Man with ‘deep interest’ in extreme violence accused of Tower Hamlets Cemetery murder

Ranjith "Roy" Kankanamalage. Police are offering a £20,000 reward for information as they continue to investigate a suspected homophobic murder in a historic east London cemetery.
Ranjith Kankanamalage, 50, was found dead by a member of the public on August 16, 2021. Credit: PA

A man with a “deep interest” in extreme violence battered a man to death with a claw hammer in an east London cemetery, a court has heard.

Erik Feld, 37, is accused of hitting Ranjith Kankanamalage repeatedly in the face and head in the early hours of August 16, 2021, leaving him with “catastrophic” injuries.

The 50-year-old victim was found by a member of the public on a path in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park later that morning

Prosecutor Paul Cavin KC told jurors the injuries were so bad that paramedics at first thought they were gunshot wounds.

A post-mortem examination identified 12 separate blows consistent with being inflicted with a claw hammer, as well as defensive injuries.

Mr Kankanamalage was bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. Credit: Google Maps

Jurors were told Feld had a long-standing interest in “extreme violence” which was revealed in a mental health assessment years before.

In 2017, the defendant allegedly told the assessor that he used to go out “with a hammer, screwdriver or razor blades, hoping to catch someone unawares … down alleys.”

He said he sometimes went out with a weapon in case an “opportunity presented itself”, the jury was told.

Feld was arrested on August 20, 2021 as he was awaiting sentence for waving a claw hammer outside a Poundland store two days after the killing, the court was told.

He had produced the weapon after an argument with a security guard who suspected him of shoplifting, jurors heard.

Following his arrest on suspicion of murder, a search of his Tower Hamlets home uncovered two mallets and a sledge hammer in a hallway cupboard.

Police also found a third mallet in a living room cupboard. Feld was released on bail after declining to speak to officers or provide access to his mobile phone, jurors heard.

He was re-arrested in January 2022 after DNA results from bloodstained nail clippings from the left hand of the victim allegedly provided a match to the defendant.

In a fresh search of his flat, police found another hammer and a cut-throat razor by Feld’s pillow, prosecutors said.

Police technicians also managed to break into the defendant's smartphone seized during his first arrest, jurors heard.

“A download of the contents indicated that the defendant had a deep interest in violence with the particular theme of attacks with hammers," Mr Cavin said.

“In the weeks leading up to August 16, he had repeatedly visited websites that contained videos of people being attacked with hammers, some of whom were beaten to death.”

On August 4 and 5 2021, Feld had searched a particular website five times using the word “hammer”, with what the prosecutor said were disturbing results, Mr Cavin said.

Two photographs of Feld posing with a claw hammer were also recovered, he added.

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The court heard how investigators traced Mr Kankanamalage’s last movements on CCTV, revealing that he'd left his home in nearby Whitechapel at about 10pm and took the Tube from Aldgate East to Mile End.

At 3.55am he was picked up heading towards Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park where he was killed.

It was not known why the victim had gone there at that time, but it was not a question that mattered in relation to the case, jurors were told.

Feld of Tredegar Road, Tower Hamlets, has denied murder and the trial at the Old Bailey continues.