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Dr. Muditha Vidanapathirana’s maiden English book entitled Student’s Guide to Forensic Skeletal Analysis published by Sarasavi Publishers was released recently. This book is pre-reviewed by Dr. P. R. Ruwanpura, Consultant Judicial Medical Officer of the Karapitiya teaching hospital Galle.

In his preface Dr. Vidanapathirana states thus:
“Teaching of medico-legal aspects of skeletal remains for the undergraduate and postgraduate medical students for the last many years influenced me to write this book. The training on Forensic Anthropology received during my undergraduate and postgraduate training programmes on continuous professional development and the special training received on Forensic Anthropology at St. George’s Hospital, London were helpful to produce this book. I believe that this book will be useful not only to undergraduate medical students but also to lawyers, criminologists, police officers and inquirers in to sudden deaths.”

Dr. Muditha Vidanapathirana is a Senior Lecturer attached to the Dept. of Forensic Medicine, in the faculty of medical sciences of the University of Sri Jayawardanapura. Dr. Vidanapathirana’s years of experiences in teaching and his forensic expertise has made him eminently qualified to compile this student guide.

Student’s guide to Forensic Analysis runs into 99 pages with eight chapters. First chapter deals with ‘Bio-mechanics of Injury Production’ a novel concept for the guide of a student. The second chapter deals with ‘Description of Specimens of Skull Injuries’ where he provides eight such descriptions of specimens. The third chapter is titled: ‘Blunt Force Trauma to Head’ that spans 14 pages with four sub-titles. The fourth chapter deals ‘Sharp Force Injuries’. The fifth chapter is titled: ‘Injuries due to Firearms.’ The sixth chapter is overall the shortest in the book and reads: ‘Late Deaths Following Head Injuries’. The seventh chapter has deals with: ‘Long Bone Fractures’. The eighth on: ‘Cervical Injuries’ and the ninth chapter the longest: ‘Identification of Skull, Pelvis and Long Bones’ with eight sub-headings.

Once I perused at the first and second out titles of this chapter: ‘Are they bones and ‘Are they Human Bones?’ What whetted my curiosity were A.C. Alles’ Famous Criminal cases of Sri Lanka’ Volume 5 Alfred De Zoysa and the Kalattawa Murder trial where Queen’s Counsel G. G. Ponnambalam unsuccessfully argued the bones found were not of human. If the bones are of archaeological value it would rank in the discoveries like famed Balangoda Manavaya, Pahiyangala Manawaya and Batadombalena Manawaya. The fifth heading: ‘Identification by Examination of the Skull’ aroused my interest as our national hero Monarawila Keppetipola Nilame’s cranium with the advent of freedom that was sent to our country – which was reposed at the Royal Prenological Society was buried in a glass box in front of the Tooth Relic of Buddha – Dalada Maligawa – with the marked place erected with a monument.  Dr. John Davy in his  Account of the Interior of Ceylon published in 1821 contains two photographs of this cranium. Alas! Sri Lanka is devoid of the forensic pathologists’ analysis of this cranium – a national treasure. When this reviewer roves his mind through the pages on teeth a vow it was undoubtedly forensic dentistry that revealed the death of the mass murderer Adolph Hitler where his traces were not kept to see the light of the day!

The 76th page of the book contains a photograph where Dr. Vidanapathirana refrains commenting about the identification superimposition. The photograph depicted is of Adeline Vitharana (facing page 110) which is also found in Famous Criminal Cases Volume 7 of A.C. Alles.  This case was a cause célèbre in the annals of crime in Sri Lanka. Neil Wijayasinghe translated this volume in to Sinhalese as Wilpattu Sihiwatanaya. Then Wasantha Obeysekera made an award winning movie based on the story as Dadayama. Thereafter Justice Alles sued Wasantha Obeysekera the Director of the said film for violating the copyright of his book and lost the suit.  At the SC Justice C. V. Wigneshwaran delivered the landmark judgement famed novelist Newton Goonesinghe wrote Dadakeliya published by Dayawansha Jayakody where Adeline Vitharana’s daughter sued the novelist and lost the District Court battle.

Pages 76 and 77 deals with the ‘References’ A careful perusal by any reader would find that most of the references are from the 1970s to 2009 that all text dealt are of recent ones. That is: Mostly Murder, Forensic Medicine by Sir Sydney Smith, 40 years of Murder, Doctor’s Guide to Court and Forensic Medicine by Prof. Keith Simpson were by-gone pioneering works.

But the only lapse this reviewer would see is that ‘glossary of medical terms’ which would serve the wide array of readership: That is legal practitioners, criminologists, forensic students, police officers and inquirers of sudden deaths alike.

Students of Sri Lanka are short of a guide book to guide themselves in the subject of Medico Legal aspects. Dr. Muditha Vidanapathirana has trailed the blaze in compiling an invaluable student guide in this aspect. The only guide book that was available to the students of law were ‘Researcher’s guide book for the Laws of Ceylon’ by Barry Metzger 1971 which is considered as a long – outdated book today. Dr. Mudith Vidanapathirana deserves all praise for his conscientious scholarly efforts in compiling this opus in a ‘nutshell’ form.

Dr. Muditha Vidanapathirana’s ‘Student guide to Forensic Skeletal Analysis’ fills a void of a student’s guide that hitherto existed. Undoubtedly this guide book would serve as a vade mecum for all these wide array of the readership.

Title: Student’s Guide to
Forensic Skeletal Analysis
Author:  Dr. Muditha Vidanapathirana
Publisher:  Sarasavi Publishers 2015