March 8, 2024

CANADA: Sri Lankan Wife And Mom, Her 4 Children Ages 7, 4, 2, 2mos And Acquaintance Living With Them Massacred By 19yo Sri Lankan Male Living With Them On Student Visa. Father Survived.


City News published Mar 7, 2024: Six dead, including four children in Barrhaven mass murder. A 19-year old is in custody after a mass stabbing in an Ottawa suburb. The youngest victim was just 2 and a half months old.
CBC News published March 7, 2024: Neighbour describes what she saw at Ottawa home where killings took place. Shanti Ramesh discusses what she saw as the neighbour of a townhouse in the south Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven, where six people including a mother, her four young children and a family acquaintance were killed. Plus, Hilal Ahmed, the family's accountant, discusses his relationship with the family.
Ottawa Citizen
written by Ken Warren, Marlo Glass, Blair Crawford
Thursday March 7, 2024

On another unseasonably warm early March day in Ottawa, a cluster of purple, pink and white balloons could be seen inside the back patio of the stylish red-brick, Barrhaven townhouse.

The balloons stood in stark contrast to the blood smeared on the sidewalk, which hinted at the “unthinkable” tragedy that occurred late Wednesday night inside the Berrigan Drive home.

Ottawa police responded to 911 calls at 10:52 p.m. and officers arriving on the scene “quickly arrested” a suspect. Upon entering the home, police discovered the nightmare that had left six dead, including a mother and her four children.

Ottawa Police Service Chief Eric Stubbs said it was the worst mass killing in the city’s recent history.

“With six people deceased, that’s significant,” Stubbs said. “The community is going to be greatly impacted, the City of Ottawa, let alone the specific neighbourhood. We’re thinking of them and sending all empathy to those involved. Family, friends and neighbours.”

The deceased are Darshani Dilanthika Ekanyake, a 35-year-old wife and mother; her seven-year-old son Inuka Wickramasinghe; four-year-old daughter Ashwini Wickramasinghe; three-year-old daughter Ranaya Wickramasinghe; two-month-old daughter Kelly Wickramasinghe; and Gamini Amarakoon, a 40-year-old acquaintance of the family who was also living in the home.

The father and husband, who has been identified by CBC as Dhanushka Wickramasinghe, was found injured at the scene. He remained in hospital in serious, but stable condition as of mid-afternoon Thursday.

The family were newly arrived from Sri Lanka, according to Stubbs.

Febrio De-Zoysa, a 19-year-old student from Sri Lanka who was living with the family, has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. According to Stubbs, he’s the only suspect. Stubbs said an “edged” or “knife-life” weapon was found at the scene.

He is from Sri Lanka and is believed to be in Canada as a student, Stubbs said.

De-Zoysa made a brief appearance in court Thursday afternoon. He is to remain in custody and is to appear in court again by video on March 14.

A religious leader who knew the Wickramasinghe family said the father told him in the hospital that they had thrown a birthday party for the alleged killer just days earlier.

The father who survived the attack was in “great shock” on Thursday, Bhante Suneetha told The Canadian Press.

The resident monk at Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery, which the family attended, Suneetha said the father told him that nothing seemed “wrong” in the lead-up to the rampage.

Stubbs described the crime as a “senseless act of violence perpetrated on perfectly innocent people.”

The family arrived in Canada at different times and the youngest daughter, Kelly, was born in Canada.

Stubbs said police had reached out to community leaders, the family’s temple and the Sri Lankan High Commission.

Alongonquin College president and CEO Claude Brulé confirmed Thursday evening that the 19-year-old was a student at the institution, noting that it appeared his last semester of attendance was Winter 2023.

“Algonquin College mourns along with our community after learning the devastating news of the six individuals who were senselessly murdered in Barrhaven yesterday,” Brulé said in an email. “This news is shocking to us all, and is a tragic loss to our city and community.”

“Let us honour the memory of the two adults and four children who lost their lives, as well as share our deepest sympathies to the surviving family, friends, and loved ones.”

Lashinka Dammullage, minister councillor from the Sri Lanka High Commission in Ottawa, said the office was in contact with the victims’ friends and family in Sri Lanka.

“We have been in touch with them and keep updating them,” Dammullage said, adding that the family had many relatives back in Sri Lanka and they only recently moved to Canada. She said the commission didn’t yet know exactly when the family arrived in the country.

“They can’t imagine, they don’t know how to believe it. They have good connections within the family, they were talking daily with each other.”

Dammullage said the Sri Lanka High Commission in Ottawa planned to meet with community members, leaders and temples on Thursday night.

“We’ll be discussing what to do for the victims tonight with the community and the temples and then we can issue more information,” Dammullage said.

She said the office had already received a request from the family and friends of one of the victims, Amarakoon, to repatriate his body to Sri Lanka.

“All his family is in Sri Lanka.”

