A man has appeared in court charged with murdering a gay man with a hammer in a cemetery last August. Ranjith Kankanalmalage, a Sri Lankan national, was found in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park with “catastrophic head injuries” and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The 51-year-old victim was last seen walking alone in the historic cemetery on August 15, 2021 before he was discovered by a passer-by a few hours later at 6.55am. Due to the extent of his injuries, no resuscitation efforts were made and a murder investigation was launched, with a post-mortem establishing his cause of death as blunt force trauma.
The imprint of the round head of a hammer was discovered on 11 of the wounds. It is not believed that he and his alleged attacker were known to one another.
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Erik Feld, a 36-year-old man from Tredegar Road in Bow, was arrested on August 20 and charged with his murder before being released on bail. He was re-arrested in January and pleaded not guilty during an appearance via video link this morning (Tuesday, April 12) at the Old Bailey. Mr Kankanamalage’s death shocked the gay community of East London, with the Metropolitan Police conducting meetings with residents and LGBQ+ groups to reassure them.
Police had appealed several times for possible witnesses to come forward with information in the aftermath of his death, even offering a £20,000 reward for information.
Known as Roy to his friends, Mr Kankanamalage was a well-known gay man in the Tower Hamlets community, with a vigil held in his memory in October. A friend tearfully said: “Ranjith was our dear friend and we miss him terribly, he was a person like you and me who had dreams and aspirations.
“Ranjith was a kind and generous soul who arrived from Sri Lanka 12 years ago to further his studies and support his family. It is difficult to process and comprehend what has happened, but we hope justice is served to whoever carried out this devastating crime.”
A trial date has been set for March 6, 2023 with a further case management hearing for July 15.
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