Thursday, April 25

4 children and 2 adults killed in Ottawa home

A Sri Lankan woman and her four children were stabbed to death in an Ottawa home by a student also from Sri Lanka, police said Thursday. Another man living in the home was also killed, and the children’s father was hospitalized with injuries.

Investigators charged Febrio De-Zoysa, 19, student who also lived in the home, with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. He was arrested shortly after police received two emergency calls around 11 p.m. Wednesday, asking him to go to the home, which is in a residential area. residential area, police said.

Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs told a news conference that the stabbings represented the largest mass shooting in the city, Canada’s capital, in at least three decades.

“I want to emphasize that this was a senseless act of violence perpetrated against purely innocent people,” Chief Stubbs said. “I know our entire community is shocked and mourning this event.”

The victims were identified as Darshani Banbaranayake Gama Walwwe Darshani Dilanthika Ekanyake, 35, the mother of the four children; Inuka Wickramasinghe, a 7-year-old boy; Ashwini Wickramasinghe, a 4-year-old girl; Rinyana Wickramasinghe, a 2-year-old girl; and Kelly Wickramasinghe, a 2-month-old girl.

The children’s father and Ms Ekanyake’s husband, identified as Dhanushka Wickramasinghe in court documents, was seriously injured in the attack and was in stable condition at an area hospital. .

Bhante Suneetha, a monk at the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery, whose family were active members, said he spoke by telephone on Thursday with Mr. Wickramasinghe, who he said is hospitalized with injuries to his eyes and one of his hands. .

Mr. Wickramasinghe told the monk that he came home from work on Wednesday evening and was attacked when he opened the door, Mr. Suneetha said. Mr Wickramasinghe managed to subdue his attacker before discovering the other victims, he said.

Police said Mr. Wickramasinghe was seen in the street yelling for someone to call 911.

The sixth person killed, Amarakoonmubiayansela Ge Gamini Amarakoon, 40, was an acquaintance who had recently arrived from Sri Lanka and was living with the family. Mr. Suneetha said he leaves a wife and two young children in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital.

Police said they believed the victims were attacked with “a bladed weapon,” but did not provide further details.

According to Mr. Suneetha, Mr. Wickramasinghe arrived in Canada alone as a student in 2020 and the rest of the family followed him about a year ago. After graduating from university, Mr Wickramasinghe worked in a restaurant before starting his own cleaning business.

The family, Mr. Suneetha said, arrived in Canada with so many “dreams and plans.”

“That’s why they brought their children here,” he said.

While at school, Mr. Wickramasinghe lived in the house of another Sri Lankan family. Mr. De-Zoysa also boarded, according to Mr. Suneetha. After that arrangement fell through, Mr. Wickramasinghe invited Mr. De-Zoysa to live in the basement of the family home.

Mr Suneetha told the family he had recently celebrated Mr De-Zoysa’s 19th birthday.

The Wickramasinghe family regularly helped organize events at the temple and Inuka, 7, began his studies of meditation and Buddhism a week ago, Mr Suneetha said.

Temple members were meeting on Wednesday to make funeral plans and support Mr. Wickramasinghe, as well as Mr. Amarakoon’s family.

Two police SUVs remained parked near the house almost an entire day after the murders. The police chief said it would take several days to analyze the scene.

Shanti Ramesh, a neighbor, said she saw about 15 police cars rushing toward the house Wednesday evening.

Ms. Ramesh watched as investigators began deploying yellow tape at the crime scene in front of the house. She went to bed thinking the scene would clear up overnight.

“But when I heard the news in the morning, I was shocked that such a tragedy happened in our city and right in front of my house,” she said, adding that she did not know not the family who lived in the house.

Mass killings are rare in Canada, where the homicide rate in 2022 was about 2.3 murders per 100,000 people, about a third of the U.S. rate that year.

There were 874 murders in Canada in 2022, according to the latest data from the census agency. They represent an 8 percent increase in the nation’s homicide rate and the fourth consecutive year of increases.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe offered his condolences.

“We are fortunate to live in a safe city where these events are extremely rare,” he said Thursday afternoon at a news conference. “Everyone, naturally, will react to this news today and feel less safe. »

About 100 people gathered at a gazebo on the edge of Palmadeo Park, just two blocks from the crime scene, for a memorial vigil Thursday evening. Some stayed for a while; others stopped only to drop off teddy bears, letters or bouquets of flowers.

“They were so nice, they were caring, they were kind. Honestly, it’s been very devastating,” said Dayna Craigie, a former teaching assistant at the children’s school. “I remember them as innocent children whose lives should not have been lost.”

Neela Singh watched with her two children, aged 4 and 11. They went to school with the victims, she said. Tearful, Ms Singh described the pick-up at school that afternoon as somber.

“There were so many people around, and yet no sound until the teacher came out,” she said.

After the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, the temple began holding special counseling and mediation sessions for students from Sri Lanka who, Mr. Suneetha said, appeared to be under ever-increasing stress.

“After the pandemic, society here in Canada is not doing very well,” he said.

Recovery, Mr. Suneetha added, will take time for the temple’s 120 members. The temple is a hub for many members of the Sri Lankan community, including several hundred people who are not members of the temple, he said.

“We will definitely need help from society,” Mr. Suneetha said. “Not just from the Sri Lankan community, but from the entire community. »