A vigil was set up in Barrhaven at nearby Palmadeo Park.

Julia Beales was one of the first to attend the vigil. She set up a cloth and feathers seashells and spent time there alone.

“I’ve lived in Barrhaven my whole life, and it’s just a shocking thing to have happen,” Beales said.

“I think us all waking up this morning … It’s just been shock and disbelief. I just felt I needed to be here.”

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said it was a “shocking and devastating event” in the booming and thriving suburb of Barrhaven. “It’s hard to believe that something like this could happen there or anywhere else in our city.”

A day earlier, Sutcliffe said, a group of Barrhaven students sang ‘O Canada’ at City Hall.

“So, it’s devastating and heartbreaking to think that only minutes away from their school (Wednesday) night, four children and two adults were killed.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “obviously our first reactions are all of shock and horror at this terrible violence. We are expecting that the community reaches out to support family and friends.”

Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo said he was “saddened to learn of the tragic loss of six Barrhaven neighbours.”

Nepean MPP Lisa McLeod offered condolences on social media. “The (community) has woken up to shock, grief and tragedy today as six people, including four children, have been murdered,” she wrote on social media. “There are no words for the heartbreak me and my neighbours feel for the surviving family, friends and playmates of the deceased.

The crime scene seemed totally out of place with the environment around it.

A pair of elementary schools, Berrigan Elementary and Monsignor Paul Baxter, are within a five-minute walking distance. Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School is also a short walk away. A retirement home is nearby.

The two eldest children, Inuka and Ashwini, attended Monsignor Paul Baxter. School principal Vincenza Nicoletti issued a letter to parents Thursday.

“Our deepest sympathies and sincerest condolences go to the families and loved ones of the victims during this incredibly challenging time,” wrote Nicoletti. “We cannot imagine the pain and sorrow they must be experiencing.”

The school said grief councillors would be available to students, if necessary.

In a statement, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board said none of the victims were students at the public board.

“Nevertheless, we know the nature of this incident will affect many in our community deeply.”

The board is deploying additional resources from its mental health team to schools in the area. “Staff will be extra sensitive to the needs of students at this time.”

The board asks those who feel they or their child are in need of support, to contact their school. The OCDSB website also includes a list of community Mental Health and Wellness Resources for students and families.

As a pair of police cruisers were parked outside the home — one on the driveway, one on the street — Thursday afternoon, neighbours were outside talking to each other, trying to come to terms with the violence. Earlier in the day, a forensics van was parked at the home.

Dog walkers and joggers, taking advantage of the weather, strolled by. At lunchtime, the schoolyards were full of the sounds of children playing. All along Berrigan Drive, bright yellow street signs warn drivers to slow down out of caution for the high number of children in the area.

Across the street and five doors down from the scene of the murders, a mother and young daughter were blowing soap bubbles on their driveway.

“It’s really unthinkable,” neighbour Aliya Reza said. “I’ve been here since 2002, and this is the first time I’ve heard of something like this. There are so many things to worry about in this world. This is unthinkable.”

Raza said she fell asleep around midnight Wednesday, but wasn’t aware of anything unusual until she awoke to the news.

“It’s just devastating,” she said. “It’s a safe neighbourhood and nearly every house has small children.”

Shanti Ramesh, who lives across the street from the scene, said she saw the red flashing lights outside Wednesday night and looked out from her balcony.

“I saw one guy was sitting on the driveway and he was yelling, but I don’t know what he was yelling or what language he was yelling.

“I don’t think he was yelling in pain. It was more anger.”

Ramesh has lived in her house for 12 years, but did not know the family across the street.

It was only Thursday morning that she learned the extent of the horror.

Another neighbour on Berrigan Drive was at home watching TV Wednesday night when she heard the police sirens arrive before 11 p.m. She asked that her name not be used because she was afraid for her safety.

“My kids were sleeping,” said the woman, who was dropping her kids off at Berrigan Elementary. “Normally that’s my downtime. I saw all these lights. They just lit up my home. And then I heard the sirens and the sound wasn’t fading away like it usually does. I peeked out and I saw all the cop cars coming. The road was just a huge parking lot. They stopped wherever they were and started running.

“It was just seeing (police officers) run. Normally, even in an emergency situation, you see the responding officers pretty much just calm and collected but it was the way they ran in.”

The woman counted 15 police cars and seven ambulances at the scene Wednesday night.

“I thought ‘What is going on?’ I was the only neighbour out there, so there was no one to talk to. It was right around 11 and then everybody started coming out.

“I didn’t want to get too close. I was wondering, is it safe?”

The woman said she didn’t know the family by name, but would see them often on her walks.

Rob Wright said the homicide had rendered him speechless.

“You see it on TV, but you never think it’ll be somewhere you live,” he said. “You don’t have a reaction, it’s just shock, trying to process.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Ottawa Police Service homicide unit at 613-236-1222 ext. 5493.

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