Murder of Reena Virk

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Reena Virk (March 10, 1983 – November 14, 1997) was a resident of Saanich, British Columbia, Canada. Her status as a bullying and murder victim attracted substantial media attention in Canada.

Virk was first swarmed by a group of friends. The names of six of the girls involved in the first beating, known collectively as "the Shoreline Six," have not all been released. Following the first beating the boyfriend, Warren Glowatski, and Kelly Ellard murdered Virk. Glowatski was given a life sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder. Ellard was tried three times. The verdict of her third trial, a conviction, was set aside. The verdict was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled not to hold a fourth trial in an 8-1 decision, upholding the conviction and sentence.

The Globe and Mail commented at the time that her case had been "elevated into a national tragedy."[1] Canadian sociologists have described the case as a watershed moment for a "moral panic" over girl violence by the Canadian public in the late 1990s.[2]

Reena Virk[edit]

Virk came from a large extended family who had emigrated from India. An article in Saturday Night described her immediate family as "a minority within a minority," as they were of the Jehovah's Witness religion in the local South Asian community of 3,000 which was predominantly Sikh.[3]

Virk has been described as a girl who was desperate for acceptance amongst her peers, but was taunted and/or ostracized by these girls whose subculture was influenced by Los Angeles street gangs.[1]

The murder[edit]

On the evening of Friday November 14, 1997, Reena Virk was invited to a "party" by her friend near the Craigflower Bridge, west of the city of Victoria, British Columbia.

While at the bridge, it is claimed that teenagers drank alcohol and smoked marijuana. Virk was subsequently swarmed by a group later called the Shoreline Six. Witnesses said that one of the girls stubbed out a cigarette on Virk's forehead, and that while seven or eight others stood by and watched, Virk was repeatedly hit, punched and kicked. She was found to have several cigarette burns on her skin, and apparently attempts were made to set her hair on fire. This first beating ended when one of the girls told the others to stop.

Virk managed to walk away, but was followed by two members of the original group, Ellard and Glowatski. The pair dragged Virk to the other side of the bridge, made her remove her shoes and jacket, and beat her a second time.

Despite an alleged pact amongst the people involved to not "rat each other out", by the following Monday rumours of the alleged murder spread throughout Shoreline Secondary School, where Virk was a student. Several uninvolved students and teachers heard the rumours, but no one came forward to report it to the police. The rumours were confirmed eight days later, on November 22, 1997, when police using a helicopter found Virk's partially clothed body washed ashore at the Gorge Inlet, a major waterway on Vancouver Island.

The coroner ruled the death was by drowning. However, an autopsy later revealed that Virk had sustained significant injury, and that the head injuries were severe enough to have killed her if she had not been drowned. Virk was 14 years old.

Perpetrators[edit]

The six female perpetrators are referred to in court documents as N.C., N.P., M.G.P., C.A.K., G.O., and K.M.E. N.C. is known to be Nicole Cook and M.G.P is known to be Missy Grace Pleich. Both have admitted involvement.[4] Kelly Ellard is referred to in some documents as K.M.E.

Warren Paul Glowatski[edit]

Warren Glowatski was born April 26, 1981 in Medicine Hat, Alberta. He was convicted of Virk's murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Glowatski and his parents moved around frequently prior to their separation in 1996; he lived in Estevan and Regina, Saskatchewan, and Castlegar, British Columbia.

In 1996, Glowatski and his father moved to Nanaimo, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. By 1997, they had settled in a trailer home near the southern tip of the Island in Saanich.

The following year Glowatski's father married a woman he met in Las Vegas, Nevada. Warren Glowatski decided to remain in Saanich, living alone in the trailer and supported by money sent by his father.

On the night of Virk's murder, for unknown reasons, Glowatski involved himself in the fight and twice kicked the victim in the head. When the beating ended, Glowatski and Kelly Ellard followed Virk. According to Glowatski, Ellard smashed Virk's face into a tree knocking her out. With Glowatski's help Ellard dragged Virk into the water where Ellard drowned her.

In June 1999, Glowatski was convicted of second-degree murder and given a life sentence. Because he was 16 at the time of the murder, he was eligible for parole after serving seven years. In November 2004, he was denied his first chance at day parole.[5]

The Virks did not contest the parole, because Glowatski expressed remorse and responsibility for his part of the murder. In July 2006, he was granted unescorted temporary absences from jail. By December 2006, Glowatski was eligible to apply for day parole again,[6] which he was granted in June 2007.[7]

During his incarceration, Glowatski discovered that he is Metis. This played a large role in parole hearings as he asked the parole board to incorporate his elders into the process and various healing circles and other forms of restorative justice were used bringing Glowatski and Virk's parents together. In receiving day parole he proceeded to hug every member of the parole board and those present, including the Virks.[8]

