Refugee charged in killing of B.C. teen
REFUGEE ARRESTED AFTER YEAR-LONG INVESTIGATION, ‘ONE OF THE BIGGEST’ IN VANCOUVER AREA
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.
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.