Komari Man-Eater of Sri Lanka

Tales from an Ancient Land

Komari Man-Eater of Sri Lanka

Abridged from Douglas Ranasinghe’s book “The Man-Eating Leopard of Punanai

Apart from Sri Lanka’s most notorious man-eating leopard of Punanai (that operated in the early 1920s), there was also a much lesser-known man-eater in Sri Lanka. This leopard’s short reign of terror transpired during 1936 in a little village called ‘Komari’. Situated in the east of Sri Lanka a few miles north of Pottuvil, Komari was a jungle settlement of around 10 houses. The leaders of this village were two brothers: Jonathan and Clement Bartholemusz, two pioneers who had arrived from Kandy to open up an estate in the location.

In 1936, Komari was a jungle settlement of about 10 houses (image: Pixabay)

One particular night, a watchman on a hut near a Chena cultivation heard an old woman shouting at night (“DON’T COME AND PLAY WITH ME”). He heard another cry shortly afterward and thought of investigating, but never did. But the next morning, villagers found the disembodied head of the woman! It was a very strange situation and the explanation was that when the leopard tried to drag away the body, the head got jammed and it bit off the neck to take the body. The villagers quickly informed the Bartholemusz brothers; together they followed the trail and discovered the half-eaten corpse of the woman. Several villagers stayed up all night guarding the corpse, hoping the leopard would return (so they could shoot it)… but the leopard never showed up.

A man on a watch hut heard a woman screaming at night (Image: Sustainable Farming Systems)

Several strange attacks occurred: one incident involved the leopard just walking into the hut of one of the colonists, who screamed and ran away. Luckily, the leopard did not follow him. The second incident happened when the leopard attacked and killed an old woman collecting firewood – but the leopard strangely left the body, and never returned to eat it either. This was one bold cat!

Only the head of the dead woman was discovered (Image: Pixabay)

Shortly afterward, Clement Bartholemusz was returning after a hunting session at night near the Kalapu. It was early in the morning, and he was completely alone… or so he thought: he suddenly sensed something was behind him, maybe even following him – so he turned back; to his utter shock he saw a huge leopard, obviously the man-eater! Clement, being a very seasoned hunter, took his shot with dead precision and killed the leopard. And that was the last of the man-eater of Komari.

A seasoned hunter, Clement Bartholemusz killed the leopard successfully (Image: Chade Gowey)

Jonathan Bartholemusz died in the early 1970s at 100 years old. Shortly afterward, his brother Clement also died. Needless to say, this event is now shrouded by time; very few – if any – accounts are available about this man-eater. This section was abridged from Douglas Ranasinghe’s book (“The Man-Eating Leopard of Punanai“), where the author included it in the book after one Sidney De Soysa forwarded a letter to the ‘Loris’ magazine in 1977, where he recalled the incident as said to him by the (then) sub-postmaster of Komari back in the 1970s.

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