Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps
Colombo Murder Mystery
event_note History Timeline

15 October 1967

Colombo Murder Mystery

room Sri Lanka

မြန်မာဘာသာဖြင့် ဖတ်ရန်

Sao Boonwaat was a diplomat and a younger son of late Saopha (shan hereditary ruler) of Kengtung, Sao Kawng Kiao Intaleng. In 1967 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 1967 Shirley Boonwaat died and was immediately cremated the same day. 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. Here's what is known:

Early that morning on 15 October, three young Ceylonese bricklayers working nearby 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 then saw 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 he 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 the same day.

By then, news had spread of a possible shooting and large crowds gathered outside the residence. The Colombo police launched an investigation but were not allowed inside the diplomatic residence. The Ceylon government quickly ordered all ports and airports to stop any Burmese from leaving the country.

Mrs. Boonwaat had been a fixture on the Ceylon social scene, described by one commentator as a "vivacious and magnetic" woman. Rumours circulated about an alleged affair between Mrs. Boonwaat and a Sri Lankan man called Rex de Silva who performed with his band, the Rhythm Dukes, at the popular Club 388 nightclub. They had known each other for years and their close relationship was apparently common knowledge throughout Colombo high society. Many Ceylonese speculated that Mrs. Boonwaat was killed by her husband because of this alleged affair.

Sao Boonwaat invoked 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. In recent years, the case has once again sparked interest as an unsolved cold case and an example of diplomatic immunity impeding justice, with news articles and true-crime podcasts rehashing the mystery but uncovered no new clues.

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