Bedford Shop Worker Jailed For Life

Shelf stacker Thilak Mohan-Raj was given a life sentence today after being found guilty of murdering his shopkeeper boss for the day's takings of just £2,500.

The 25 year old had been given a home and a job by fellow Sri Lankan, Vairamutha Thiyagarajah (pictured) but "mercilessly and ferociously" attacked him in a flat above his convenience store in Bedford.

It happened after Mohan-Raj had stolen the money from the victim's bedroom over the shop, which he used as an office.

After being confronted by the shopkeeper, who was affectionately known by the name of 'Appa,' the young employee, who had only started at the shop the week before, launched the attack.

Mr Thiyagarajah suffered "catastrophic head injuries" and died four days later in hospital, on April 11 this year, never having regained consciousness.

Judge Richard Foster told Mohan-Raj at Luton Crown Court that he will have to serve a minimum of 25 years of the life sentence before being considered for parole.

He said: "Appa's life was one of hard work, love and devotion. He came to this country as a young man and through hard work was able to establish a successful business.

You took his life prematurely and cruelly at a time when he was reducing his work to enjoy his family and benefit from the fruits of his hard work.  He gave you not only employment but also a home.

The assault was not premeditated but you formed the intention on the spur of the moment faced with the situation you found yourself in. It was not a case of self defence. You are a young fit man and he was much older."

Mohan-Raj was found guilty of murder by a 11 to 1 majority verdict on Thursday.

He had earlier admitted burgling the shopkeeper's bedroom and stealing the money and was given a two year concurrent sentence for that.

Mr Thiyagarajah, who was 56 and a father and grandfather, lived in Bletchley, Bucks.

But Luton crown court heard that because of the long hours he worked, he spent the week sleeping above his shop, M and K Food and Wine in Elstow Road, Bedford.

Prosecutor Michael Speak said three workers also lived above the shop.

They included the defendant, who had only started a job there a week earlier.

At the time of the attack the other two men were working in the shop below.

During his trial the jury heard that Mohan-Raj had admitted taking £2,500, the shop's takings from the day before.

The money had been removed from the victim's locked bedroom, which he also used as an office, and was found in a drawer in the defendant's bedroom.

Mr Speak said: "It became apparent that the fingerprints of the defendant were all over the blue plastic bag in which the money was found. The crown say the defendant took the money from Appa's room and concealed it in the other bedroom.

At some point during the process he had been disturbed or challenged by Appa about the money not being where it should be. The assault took place on Appa, which proved fatal."

The jury was told that the defendant called for an ambulance, telling the paramedic that his boss had fallen from upstairs and hurt himself.

On seeing the severity of the injuries, it was alleged that the paramedic had his doubts about what he had been told and called for the police. The Judge praised his actions.

The prosecutor went on: "The injuries were deliberate, unjustified and catastrophic. He had the back of his head smashed.

There were terrible injuries to his brain. There were multiple fractures to many regions of the skull and fractures to the facial bones."

He said Consultant Neurosurgeon Peter Hutchinson found he had suffered "devastating brain injuries consistent, not with a fall, but with an assault."

Mohan-Raj, who is from Sri Lanka, came to this country to study hotel management but the college where he was studying closed down and he lost his money. He told the court he also owed money to his parents.

He claimed on April 7 this year he had been working in the shop when he went upstairs for a break and saw that Appa's bedroom door, which was usually locked, was open.

"I went inside to see if there was any money. I looked all over and found a blue bag in the wardrobe with money in and I took it. I hid it in my room.

It was the first time in my life I had done such a thing. I thought the money would help me, but it was a foolish thing I did, please forgive me," he said.

Later he said he was in the kitchen when Appa appeared and alleged he had reacted in self defence when the older man challenged him and became aggressive.

In a statement released by the victim's family, they said: "The tragic loss of our dear father has left an unfillable void in all our lives, There is an emptiness that has shrouded our lives and the gloom that has encircled us since April we feel will never fully lift.

"Our father was not just a father to us; he was a towering figure who guided us in every step of the way. With every bit that we have achieved in our lives, his guidance and mentoring is all there to be seen. Even though he is no longer with us, we will continue in the path that he had shown and make him proud. Appa - we promise you this and rest peacefully.

"Appa was a loveable person who cherished and valued everything in life, never took anything for granted. He worked very hard to get where he did in his life and he believed that you will never achieve anything in life without hard work. He lived true to these values till the day he left us."

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