15 October 1957
Colombo Murder Mystery
room Sri Lanka
Sao Boonwaat was a diplomat and a younger son of late Kengtung Saopha Sao Kawng Kiao Intaleng. In 1957 he was the Burmese ambassador to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), living in Colombo with his wife Sao Nang Lao Heung aka Shirley Boonwaat.
On 15 October 1957 Shirley Boonwaat died. She was immediately cremated. And a few days later Sao Boonwaat left the country and never came back. For weeks Colombo was rocked with news of an alleged murder and cover-up. Exactly what happened remains a mystery.
Early that morning, three young Ceylonese, heard gunshots and later told police they saw a man in the Burmese ambassador's residence shoot a woman as she was running towards a car and another man drag her back into the house. At 9:30am a Ceylonese doctor was called to the residence and certified that Mrs Boonwaat had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He later told police she found her at the bottom of the stairs and that his request to take the body away for a post-mortem had been denied. The body was cremated at a nearby cemetery at 1pm.
By then news had spread of a possible shooting and large crowds gathered outside the residence. The Colombo police began an investigation but were not allowed inside the diplomatic residence. The Ceylon government quickly ordered all ports and airports to stop any Burmese trying to leave the country.
Rumours circled around an alleged affair between Mrs. Boonwaat and a Mr Rex de Silva who performed with his band "The Rhythm Dukes" at the popular "388" nightclub. They had known each other for years and their close relationship was apparently well-known throughout Colombo high society. Many Ceylonese speculated that Mrs. Boonwaat was killed by her husband because of this alleged affair.
Sao Boonwaat claimed diplomatic immunity and returned to Rangoon a few days later. He was later appointed ambassador to France. The facts of the case have never been verified.