IBRAHIM Ali, 28, of Burnaby was arrested last Friday (September 7) and charged with first-degree murder in the death of 13-year-old Marrisa Shen, who was found murdered in Burnaby’s Central Park, on July 18, 2017. He was arrested without incident in Burnaby, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) announced on Monday.
IHIT said that new and recently gathered evidence had identified Ali as a prime suspect. Ibrahim Ali is being held in custody until his next court appearance on September 14.
Ali came as a refugee to Canada 17 months ago from Syria and had had no previous dealings with police.
Shen’s death was deemed a random act and resulted in a massive police response, engaging more than 300 resources from different RCMP detachments and specialized units, as well as the City of Burnaby.
This case became IHIT’s largest active investigation and one of the team’s largest files since its formation in 2003, with over 2,300 investigative tasks undertaken at the height of the investigation.
Investigators canvassed more than 1,300 residents in the area surrounding Central Park, conducted over 600 interviews, identified and subsequently eliminated over 2,000 persons of interest, and reviewed more than 1,000 hours of video footage from over 60 locations in the vicinity. The Marrisashen.org website also generated approximately 80,000 visits.
IHIT thanked Burnaby RCMP, the City of Burnaby Parks / Works Department, the RCMP’s National Forensic Laboratory Services, RCMP detachments in Coquitlam, North Vancouver, Langley, Ridge Meadows, Richmond, Surrey and Upper Fraser Valley Region, the Vancouver Police Department, the RCMP Behavioural Analysis Unit and the Lower Mainland Integrated Forensic Identification Services for their help in the investigation.
IHIT also thanked the public and the media for their assistance in getting tips and leads, allowing the investigators to gather all the evidence they required in identifying persons of interest and eventually narrowing down to one suspect and securing approval for the first-degree murder charge.
Superintendent Donna Richardson, Officer in Charge of IHIT, said: “We still believe that this crime was a random act, meaning Marrisa did not know the suspect and vice versa. Beyond that, as far as a motive is concerned and some of the details concerning our operational techniques in identifying persons of interests or confirming suspects, I will not be able to discuss these matters in order to protect the future judicial proceedings. Our focus has always been to determine what happened and gather the information and evidence necessary to bring the person identified before the courts. IHIT has reached a significant milestone in this investigation, however there is still work to be done as we work with the BC Prosecution Service in preparation for trial.”
She added: “We have spoken with Marrisa’s family about these recent developments and continue to provide them with support. Our commitment to them has not waivered and we know their loss remains extremely difficult to understand. Please continue to be respectful of their wishes for privacy.”
Shen’s family issued the following statement:
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the public for all of their ongoing support and concern for us in this past year. We are aware that so many people reached out to the police to provide information and we were so grateful for that.
“We would also like to thank the media for all of their attention to Marrisa’s case. Lastly, we would like to thank the police for all their hard work and specifically IHIT for their perseverance.
“We hope that justice will now be served and that Marrisa can finally be at peace in heaven.”
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said in a statement: “On behalf of Burnaby City Council and all Burnaby citizens, I would again like to express deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Marrisa Shen.
“Today, I would also like to thank the RCMP and IHIT for the effort and determination they have continually demonstrated as they have worked diligently to solve this tragic and complex homicide case and for the work they do every day to maximize public safety.
“The arrest announced today is a signifcant step toward ensuring that justice will be served in the tragic murder of Marrisa Shen.”
MEANWHILE, the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISSofBC) said in a statement: “We are issuing this statement in response to the many requests we’ve received from media for comment regarding the arrest of a suspect – identified as a permanent resident from Syria – in the murder of Marissa Shen.
“This was a horrific case and we share the public’s and the victim’s family’s desire for justice for Marissa. At the same time, we wish to caution the public against stigmatizing an entire ethnic community for the alleged criminal act of one individual from that community.
“We support law enforcement as they continue their investigation into the case. We will not be responding to requests for interviews.”
Olga Stachova, Chief Executive Officer, in a statement on behalf of MOSAIC (Multilingual Orientation Services Association for Immigrant Communities), said:
“As with all Canadians, the thoughts of MOSAIC staff are with the Shen family at this very difficult time.
“MOSAIC has worked with refugees for over 40 years and our experience has most often been positive since they come to Canada to escape violence, and are seeking a peaceful life. It is incomprehensible that anyone could commit an atrocious act like murder, regardless of immigration status. That said, we are as shocked and dismayed as anyone else to learn that the suspect is a refugee.
“It has been shown that immigrants are statistically less likely to commit crimes than others, but as in everything else, there are always exceptions.
“The fact that the suspect is a Syrian refugee is the main focus of most news commentary and coverage. As one of BC’s largest immigrant serving organizations, MOSAIC is concerned that the focus on immigration status will negatively impact support for refugees, and erode the goodwill and generosity that the majority of Canadians have for this vulnerable population.
“Ibrahim Ali is accused of a terrible crime, but if he is guilty, he is not representative of all refugees, nor of all Syrians.
“Refugees have access to a wide variety of services in BC to better integrate and settle in the community. In this case, due to BC Privacy Laws, MOSAIC is unable to disclose if Mr. Ibrahim has ever received services from MOSAIC.”