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June 5, 1999
Killer of Teen Faces Life Term
It began with one teen extinguishing a cigarette on 14-year-old Reena Virk's forehead, soon joined by over a dozen of her peers, who jeered the shy girl at a lonely spot by the side of a river near their school. One of the attackers said Reena had tried to steal her boyfriend; others accused her of being a "strange" person. Some said she should go back to India.
They had lured her under a dark bridge using a pretence, and as she tried to make a run to her home, at least two of them beat her and dragged her body into the water.
Reena did not return home that evening, her battered body was found down the river after several days. For several days, those who had witnessed the beating, avoided telling the authorities about it. It was the patient, stubborn questioning by the police that slowly cracked the shield of silence.
On Wednesday, a court in Victoria in British Columbia, found Virk's schoolmate Warren Glowsatski guilty of second-degree murder. Glowsatski, 18, had earlier admitted that he had joined other students in pushing Reena around on the night of November 14 but he was not responsible for the savage beating she took. His lawyer sought to blame fellow schoolmate Kelly Ellard for the savage beating and, ultimately, for Reena's death.
Reena is the second teenager of Indian origin murdered in British Columbia. A few months ago Poonam Randhawa, 18, a bright, college-bound teenager was killed a few miles away from her school, allegedly by a stalker who had made her life miserable over two years. Her alleged killer is reportedly hiding in southern California, being protected by a network of friends.
The courtroom of Judge Malcolm Macaulay was packed by spectators -- a significant number of them being members and friends of the Virk family -- that the verdict was broadcast to a packed corridor outside.
The Indian Canadian community took up Reena Virk's cause, and many members of the community attended the painful proceedings in the court, giving moral support to the teen's parents.
"This man is lucky he is getting away with a life sentence," said a family friend of Reena who did not want his name quoted. "Because he was a teenager at the time of the killing, and this is Canada, not America, he could become a free man in a few years.
"But in America, he could have faced a death sentence." Canada has no death sentence.
The trial of Kelly Ellard, 16, who is also charged with playing a major role in Reena's murder is expected to start at the end of the year.
Judge Macaulay said he found Glowatski's defence "conveniently incomplete and improbable". He said the killer's response to the questions posed by the prosecution was "stunningly casual".
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