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Ibrahim Ali sticks fingers in ears as girl's dad tells murder sentencing of torment

VANCOUVER — As the father of a 13-year-old British Columbia girl described his torment since her rape and killing, Ibrahim Ali, the man convicted of murdering her, hung up the phone on an interpreter at his sentencing hearing.
The brother of a murdered Burnaby, B.C., girl speaks to reporters outside the B.C. Supreme Court after Ibrahim Ali's sentencing hearing on June 7, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brieanna Charlebois

VANCOUVER — As the father of a 13-year-old British Columbia girl described his torment since her rape and killing, Ibrahim Ali, the man convicted of murdering her, hung up the phone on an interpreter at his sentencing hearing.

Ali, who was attending by video, then stuck his gloved fingers in his ears.

The family of the girl told the B.C. Supreme Court sentencing hearing of their overwhelming grief on Friday, with her father saying in his recorded statement that he contemplated suicide and bashed his head against a wall until he was streaming with blood.

Ali received a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

The girl's brother had earlier told the hearing that his mother was "utterly destroyed" by the girl's death, and that he was haunted by his final text messages to her, when he said he was unkind.

None of the relatives can be named because of a publication ban on identifying the victim, who was found dead in Burnaby's Central Park in July 2017.

The father, who delivered a recorded impact statement by video, described how he was in China when he first heard that his daughter was missing, then was found dead.

"I felt like a light suddenly went out … my mind went black," the man said. He said he hid in his bathroom and contemplated suicide, and that he bashed his head on a wall "until blood streamed down my face and I couldn't stand."

Ali was found guilty of first-degree murder last December. The jury took less that 24 hours to deliberate.

He listened to some of the family's statements on Friday through an interpreter, but stuck his black-gloved fingers in his ears during parts of the father's remarks.

In his statement, the father said he and the girl's mother moved to Canada to have her because of China's one-child policy. He said that when she was born he was scared to hurt his fragile newborn child, but vowed to protect her.

The brother held his head in his hands during parts of his father's statement, which lasted 47 minutes.

The father told the court about the day he learned his daughter died, and the day of her funeral. He said he would often visit her grave, but the grass was dry despite his efforts to water it.

"The grass hasn't turned green for seven years," he said, before addressing the girl.

"Your mom, brother and daddy — we all loved you very much and all of us wanted to protect you, but we were not able to do so."

The father said there was "no trace of happiness or unhappiness" in the verdict, describing the trial process as "too long" and "too torturous."

"Even falling asleep, I would suffer from nightmares. It would make me scream, howling," he said.

He added that while the girl "may be gradually forgotten by others," her death would "always burden" him and his family.

At the end of the impact statements, Ali was given the opportunity to make a statement of his own. He insisted, through an interpreter, that he "didn't kill this girl."

"Judge, I didn't do this. This is unfair. I didn't do this," he said.

Immediately after Ali spoke, Judge Lance Bernard sentenced him to a life term without any chance of parole for 25 years, the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder. Ali will get credit for the almost six years he's spent in prison already, making him eligible for parole in September 2043.

Bernard called the murder horrific and grave.

"Mr. Ali, you have been found guilty of first-degree murder and you have heard the profound harm and grief you have caused for raping and murdering (the girl) in Central Park on July 18, 2017," he said.

"My last words will be then to the friends and family of (the girl). I am so sorry for your unfathomable loss."

The girl's brother carried a framed photo of her to the witness box to deliver his statement earlier Friday. It showed her as a slight young girl, about 10, with messy bangs over her forehead and a little smile.

He said his sister was raped and killed, then "maligned" during the eight-month trial.

Ali's lawyers had suggested during the trial that the presence of Ali's DNA inside the girl could have been because of consensual sex.

"She was the world to my mother and in those few short hours, her world was lying cold and dead," he said.

Since the killing, his mother had completely "withdrawn from herself," he told the court.

He described his last text exchanges with his sister.

"(In) those moments I chose to be cold and curt. Last words have a lot of meaning and my last words to her were dismissive and uncaring," he said.

The man said the murder changed his sense of safety and community and he has considered not having children because it's hard to imagine bringing them into a world "when there are very real monsters out there who would hurt them."

The court also heard statements from the brother's wife, who said her husband had "not allowed himself to process the pain" of his sister's death, adding that depression is his "best friend."

Crown lawyer Isobel Keeley also read statements from friends of the family and the girl, including a former schoolmate who described being unable to "form deep connections" and feeling a "fear of society" after the killing.

The province's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said in a statement Friday that it conducted an exhaustive investigation "utilizing a full array of conventional and non-conventional techniques" to identify and eliminate more than 2,000 people of interest in relation to the murder.

“It’s a result of the unwavering dedication of the investigative team, supported by all of IHIT and the BC RCMP, whose relentless pursuit of the evidence led them to using cutting-edge forensic technology, which brought us to today’s successful conclusion,” Supt. Mandeep Mooker said in the statement.

In 2018, police disguised themselves as tea marketers to secretly collect the DNA of about 150 Kurdish community members, eventually leading to Ali's arrest.

Outside the courthouse, about a dozen people held signs calling for justice. Among them was Surrey, B.C., resident Bella Huang.

“I hope this sentence can give them some comfort (and) relief, but also gives them some more hope to continue their future life, no matter if they choose to go back to China or stay here,” she said.

The girl's brother said outside the courthouse that he was feeling "a sense of relief that this is finally over."

He still clutched the framed photograph that he said was one of his favourite pictures of his sister.

"I would like to think that my words in court today made a difference in the process, but I think ultimately it didn't matter. The fact that he got the sentence that he deserves, that's the outcome that we wanted," he said, calling the decision justice.

He said he hopes Ali is never granted parole.

"This is not a man that deserves to walk free again … but I'm hoping that when that day (when he is eligible for parole) comes, he will be denied his application, and I hope that he will stay incarcerated for the rest of his days."

As for his sister, he said, "I’m hoping she can find peace now. I’m hoping she can finally rest."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2024.

Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press