Refugee charged in killing of B.C. teen

REFUGEE AR­RESTED AF­TER YEAR-LONG IN­VES­TI­GA­TION, ‘ONE OF THE BIG­GEST’ IN VAN­COU­VER AREA

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHANIE IP

Aman charged with mur­der­ing a 13-year-old girl whose body was found in a Metro Van­cou­ver park ar­rived in Canada as a refugee from Syria just months be­fore she was killed, say po­lice.

Ibrahim Ali, 28, was ar­rested with­out in­ci­dent Fri­day in Burn­aby, B.C., where he lives, and later charged with the first-de­gree mur­der of Mar­risa Shen.

Ali did not ap­pear to know Shen, and Shen did not know Ali, Supt. Donna Richard­son, the of­fi­cer in charge of the In­te­grated Homi­cide In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team (IHIT) told re­porters on Mon­day. Po­lice be­lieved from the start that the mur­der had been ran­dom and Richard­son said in­ves­ti­ga­tors still held that be­lief.

Shen was re­ported miss­ing af­ter she failed to re­turn home by 11 p.m. on July 18, 2017. Po­lice launched a search, us­ing GPS to track her phone. Her body was found in a wooded area in Burn­aby’s Cen­tral Park early the next morn­ing.

It was not un­til two weeks ago that in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­came aware of Ali, Richard­son said. By that time they had al­ready iden­ti­fied, then elim­i­nated, more 2,000 “per­sons of in­ter­est.” Ali was not known to lo­cal po­lice and he did not have a crim­i­nal record. Richard­son would not say how po­lice iden­ti­fied him as a sus­pect.

Ali is a Syr­ian na­tional and a per­ma­nent res­i­dent of Canada who came to the coun­try 17 months ago, Richard­son said. She did not know whether he was a pri­vately-spon­sored or gov­ern­ment-as­sisted refugee, but be­lieved he did have fam­ily in Burn­aby and was em­ployed.

A law en­force­ment source who was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly on the mat­ter said the In­te­grated Homi­cide In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team has asked the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency for more in­for­ma­tion about Ali. That source con­firmed Ali did not ar­rive at a port of en­try in Canada to claim asy­lum. A spokes­woman for the Im­mi­gra­tion and Refugee Board was un­able to find records of any pub­lic pro­ceed­ings in which Ali was in­volved.

The Shen fam­ily re­leased a state­ment through po­lice fol­low­ing news of the ar­rest.

“We would like to take this op­por­tu­nity to thank the pub­lic for all of their on­go­ing support and con­cern for us in this past year. We are aware that so many peo­ple reached out to the po­lice to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and we were so grate­ful for that,” the state­ment read.

“We would also like to thank the me­dia for all of their at­ten­tion to Mar­risa’s case. Lastly, we would like to thank the po­lice for all their hard work and specif­i­cally IHIT for their per­se­ver­ance.

“We hope that jus­tice will now be served and that Mar­risa can fi­nally be at peace in heaven.”

Ali is sched­uled to ap­pear in Van­cou­ver pro­vin­cial court on Fri­day.

Chris Friesen, di­rec­tor of the Im­mi­grant Ser­vices So­ci­ety of B.C., which helps Syr­i­ans set­tle here, said he did not rec­og­nize Ali’s name. He said there were about 3,500 Syr­ian refugees liv­ing in 69 dif­fer­ent B.C. com­mu­ni­ties, and he knew of no oth­ers who had been in trou­ble with po­lice.

He called Shen’s mur­der a “hor­rific, un­for­tu­nate” case, but said it should not cast sus­pi­cion on all refugees.

“When a tragedy like this hap­pens, it can and does im­pact pub­lic opin­ion and it’s un­for­tu­nate that en­tire com­mu­ni­ties can be white­washed by the hor­rific al­leged be­hav­iour of one in­di­vid­ual. We have found the vast, vast ma­jor­ity have left all of that be­hind — the trauma, the war — and just want to live a peace­ful and pro­duc­tive life in Canada, pay­ing taxes and sup­port­ing their kids in school,” Friesen said.

The fed­eral Lib­er­als said in 2015 that the gov­ern­ment would give top pri­or­ity to as­sist­ing Syr­ian fam­i­lies, women at risk and mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity, and that sin­gle men would only be per­mit­ted en­try if they were LGBT or ac­com­pa­ny­ing their par­ents as part of a fam­ily unit. How­ever, th­ese cat­e­gories did not ap­ply to pri­vately spon­sored refugees, a process that could in­clude sin­gle men.

Fed­eral Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen’s of­fice did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The RCMP as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner in charge of crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions in B.C., Eric Stubbs, de­scribed Shen’s case as “one of the big­gest, if not the big­gest mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion that IHIT has had” in terms of the hours and ef­fort put in by of­fi­cers and the “leadingedge” in­ves­tiga­tive tech­niques used. “The in­ves­tiga­tive path was ex­tra­or­di­nary and I couldn’t be more proud.”

More than 1,300 res­i­dents were can­vassed, more than 600 in­ter­views were con­ducted, and more than 1,000

WE HOPE THAT JUS­TICE WILL NOW BE SERVED.

hours of video footage was re­viewed as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A web­site launched to so­licit tips from the pub­lic re­ceived 80,000 vis­its.

About nine months af­ter Shen’s mur­der, the RCMP’s be­havioural sciences group de­vel­oped a crim­i­nal pro­file of the un­known killer. That per­son likely lived near Cen­tral Park at the time of the mur­der and they may have started to be­have strangely af­ter her death. Per­haps they moved from the area, avoided Cen­tral Park, with­drew from ac­tiv­i­ties, missed ap­point­ments, made sui­ci­dal ges­tures or at­tempts, in­creased drug or al­co­hol use, or had heavy in­ter­est in me­dia cov­er­age of Shen’s mur­der.

JA­SON PAYNE / PNG FILES

The July 2017 killing of 13-year-old Mar­risa Shen, whose body was found in a Burn­aby, B.C., park, prompted a mas­sive search for a sus­pect.

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