Advertisement

'He's in great shock': Surviving father, community struggle to process mass killing of family

6 people, including 4 children, killed inside Ottawa townhouse late Wednesday night

Barrhaven residents and members of Ottawa's Sri Lankan community say they are struggling to process the horrific mass killing of four young children, their mother and a family acquaintance.

Their bodies were found in their home in Barrhaven, about 15 kilometres south of Ottawa's downtown core, on Wednesday night.

Only the children's father survived. He was injured in the attack with an edged weapon and was taken to hospital.

"We are all shocked, no doubt about that," said Bhante Suneetha, who met the family at a local Buddhist monastery, and described them as sweet and kind.

"In my life, I haven't heard of such a tragic moment in our community."

Into the night, dozens of residents moved by what happened streamed silently into a dark tree-lined park two blocks away from the townhouse.

They lit candles and dropped off flowers and stuffed animals at a makeshift memorial.

People lay flowers and light candles at a park near the crime scene at Berrigan Drive in Ottawa on March 7, 2024. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)
People lay flowers and light candles at a park near the crime scene at Berrigan Drive in Ottawa on March 7, 2024. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

On Thursday, police said the family were newcomers to Canada from Sri Lanka.

Dhanushka Wickramasinghe is the injured father.

His wife, 35-year-old Darshani Dilanthika Ekanayake, was killed along with the couple's four young children — daughters Kelly, who was two months old; Rinyana, 3; and Ashwini, 4 — and son Inuka, 7.

Accused was living with family

The body of another man, 40-year-old Gamini Amarakoon, was also found at the scene. Both he and the accused were living with the family, police said.

Febrio De-Zoysa, 19, is now facing six first-degree murder charges and one count of attempted murder.

He was arrested at the home.

Nixsala Antony, who attended the informal memorial at the park near the crime scene, is from Sri Lanka but doesn't know the family. She said she was "startled" when she heard the news and still feels discomfort.

"They probably had a lot of hopes and dreams," Antony said. "It's really sad."

Family described as 'kind,' 'innocent'

Suneetha, a resident monk and director of the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery on Heron Road, said the family came to his temple for events and helped out.

"They are innocent and also very helpful people. It doesn't matter [who would ask] for help from them."

He visited the father, Dhanushka, at the hospital on Thursday morning. Part of one of Dhanushka's fingers was cut off and another finger was repaired with surgery, Suneetha said. He also has cuts on his face, chest and back.

"I cannot say he's doing well, but he's a little bit stronger than we thought," Suneetha said.

"Mentally, he's in great shock."

Bhante Suneetha is a resident monk and director of the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery on Heron Road. He said the family were members of the monastery and were 'very helpful people.' (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)
Bhante Suneetha is a resident monk and director of the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery on Heron Road. He said the family were members of the monastery and were 'very helpful people.' (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Dhanushka's family had only been in Canada for about a year, according to Suneetha. Dhanushka arrived first in 2020 after completing his education and getting a work permit.

Last year, Suneetha said, Ekanayake and their three children joined him. She was pregnant.

A representative of Uber confirmed Dhanushka was a driver for them. Suneetha said Dhanushka had also opened a cleaning business.

Hilal Ahmed, an accountant, said he was contacted by Dhanushka last month for bookkeeping services.

Ahmed found Dhanushka to be very polite and accommodating. He called the situation tragic.

What we know about the suspect

De-Zoysa came to Canada from Sri Lanka as an international student, police said.

On Thursday evening, Algonquin College president Claude Brulé confirmed De-Zoysa had been a student there.

The teen's last semester of attendance was the winter of 2023, Brulé's statement said.

A court sketch of 19-year-old Febrio De-Zoysa, who has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. (Lauren Foster-MacLeod)
A court sketch of 19-year-old Febrio De-Zoysa, who has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. (Lauren Foster-MacLeod)

Ottawa police chief Eric Stubbs said Thursday that an "edged weapon" was used in the homicides.

De-Zoysa made his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.

He's due back in court on March 14.

Vigil planned for Saturday morning

"Little kids — they didn't do anything for this," said Shanti Ramesh, who lives across the street from the townhouse where the killings happened.

"They come into the world to give something back and this happens? It's horrible."

Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery said it's raising donations for the victims' families.

A candlelight vigil is scheduled Saturday at 11 a.m. in Palmadeo Park, the same park where Thursday's makeshift memorial was set up.

Funerals will be planned at a later date.

"It will take time for us to digest all this," Ramesh said.

"It will be there forever, actually."