Warren Glowatski was released on full parole in June 2010.[9]

Kelly Marie Ellard[edit]

Kelly Ellard, born August 9, 1982, was 15 years old when she and Warren Glowatski assaulted and drowned Virk. Ellard has stood trial three times for the murder, and been convicted twice. On June 12, 2009, the Globe and Mail reported that the Supreme Court of Canada had overturned the judicial ruling of the BC Court of Appeals in an 8-1 ruling. Ellard's third trial was judged to be fairly executed.[10]

Ellard was initially convicted in March 2000 for second-degree murder in Virk's death. In February 2003, this conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered. The second trial ended in a mistrial (as the result of a hung jury) in July 2004. A third trial was ordered and Ellard was convicted again of second-degree murder in April 2005 and given an automatic life sentence with no parole eligibility for seven years.

The Supreme Court ruled that her conviction stands because the error by the original trial judge was "harmless".[11]

Nicole Cook[edit]

Nicole Cook, born 1983, lived in a group home at the time. On MSNBC's documentary "Bloodlust Under the Bridge", Cook spoke about how she took a lit cigarette and put it out on Reena Virk's face, initiating the mayhem that followed. Nicole Cook further explained how she repeatedly punched and kicked Virk as she was being pummeled by the other assailants. At the end of the MSNBC interview, Nicole Cook then lambasted the accusation that she had anything to do with Reena Virk's actual murder because Ellard was the participant charged for the murder. Veteran Dateline reporter Keith Morrison then asked, "Would the murder have ever happened if you hadn't started the fight by burning her face with your cigarette?" and Cook replied, "I don't know. Maybe."[4]

Cook also returned to the crime scene the day after the killing, accompanied by Pleich, and retrieved Reena's shoes and sweater. They took these items back to their Group Home, and forced another, younger resident to hide them in her closet. They also forced this same younger girl to make phone calls to Suman Virk, Reena's mother, while the search for Reena was still active.

Possible motives[edit]

The best-selling book about the case, Under the Bridge by Rebecca Godfrey, details some of the motives that may have led to Virk's death. Two of the girls convicted in the initial beating allege that Virk stole a phone book from Nicole Cook and started calling Cook's friends and spreading rumours about her. Cook stubbed out a cigarette on Virk's forehead during the attack. Another girl, M.G.P, was allegedly angry with Virk for stealing her boyfriend. Virk once lived with the two girls in a youth group home. It is suggested she may have done those things in order to assert herself as "tough".

The book also reveals that Virk was initially considered a runaway when her mother first reported her missing to the Saanich Police Department, the police agency in which the Virks resided. The book "Under the Bridge" incorrectly documented the Missing Persons report as being made to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Two Russian sisters, who lived in the youth group home, were prompted to call the police upon hearing that Virk was most likely dead.

Timeline[edit]

  • February 9, 1998, three teenage girls plead guilty to assault causing bodily harm for their roles in the attack
  • February 13, 1998, three more girls are convicted of assault causing bodily harm
  • Between April and May 1998, six teenage girls are sentenced for their roles in the beating of Virk. Sentences range from 60-day conditional sentences to one year in jail
  • June 1999, Warren Glowatski, the only male involved in the crime, is convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years
  • March 9, 2000, Kelly Ellard is convicted of second-degree murder in adult court, where she is sentenced to life in prison with no chance of full parole for five years
  • November 15, 2000, 3 years and 1 day after the murder of Reena Virk, her parents, Manjit and Suman Virk, sue the teenagers who took part in the beating, the BC government, and several other parties
  • February 4, 2003, the BC Court of Appeal announces that due to improprieties in the way Ellard was questioned during her first trial, a new trial would be ordered[12] It is impermissible for the crown to ask the accused why witnesses would lie about the accused.[13]
  • June 14, 2004, Ellard's second murder trial begins
  • July 18, 2004, a mistrial is declared in Ellard's second trial after the jury declares it is deadlocked 11-1[14]
  • February 21, 2005, Kelly Ellard's third trial opens
  • April 12, 2005, Ellard is found guilty of second degree murder. She is given an automatic life sentence with no parole for at least 7 years[15][16]
  • July 20, 2006, after serving nearly nine years of a life sentence, Warren Glowatski is granted unescorted temporary passes by the National Parole Board, moving him a step closer to becoming part of society. The Virk family supports the decision.[17]
  • August 9, 2006, Ellard appeals her conviction, asking for a fourth trial or an acquittal. Crown has the option to appeal, hold a fourth trail or abandon prosecution.[18][19]
  • April, 2009, Ellard's appeal goes before the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • June 12, 2009, The Supreme Court of Canada reinstates the second-degree murder conviction against Kelly Ellard, putting an end to a legal case that spanned more than a decade.[20]
  • June 23, 2010 Warren Glowatski is released on parole.

