The Duff House Murder Case

Was it a murder, suicide, or an accident?

Theewari Dulandiya
7 min readDec 14, 2022


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

It was the year 1933 when Sri Lanka was a British colony. There have been several notable cases in the judicial history of Sri Lanka since the British era. The Duff house murder case is one of them.

It was known as the much-publicized suit back then. Perhaps the reason for that was the people involved in the matter belonged to the high society of Sri Lanka.

Was it a case of chloroform murder? If not, is it suicide by chloroform or aspirin? However, that lawsuit was an example of where the dilemma of murder or suicide arose.

A Lawyer Turned a Farmer

He was Stephen Seneviratne from a wealthy family in Colombo. She was Lillian Roslin from another wealthy family in Mt. Lavinia. They were cousins and were close relatives of Sri Lanka’s 4th Prime Minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike.

Stephen and Lillian got married in 1923. Stephen was a Cambridge graduate and a non-practicing barrister. They both inherited a lot of family assets.

After the marriage, they lived in Stephen’s residence, the White House in Colombo. He was interested in managing his agricultural lands. Stephen had keen and enthusiastic about animal husbandry rather than practicing law.

As time passed, Stephen sold the White House. Along with that, he sold another property from the dowry. For a few months, their residence was a rented house. He then bought an estate and a farm.

Wealth Can’t Buy Happiness

Stephen and Lillian had a son, Terence. Also, they had another child who died shortly after the birth. Lillian had a troubled pregnancy and became sick after Terence was born.

Lillian was not happy about the sale of the properties. She also did not want to live in a rented house. There were frequent quarrels between the husband and wife. Soon they moved to the Duff House at Bagatelle Road.

Lillian had suspicions about an illicit love affair between Stephen and one of their maids. Lillian fired the maid, and Stephen rehired her to work on one of their farms. Due to all those reasons…



Theewari Dulandiya

Hello everyone! I am a simple woman and I would love to travel, write, paint, knit, cook, eat and listen to music.