20 December 2023

UPDATED: Jude Wijesinghe pleads not guilty to murdering Tshewang Choden at Canberra Zoo

| Albert McKnight
national zoo and aquarium canberra zoo

A man pleaded not guilty to murder after a woman was allegedly stabbed at the National Zoo & Aquarium. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

UPDATE, 3:45 pm: The name of the woman who is alleged to have been murdered by a coworker at the Canberra Zoo has been released.

Tshewang Choden, a 29-year-old from Bhutan, was allegedly stabbed to death by Jude Luckshan Wijesinghe in a kitchen area at the National Zoo & Aquarium on Monday (18 December).

The two both worked at the zoo.

Mr Wijesinghe, a 29-year-old from Oaks Estate, appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court in a bedside hearing on Tuesday (19 December) where he pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder.

He did not apply for bail and the matter was adjourned to 4 April 2024.

3:30 pm: The 29-year-old woman who was allegedly murdered at the Canberra Zoo on Monday has been confirmed to be a Bhutanese national.

“The embassy is in close contact with the bereaved family of the deceased as well as the police and providing consular support,” a spokesperson from the Royal Bhutanese Embassy said.

“The close-knit Bhutanese community in Canberra is deeply affected by this tragic incident involving a member of our community and is rallying around the bereaved family during this very difficult period.

“On behalf of the family and our community, we request that the media respect their privacy and allow them space to grieve this extremely tragic and sad loss.”

national zoo and aquarium canberra zoo

The National Zoo & Aquarium was closed after a woman was allegedly murdered on Monday. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

2 pm: The man accused of killing a coworker at the Canberra Zoo has been charged and refused bail.

Jude Wijesinghe, a 29-year-old from Oaks Estate, has been charged with murder over the death of the 29-year-old woman at the National Zoo & Aquarium on Monday (18 December).

The woman’s name is not yet publicly known.

ACT Policing said he was charged at a bedside hearing on Tuesday (19 December) before being refused bail and will next face court on 4 April 2024.

Police had been called to the zoo at 12:50 pm over reports of a disturbance, as witnesses had heard loud screams coming from a commercial kitchen area.

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The officers arrived to find the dead woman in a storeroom at the back of the kitchen. It is believed she died after suffering stab wounds.

Mr Wijesinghe was taken into custody with alleged self-inflicted injuries.

He was transported to the Canberra Hospital under police guard, where he was treated.

“At this stage, it looks like she’s been stabbed to death with a knife,” Detective Superintendent Hall O’Meagher told media on Monday afternoon.

“At this point in time, our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim and the fellow workers at the National Zoo & Aquarium.”

In a statement, a zoo spokesperson said the zoo and Jamala Wildlife Lodge would be closed in respect of all those directly and indirectly affected.

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“Tours and encounters will be cancelled for the day and we hope that we will be ready to resume operations on Wednesday,” they said.

“We request that visitors and guests recognise the significant trauma that staff have experienced and that they respect their need for privacy on this matter.”

Information about this incident can be reported via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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