were eloping to London.
“Things became sour as a result of an exchange of words between the deceased and the defendant’s girlfriend. He was telling her off, and his wife heard him say she should not be behaving in the way she was.”
Sriskantharajah had left the flat, and when he returned his girlfriend told him what had happened.
He lost his temper and went to find Mr Arunothayan, who was ‘in drink’ and had gone to bed, and went into the bedroom.
“The deceased’s wife heard the noise of punches and became concerned, and ran in and saw the defendant standing over her husband as he lay on the bed.”
She shouted at him to stop, and shortly afterwards Sriskantharajah and the other visitors left the flat.
“After they had gone the deceased told his wife the defendant had hit him. His mouth had bled onto the pillow.”
Mr Price said Mr Arunothayan then began to feel weak and complained of a pain to his head, and his wife had to help him to the bathroom.
Later he again complained of feeling weak and stumbled on a step, hitting his head on the vacuum cleaner handle, cutting the side of his head, although Mr Price pointed out: “It was not a heavy fall and not responsible for causing the fatal injury.”
Mr Arunothayan went to sleep on the bedroom floor, but in the early hours he became unwell. His wife called for an ambulance and paramedics found him unconscious on the floor and showing signs of cardiac arrest.
He experienced multiple organ failure and died in hospital at 11am.
It was found Mr Arunothayan, who had bruises to his face and head, had suffered a bleed to his brain, consistent with ‘a significant blow.’
Judge Richard Griffith-Jones observed: “People who drink heavily are more susceptible to such injuries.”
Mr Price added that in a statement Mr Arunothayan’s wife said: “My husband was everything to me, and when I lost him I lost everything.”
Tim Raggatt QC, defending, argued that, but for the death, it would have been a case of assault causing actual bodily harm, and the judge agreed ‘it would be wrong to ignore the maximum sentence for assault.’
Mr Raggatt said: “My client acutely feels the distress this has caused. This man was a friend. He did not in any way seek or desire any ultimate harm to him.”
But he said that when she was interviewed the defendant’s girlfriend said that part of the conversation Mr Arunothayan had with her had been ‘sexually explicit and inappropriate,’ and he had touched her bottom, to which she had reacted by slapping him.
Jailing Sriskantharajah, Judge Griffith-Jones told him: “There are serious features to this case; and the first is that the deceased was in his own home, in his bed when you attacked him.”
Of the alleged treatment of the girlfriend, the judge said: “In many communities it would not be anything more than trivial provocation; but it does seem to me fair to consider the position you were in and the culture you belong to, and the effect such a remark would have on the lack of respect you believed had been shown to both your girlfriend and to you.”
Judge Griffith-Jones, who pointed out that the maximum sentence for assault was five years, said the starting point for sentencing was four years – but that he was giving Sriskantharajah full discount for his plea.