Manjit and Suman Virk at their home with Reena’s parrot Smooch in 2009.                                File photo

Manjit and Suman Virk at their home with Reena’s parrot Smooch in 2009. File photo

Suman, mom of Reena Virk, has died

Mother of 1997 murder victim became an activist against bullying

Suman Virk, the mother of murder victim Reena Virk, has died at 58, a few days after what media reports are calling a choking incident last weekend that left her unable to breathe.

Reena was 14 when she was murdered by a group of teens under the Craigflower Bridge on Nov. 14, 1997.

The family is requesting privacy and a private funeral service has been planned.

Reena’s death resonated with people around the world, and in the aftermath Suman and her husband Manjit became community activists in bullying awareness. They dedicated themselves to several causes and across the province the Virk name has been affiliated with anti-violence and anti-bullying.

Ten years after Reena’s murder, Manjit recounted it in a book Reena: A Father’s Story, with Suman’s support. It told of Reena’s upbringing and also included just how cruel the final moments of Reena’s life were.

On Nov. 14, 2017, dozens of community members stood in the rain and wind for a sobering hour of tribute and remembrance to Reena at the place of her death, Kosapsom Park.

Suman was ill at the time and unable to attend.

But Manjit spoke that day, saying “We know there will be times when these things will happen but let’s look at our own family situations. What our kids learn in the family stays with them.

“Reena was protected, she was raised with love and kindness [and] she was trusting. When she went to school she had a hard time, people bullied her, people thought she was different [and] she was very puzzled. Why would people pick on her? We always told her, this is part of life, people have different values, they’ll mistreat you, be kind to them, talk to teachers, talk to us.”

She did not die in vain, Manjit said last year, pointing to the many anti-bully programs and awareness now in place.

The viciousness of the crime shocked the nation when it was determined that Reena was kicked, punched by classmates who came to be known as the Shoreline Six, and eventually drowned in the Gorge Waterway.

The identities of four of the students were protected under the Young Offenders Act, but two of the individuals, Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski, were brought to trial and convicted in Reena’s death. The details of the case were gruesome and the conspiring of the teens to keep the murder a secret from authorities and parents for nearly a week caught international attention.

Glowatski attempted to reconcile his life and his actions, connecting with Suman and Manjit. Ellard, who committed the final murderous act, was refused parole multiple times and accused of not taking responsibility for her actions, but has since been released on parole.

reporter@saanichnews.com

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