Reena Virk (March 10, 1983 – November 14, 1997)
Reena Virk was a fourteen year old teen from Saanich, British Columbia. She would have been turning fifteen on March 10, 1983 but sadly, she never made it.
Reena was originally from India and transferred to Canada as a child. Her immediate family was described 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.
She always had a hard time in school, constantly getting bullied due to her accent and looks and because she was ”different,”
On the night of Friday November 14, 1997, Reena was invited to a “party” by her friend near the Craigflower Bridge, a popular hangout spot, west of the city of Victoria, British Columbia. She heard rumors that her bullies were going to go there and ‘beat her up’ but that didn’t stop her from continuing her life. At first everything was fine, Reena was enjoying herself and the group were said to be drinking and smoking. But then, the “Shoreline six” arrived, a group of girls known to bully Reena. They swarmed the teen.
Photo of Craigflower Bridge
(NOTE: 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 Pleese, though her middle name is still unknown. Both have admitted involvement. Kelly Ellard, the ring-leader, was referred to in some documents as K.M.E. prior to her identification.)
Witnesses who were at the Bridge that night would later say that one of the Shoreline bullies stubbed out cigarettes on Reena’s forehead, while the others stood by and watched, some even laughing.
The ringleader was a teen named Kelly Ellard, a girl who had strongly disliked Reena for reasons unknown.
Reena was then taunted, repeatedly hit, punched and kicked. She was visibly upset and scared but got no sympathy from her attackers who put out several more cigarettes threw-out her body and then yanked her hair and attempted to light it on fire.
This first beating ended when one of the girls stepped up and told the others to stop. This was the only attempt made by all that were there that night, to stop the attack.
Reena attempted to walk away from the group, but was followed by two Kelly Ellard, William Glowatski and an accomplice.
Photo of Kelly Ellard
Warren Glowatski (16)
Ellard Glowatski’s accomplice
The pair dragged Reena to the other side of the bridge, no longer in view of the others. They forced her to remove her shoes and jacket. At this point Reena was sobbing, begging them to stop as she layed on the ground shivering. They ignored her pleas and started punching and kicking her as she tried to shield herself.
Glowatski had no problems with Reena but he decided to join in, kicking Reena twice in the head.
Sometime during the beating, Ellard smashed Reena’s face onto a tree, knocking her unconscious. With the help of Glowatski, Ellard dragged Reena’s body near the water. At this point she was not unconscious and was begging her attackers to stop. She was ignored.
Ellard forced Reena’s head under water at the George Waterway. She was holding Reena’s head down by her foot. Glowatski stood by, watching. Reena struggled, desperately trying to save her own life. Reena’s struggle became weaker until finally she stopped moving.
She was dead.
Despite an alleged pact amongst the people involved to not “rat each other out”, by the following Monday rumors of the alleged murder spread throughout Shoreline Secondary School, where Virk was a student. Several uninvolved students and teachers heard the rumors, but no one came forward to report it to the police. The rumors were confirmed eight days later, on November 22, 1997, when police using a helicopter found Reena’s partially clothed body washed ashore at the George Waterway.
The coroner completed the autopsy and ruled her death was by drowning. However, it was later revealed that she had sustained significant injury, and that the head injuries were severe enough to have killed her if she had not been drowned.
Ellard was sentenced to life in prison after three trails. She still maintains her innocence and shows no sympathy for the crime committed.
Photo of Ellard
Glowatski was sentenced to life in prison but because he was a minor at the time, he had a chance of parole. Reena’s parents didn’t contest his 2004 court hearing, claiming they’ve forgiven him because he showed remorse and owned up to his actions. He was denied however.
Manjit and Suman Virk, the parents of Reena Virk, were devastated with their daughters murder and at first, they harbored a deep hatred for her attackers. A time when Manjit Virk would have liked nothing more than to wring the neck of Warren Glowatski, one of two teenagers convicted of murdering his daughter, Reena, “as if he were a chicken.”
Photo of Manjit and Suman Virk
But in the fall of 2005, when the two came face to face in a semicircle of chairs in the basement of a church, something very different happened.
“It was the most unusual experience I had encountered in my life,” the Victoria father later recounted in his book, Reena: A Father’s Story.
“My daughter’s killer was shaking hands with me.”
This remarkable act of reconciliation is often cited as an example of the potential of restorative justice – the concept that true healing after a crime doesn’t necessarily come from harsher punishments but rather from the coming together of criminal and victim, giving them a chance to understand one another and work to repair the harm done.
Both of the Virks also spoke at the hearing, telling the panel that healing cannot begin until an offender owns up to their actions.
Suman Virk said that Glowatski’s statement on Wednesday is “huge,” and was tremendously helpful to the couple.
The Virks also said they think the young man is on the right path, and that they supported him getting unescorted absences as he continues to serve his life sentence.
The panel members agreed, noting Glowatski’s positive record while in prison. His next step will be to apply for full day parole.
At the end of the hearing, Glowatski thanked the Virks, giving each of them a hug.
Years after the murder, on the other side of Canada, students had participated in a play titled ”The Holding Room” which was based on Reena Virk’s murder. An online user who was a student at the high-school wrote on a forum:
2 years ago, the drama program at my school wrote and performed a play called The Holding Room based on the murder of Reena Virk. It was originally intended as a competition piece for a school theatre competition but it ended up attracting a lot of attention and resulted in Reena’s parents coming from the other side of the country to see it. Even though I don’t really act anymore, this entire show experience was one of the best of my life.