Sunday, June 23, 2024

Sri Lankan family dead in Canada ‘mass killing’

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By Johanna Chisholm & Nadine Yousif,BBC News, Toronto

Reuters Ottawa Police Service officers surround a home after four children and two adults were found dead inside a neighbouring house in the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven, Ontario, CanadaReuters

Canadian police are describing the deaths of members of a Sri Lankan family, including four young children, in Ottawa as a “mass killing”.

Police say the six victims were newcomers to Canada, and the youngest was less than three months old.

A 19-year-old student from Sri Lanka who lived with the family has been charged in the killings.

“This was a senseless act of violence perpetrated on purely innocent people,” said Ottawa’s police chief on Thursday.

Officers responded to emergency calls placed at approximately 22:52 local time (03:52 GMT) on Wednesday from the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven.

When they arrived, police chief Eric Stubbs said officers quickly identified the suspect, who was arrested without incident.

Officers then entered the home and discovered the victims, which included a mother, her four children, and an acquaintance who was living with the family.

Watch: ‘It is very difficult to process’ – Ottawa mayor

The victims were identified as 35-year-old Darshani Banbaranayake Gama Walwwe Darshani Dilanthika Ekanyake and her four children: seven-year-old Inuka Wickramasinghe, four-year-old Ashwini Wickramasinghe, two-year-old Rinyana Wickramasinghe and two-month-old Kelly Wickramasinghe.

The acquaintance and sixth deceased victim was identified as 40-year-old Amarakoonmudiayansela Ge Gamini Amarakoon.

Chief Stubbs said the family’s father suffered injuries and was taken to hospital in serious but stable condition.

The suspect was identified by police as 19-year-old Febrio De-Zoysa. He has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Chief Stubbs said the victims were killed and injured using an “edged weapon”. The police investigation is ongoing.

He said the incident is the biggest murder case in Ottawa’s recent history, calling it a “real tragedy” that would continue to have a “significant” impact on the nation’s capital city.

“I’m sure the impact on the community is great,” he added, while emphasising that residents and community members should continue to stay away from the area.

In a separate interview with CBC News earlier on Thursday, he mistakenly referred to the incident as a “mass shooting”, which was later corrected.

In Toronto on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed “shock and horror” at the incident, which he called a “terrible violence”.

Ottawa’s mayor called the multiple homicide event “one of the most shocking incidents of violence in our city’s history”.

“We are proud to live in a safe community but this news is distressing to all Ottawa residents,” Mark Sutcliffe wrote in a post on X, previously known as Twitter.

“Thank you to our emergency responders who are investigating and supporting those who are affected by this terrible event,” he added.

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