Homophobe found guilty of murdering gay man with hammer in London cemetery

met police Ranjith Kankanamalage who was named as the victim killed in an alleged homophobic attack in london

Erik Feld has been found guilty of using a claw hammer to murder an unarmed gay man in an east London cemetery.

Following a two-week trial at the Old Bailey, in London, Erik Feld, of Tredegar Road, Mile End, was convicted of murdering Ranjith Kankanamalage in 2021.

At the trial, 37-year-old Feld admitted killing Kankanamalage, but claimed he was acting in self-defence.

Feld was described by prosecutor Paul Cavin KC as having a “long-standing serious interest in extreme violence”.

The prosecution added that Feld had “dark places in his soul” that were “not in the darkest recesses but very near the surface”.

Kankanamalage, a 50-year-old known by friends as “Roy”, had lived in Tower Hamlets for years before he was found dead on 15 August 2021 by a member of the public. 

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He had suffered “catastrophic” injuries, firstly thought to be gunshot wounds, after being hit in the face and head 12 times, Metro reported.

Members of the public discovered his body at 6.55am, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. A post-mortem found that he died as a result of “blunt force trauma to the head”.

Kankanamalage, a Sri Lankan national, was last seen alive walking alone in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, a known cruising spot.

‘Extraordinary homophobic outburst’

The Old Bailey was told that Erik Feld hit out in self-defence after Kankanamalage’s “gaydar malfunctioned”. 

But under cross examination, Feld embarked on a homophobic rant about the victim, who has family in Sri Lanka and was in a relationship in the UK. 

Cavin said: “The extraordinary homophobic outburst is obviously something you will not forget.” 

And he asked if Feld was in the cemetery because that is where he knew people would be who he could attack.

“Was he going there to attack somebody he thought might be gay?”

‘Long-standing serious interest in extreme violence’

Jurors heard that in the weeks leading up to the murder, Feld had visited websites showing videos of people being attacked with hammers. 

“The evidence clearly demonstrates that prior to that evening, he had a deep-seated, long-standing serious interest in extreme violence using a hammer and that was an urge that could have been visited, perhaps, on anyone,” Cavin said.

Feld’s interest in violence was first highlighted in a mental health assessment in 2017. 

Cavin revealed he used to go out “with a hammer, screwdriver or razor blades, hoping to catch someone unawares… down alleys”. 

The defendant was first arrested as he was awaiting sentence for waving a claw hammer outside a Poundland store two days after the murder. He was later released on bail. A second man, 41, was arrested in October 2021. 

Police re-arrested Erik Feld in January 2022 after his DNA was found on bloodstained nail clippings from the left hand of the victim. 

He told the Old Bailey he had taken the hammer to the cemetery to hit trees for stress relief and said he struck the victim because he feared he was going to be attacked.

He described being drawn to “spooky” gothic places, saying: “I decided to challenge myself, walk in the dark. I kept looking over my shoulder, I was not expecting to see anyone.’

His lawyer, Isabella Forshall KC, said: “Mr Feld has got himself in a creepy place, he’s got himself lost. It’s dead of night.”

She said the defendant did not murder Mr Kankanamalage because he was a homophobe but because he “got the wrong end of the stick”.

The judge, Mr Justice Bryan, adjourned sentencing for a psychiatric report to be prepared on the defendant who has a personality disorder.