Man jailed for brutal homophobic hammer murder of gay man in London cemetery
A man has been jailed for life for the brutal homophobic murder of 50-year-old Ranjith Kankanamalage in an east London cemetery in 2021.
Kankanamalage, also known as Roy, was a gay man who had lived in Tower Hamlets for “many years” before the fatal attack on 16 August 2021.
The Metropolitan Police reported that 37-year-old Erik Feld was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 28 years on Wednesday (14 June), following a hearing at the Old Bailey.
The 37-year-old was initially arrested on suspicion of murder on 20 August 2021. Two days before, on 18 August, Feld had been arrested after “waving a hammer about” following an argument with a security guard at a shop.
After officers were made aware of this incident, they researched Feld’s background, finding that he had a “predilection” for violence, with detectives also discovering “disturbing material” on his phone, including “multiple searches and views of videos on a website which glorified hammer attacks”.
Officers searched his address in E3, London, finding three mallets and a sledgehammer.
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Feld was then arrested again on 21 January 2022, after DNA analysis found his skin underneath Kankanamalage’s fingernails.
Feld was found guilty of using a claw hammer to murder Kankanamalage, who was unarmed, in March this year. He reportedly admitted to killing the 50-year-old at a cemetery in Gants Hill, but claimed he was acting in self-defence.
While Feld was found guilty of murder, the CPS and Met Police reportedly did not mark the case as a hate crime, claiming they could not find “sufficient evidence of homophobic motivation”, despite Feld launching into a homophobic rant about the victim during the trial.
“While today’s sentencing brings to a close the judicial process into Ranjith’s murder, the shockwaves that this horrific attack caused amongst his family, friends and the people of Tower Hamlets continue to resonate,” said Detective Chief Superintendent James Conway of the Central East command unit.
“From the outset, our officers investigated this as if it were a hate crime, but throughout the police investigation Feld has never disclosed why he attacked Ranjith with such force.
“He is clearly a violent and dangerous man and, as demonstrated by comments made during his trial, one who is fuelled by homophobia.”
Conway added that the police’s work with LGBTQ+ charities had been “vital” to the investigation, and that the Met Police is “committed to making improvements” to the way it treats the LGBTQ+ community.
Speaking on behalf of advisory group LGBTAG, Jack Gilbert said: “Ranjith came to London to make a new life some time ago from Sri Lanka, a country where legal sanctions and harsh prejudice against LGBT+ people still exist.
“Our condolences extend to his grown-up children, his former husband and his wider family and friends.
“The violence he was subjected to was unconscionable, and we welcome the sentence. In particular, we welcome the judge’s consideration of the threatening homophobic behaviour which Feld exhibited during the hearing.
“Whilst we saw Feld stride out of the witness stand to express homophobia during testimony, the CPS and Met were unable to find sufficient evidence for homophobic motivation for the crime. It may well be that the law and/or CPS guidelines themselves present a high barrier to convicting hate-related homicide.
“At a time when trust and confidence is at an all-time low, we will continue to provide robust independent advice to improve the police service delivered to LGBT+ Londoners in all our diversity.”
Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.
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