17 January 2024

Accused Canberra zoo murderer Jude Wijesinghe allegedly seen with blood over knife, hands

| Albert McKnight
Jude Luckshan Wijesinghe

Jude Luckshan Wijesinghe, 29, is fighting allegations over the death of a woman at the Canberra zoo. Photo: Facebook.

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains graphic content.

More allegations have emerged against the chef accused of murdering a co-worker at Canberra’s zoo, including that he had possibly been seen at the scene with blood over his hands.

Jude Luckshan Wijesinghe has been accused of stabbing Tshewang Choden, a 29-year-old from Bhutan, to death in a kitchen area at the National Zoo & Aquarium on 18 December 2023.

He had been seen on closed-circuit television footage at the zoo’s Jamala Wildlife Lodge around midday, shortly before a witness heard screaming, the ACT Magistrates Court heard it alleged on Wednesday (17 January).

The witness ran to where he thought the screams were coming from, a storeroom at the lodge, but a screen door into it was locked.

He tried to open the door but couldn’t, so he sought assistance from other colleagues. They returned to find a door open and a person allegedly holding a knife with what was believed to be blood on it inside the room.

Some of the colleagues quickly left, but the first witness turned back and allegedly recognised it to be Mr Wijesinghe, who he knew as a chef at the wildlife lodge, standing in the room.

It is alleged Mr Wijesinghe was holding a knife, and the witness thought both of his hands appeared to be covered in blood.

When police arrived, they found Ms Choden was dead in a storeroom at the back of the kitchen. It is believed she died after suffering stab wounds.

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Mr Wijesinghe was taken to hospital with allegedly self-inflicted injuries while officers went to the 29-year-old’s home in Oaks Estate, where they reportedly saw a half-empty box of the rodent bait Ratsak on the kitchen table.

The box allegedly contained a green substance similar to what had been seen coming out of Mr Wijesinghe’s mouth.

Police also found what appeared to be a large amount of blood stains in and just outside the wildlife lodge’s storeroom, as well as a plastic water bottle with a liquid of what was suspected to be Ratsak inside it.

The knife suspected of being used in the stabbing was also seized at the scene, as was blood-soaked clothing.

These allegations were revealed to the Magistrates Court on Wednesday during an application for forensic procedures to be conducted on Mr Wijesinghe, who appeared in the courtroom in person with bandages around both his forearms.

Jude Luckshan Wijesinghe

Jude Luckshan Wijesinghe, who is from Sri Lanka, has pleaded not guilty to his charge of murder. Photo: Facebook.

An interim forensic order to take some samples from Mr Wijesinghe had been made after he had been arrested, including a swab of a green substance under his lip.

But the prosecution had sought another order to obtain a hair sample, buccal swab, fingerprints and images of his clothed body.

Mr Wijesinghe opposed this, although the court heard he hadn’t given any reason for refusing to consent.

Magistrate Ian Temby ultimately thought the application for a hair sample was premature. So far, no hair had been discovered at the scenes and the magistrate said if they were found, then there was nothing to suggest that another order to obtain the defendant’s hair would be compromised by the passage of time.

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But, otherwise, he thought the balancing exercise clearly weighed in the public interest of getting the evidence that could prove or disprove the allegations, given their seriousness.

Magistrate Temby ordered that the buccal swab, fingerprints and photos be taken of Mr Wijesinghe, which was scheduled to take place later that day.

The court had also heard that Mr Wijesinghe, who has pleaded not guilty to his charge of murder, is the only suspect in Ms Choden’s death.

His matter will be heard in court again on 4 April. He remains in custody and has not applied for bail.

Meanwhile, a fundraiser launched by Canberra’s Bhutanese community to support Ms Choden’s family raised over $26,000 before it finished earlier this month.

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