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Thieves Steal Police Chief’s Coffin

September 7, 2002

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Thieves appear to have dug up the grave of Sri Lanka’s police chief, who died last week, and stolen the expensive coffin he was buried in, police and media reports said Saturday.

Lucky Kodituwakku’s grave in Colombo’s VIP cemetery was found disturbed Friday and initial investigations suggest a group of thieves stole the coffin, the English language Daily Mirror newspaper said, quoting unidentified police sources.

Kodituwakku was still serving as police chief when he died on Aug. 29 after a brief illness. He was buried a day later.

The coffin cost 125,000 rupees ($1,320), about 13 times the monthly salary of a government clerk or a police constable, the report said. An average coffin costs 10,000 rupees ($104).

A police probe has been hampered as investigators cannot dig up the grave without a court order. A police official, confirming the incident on condition of anonymity, said police may seek permission from the Kodituwakku family in order to get court approval.

The Daily Mirror said the theft of coffins is not uncommon in Sri Lanka, a tropical island off India’s southern coast.

Police blame increasing thefts on rising numbers of drug users and living costs. The price of rice, the staple food of most Sri Lankans, has increased by 30 to 40 percent over the past year.

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