The case in popular culture[edit]

The murder case has been the subject of an award-winning and bestselling book, Under the Bridge. The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk (2005) by Rebecca Godfrey,[21] which is currently being developed into a feature film,[22] and partly inspired a monologue play, The Shape of a Girl (2001), by Joan MacLeod,[23] and The Beckoners by Carrie Mac. The film rights for the book Under the Bridge have been purchased by Type A Productions, a film production company, for adaptation into a movie.[24] A Tamil movie named Ellam Avan Seyal (2008) is based on the murder.

The murder of Reena Virk was also the subject of a thesis published in a book edited by Christine Alder and Anne Worrell titled Girls' Violence; Myths and Realities. The author of the thesis, "Racism, 'Girl Violence' and the Murder of Reena Virk", Sheila Batacharya, discusses the murder of Reena Virk from feminist perspective and looks at why the argument from media and police that the murder was not racially motivated may not have been entirely accurate. Batacharya also argues that the narrative of 'girl violence' which academics policy makers and journalists have asserted is evidenced by Virk's murder, obscures other investigations and explanations surrounding this murder.[25] Reena’s father, Mr. Manjit Virk, has written a book about the murder of his daughter: Reena: A Father’s Story (2008), which is highly critical of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development and the B.C. justice system; Reena was murdered under the voluntary care of the Ministry, yet no apology was given or responsibility taken.

In December 2010 and 2012, students from Walkerville High School in Windsor, Ontario performed a play based on the death of Reena Virk for members of the community, as well as the Virk parents.[26]

In May 2011, Meghan Gallagher from The Bush School in Seattle self-directed and performed The Shape of a Girl.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Reena Virk's short life and lonely death," The Globe and Mail, 27 November 1997
  2. ^ Barron, Christie; Lacombe, Dany (1 February 2005). "Moral panic and the Nasty Girl". The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 42 (1): 51. ISSN 0008-4948. 
  3. ^ "Who was Reena Virk?" 1 April 1998, Saturday Night, 15 Vol. 113, No. 3
  4. ^ a b Convo, David. (Producer). Morrison, Keith (correspondent). "Bloodlust Under the Bridge", Dateline NBC, Season 509, Episode 0529. Airdate: 05/29/2009. New York, NY: Peacock Productions, NBC News.
  5. ^ "Glowatski denied parole in Virk murder". CBC.ca. November 19, 2004. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  6. ^ http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2006/07/19/1692693-cp.html
  7. ^ "The murder of Reena Virk and trials of Kelly Ellard". CBC.ca. June 12, 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "One of Virk's killers granted unescorted passes". CTV News (Victoria). Jul 19, 2006. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  9. ^ http://www.theprovince.com/business/fp/teen+killer+consult+with+directors+movie+about+Reena+Virk+death/3202375/story.html
  10. ^ "Supreme Court restores Ellard conviction in Virk case". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 2009-06-12. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  11. ^ "R. v. Ellard, 2009 SCC 27, [2009] 2 S.C.R. 19.". January 17, 2014. 
  12. ^ "R. v. Ellard, 2003 BCCA 68". September 5, 2008. 
  13. ^ "CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, BC Law Socierty, Chapter 5, p 70" (PDF). 
  14. ^ "Judge declares mistrial in Kelly Ellard case". CBC News. July 19, 2004. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  15. ^ "R. v. Ellard, 2005 BCSC 1087". July 7, 2005. 
  16. ^ "3rd trial finds Kelly Ellard guilty of murder". CBC News. April 13, 2005. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  17. ^ "One of Virk's killers granted unescorted passes". 2006-07-19. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  18. ^ "Ellard conviction overturned in death of Victoria teen Reena Virk". CBC News. September 5, 2008. 
  19. ^ "R. v. Ellard, 2008 BCCA 341". September 5, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Ellard conviction restored in Reena Virk murder case". CBC News. June 12, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  21. ^ Godfrey, Rebecca (2005). Under the Bridge. The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk (Hardback ed.). HarperCollins Canada. p. 400. ISBN 0002000679. Retrieved June 2014. 
  22. ^ [1][dead link]
  23. ^ Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia
  24. ^ Witherspoon Goes Under the Bridge - ComingSoon.net
  25. ^ [Alder. C and Worrell A [Eds.](2004) Girls Violence; Myths and Realities. Albany: State University of New York Press
  26. ^ [2][dead link]
  • Godfrey, Rebecca Under the Bridge Publisher Simon & Schuster 2005, September 20. ISBN 0-7432-1091-3
  • Re: injuries and dispute of Ellard breaking both Virk's arms - [3]

External links[edit]