4 April 2024

Alleged national zoo murderer Jude Wijesinghe to undergo psychiatric assessment

| Albert McKnight
Jude Luckshan Wijesinghe

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

The chef accused of murdering his co-worker, Tshewang Choden, at Canberra’s zoo, will undergo a psychiatric assessment before the case against him returns to court.

Jude Luckshan Wijesinghe is accused of stabbing the 29-year-old from Bhutan to death at the National Zoo & Aquarium on 18 December 2023.

He appeared over audio-visual link from custody when his case was briefly mentioned in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (4 April).

His Legal Aid lawyer asked for a “reasonably lengthy” adjournment to obtain a psychiatric assessment report for him, which had been booked for late May. The prosecution did not object to this course.

Mr Wijesinghe was remanded in custody and the matter was adjourned to 16 June.

Region has previously reported that it had been alleged 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 witness ran to where he thought the screams were coming from, a storeroom at the lodge, but a screen door into it was locked.

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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, whom 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.

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.

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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.

Mr Wijesinghe has pleaded not guilty to his charge of murder.

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

Also, after the fundraiser finished, her family released a statement in which they thanked “friends far and near” for their support.

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