Friends of a man killed in a suspected homophobic attack in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park spoke of his ‘pure soul’ at a vigil attended by an estimate of 100 people on the evening of October 11.
Ranjith Kankanamalage, known as Roy by friends, was found on the morning of August 16 in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. He was pronounced dead at the scene and post-mortem test results showed he died from blow to the head. The Metropolitan Police have offered a £20,000 reward for information relating to the murder.
The local community in Tower Hamlets, as well as LGBTQ+ communities from across the country, gathered to remember the victim, whose death the police are treating as a homophobic hate crime.
Richard, a friend of Kankanamalage of 10 years, told East London Lines: “It’s amazing to see people of different backgrounds and faiths here to remember my friend. Ranjith was one of the purest souls I’ve ever met. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. All he ever wanted to do was make other people happy, work hard and send money back home to support his parents.
“It’s breaking my heart every single day that he is no longer with us.”
Anwar Mahmood, a spokesperson for the Bangladeshi Human Rights Group, said at the vigil: “We are gathered here, not only for Ranjith, but for the many homophobic attacks which happen daily up and down the country. Everyone in this community is trying their best (to reduce hate crime); Met Police, our support groups, even the Tower Hamlets Council whose slogan is ‘no place for hate crime.’”
As well as the local community in Tower Hamlets, members of South Asian LGBTQ+ communities from Bradford, Birmingham and Manchester travelled down to east London to attend the vigil.
A member from Let Boys Be Heard – an LGBTQ+ support group from Birmingham – mentioned how much work there is yet to be done for LGBTQ+ people to feel safe in a country where they shouldn’t feel they have to fear for their lives, or watch over their shoulders constantly.
He said: “We come here from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka so we can have a better way of life, yet we still have fear from the looks we get from others when walking down the streets of England. They say England is great for marginalised groups like ours, but is this the reality? No. The reality is we are still divided in many places.
“It is a social responsibility for us to ensure Ranjith’s death is not in vain. We must educate our young people and our children so perhaps the next generation won’t have to live their day-to-day lives in fear like we have.”
The Metropolitan Police are looking for two men who they say were near the cemetery at the time of the attack and who may have information that could help enquiries.
Detective Superintendent Pete Wallis, from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command said in a police statement: “We understand that given the circumstances of the murder, people may be reluctant to come forward.
“We continue to urge anyone with information, no matter how insignificant they believe it to be, to report it to police or any of our LGBT+ partners. I can assure the public that any information shared will be treated with the utmost sensitivity and consideration. My colleagues and I remain dedicated to finding Ranjith’s killer.”