He was known for the murder of Francis Dixon Attygalle, which became the first sensational murder trial in Ceylon. Born in Piliyandala to Don A Kotelawala, John joined the Ceylon Constabulary as a constable. He was later promoted to Inspector and was noted for raiding illegal gambling dens.
They had three children, Sir John, Justin and Freda.
After the death of Mudaliyar Attygalle, Kotelawala left the police service and took over the management of the Mudaliyar Attygalle"s estate. He was forced out of managing the estate after allegations of misappropriation and court cases filled by his mother in law in the Kurunegala District Court.
Thereafter he formed the Ceylon-Japan Trading Company and set sail to Japan. Francis Attygalle was actually shot by Piloris a Boer War veteran who had served under Winston Churchill.
Piloris turned Crown Witness and Kotelawala, his former police sergeants, Singhoni Perera and Baron Perera, were accused of murder in the Colombo Assizes court and all were found guilty.
Kotelawala committed suicide before he was executed. He was also the President of the Carters Association of Colombo, following his death, the carters stormed the houses of the prosecutors, Acting Attorney General Walter Pereira, KC and Crown Counsel C. M. Fernando.