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Fatim Hemraj

Bullied Teenager Beaten and Drowned While Schoolmates Watch

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Fatim Hemraj
Fatim Hemraj

14-year-old Reena Virk spent her entire short life just trying to fit in. As an Indian girl and a Jehovah’s Witness to boot, Reena was described as, ‘a minority within a minority.’ She was a loner who wanted nothing more than to just fit in. Unfortunately, the more she tried to relate to her schoolmates, the more she was bullied. The mistreatment led Reena to run away from home several times, looking for any escape from her world of torment.

In addition to being severely bullied and excluded from social events, Reena’s religion meant she never even celebrated a single birthday. She wanted nothing more than to blow out a birthday candle or be invited to a party or a school dance. As a teenage girl, she most likely dreamt of her first date, first kiss, and first love. Unfortunately, she would never get the chance to experience those milestones, as a group of teenagers selfishly decided her life wasn’t worth living, and callously stole it from her.

On Friday, November 14, 1997, Nicole Cook invited Reena to a party near Craigflower Bridge in Saanich, B.C., an area remembered only as the murder site of a young innocent girl since. Reena thought she was finally getting her chance to make new friends. In reality, Nicole was luring her towards a vicious and brutal attack.

Nicole was enraged at Reena, who she claimed stole her address book, called her friends and spread rumours about her, most likely in retaliation for the bullying she endured. Once at the bridge, Nicole confronted Reena. She took her lit cigarette and put it out on Reena’s forehead, initiating the beginning of a crime that would change Victoria forever.

Fueled by drugs and alcohol, six female teenagers (later nicknamed The Shoreline Six) and one teenage boy, Warren Glowatski, swarmed Reena; they repeatedly kicked and punched her, even trying to light her hair on fire with cigarettes while others at the party only stood by and watched. The entire time Reena was crying out, “I’m sorry.

After beating Reena senseless, one of the teenage girls told the others it was enough. Reena began to limp away towards her home, but the attack was far from over.

16-year-old Warren Glowatski and 15-year-old Kelly Marie Ellard followed Reena and dragged her beaten body back to the bridge. They forced her to remove her shoes and sweater. Warren kicked Reena in the head twice followed by Kelly smashing her face into a tree knocking her unconscious. The pair then dragged Reena into the Gorge Waterway, held her head in, and drowned her.

The next day, Nicole returned to the bridge, retrieved Reena’s shoes and sweater and forced a girl who lived in the same group home as her to hide them in her closet.

All of the teenagers made a pact not to ‘rat’ each other out, but like most secrets between teenagers, they eventually come to light. Rumours began swirling in the hallways of Shoreline Middle School that Reena had been murdered. Although multiple teachers also heard the rumours, not one of them decided to report it to the authorities.

Reena was reported missing on November 14 by her parents Suman and Manjit Virk. The authorities considered her a runaway until two sisters from the group home notified them of the rumours. Reena’s half-naked body was discovered by divers on November 22. Although the autopsy showed Reena ultimately died due to drowning, medical examiners determined her injuries were so severe, she likely would have died regardless.

Warren Glowatski, who was sixteen at the time of the murder, came from an incredibly tumultuous home with an alcoholic mother and later, a single father. He affiliated himself with the Crips, one of the most violent street gangs and was initiated into the group after enduring a severe beating. He expressed deep remorse after Reena’s murder, stating he is now a different man that no longer has violent impulsive tendencies. Suman and Manjit ultimately forgave him in order to begin their path towards healing.

Warren was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was eligible to apply for parole after serving seven years due to his age at the time of the murder. He was released on full parole in June of 2010. At Warren’s final parole hearing, he thanked the Virk’s for their forgiveness and support and hugged them.

Kelly Marie Ellard, now known as Kerry Marie Sim, was fifteen at the time of the murder. Unlike Warren, she has never shown true remorse for Reena’s murder. Kelly has claimed she only dragged Reena, who was covered in blood, to the bay to splash water on her face to bring her back to consciousness, and that when Warren suggested flagging down a car to get help, she said no, “I pushed her in and walked away.”

Kelly has always denied holding Reena’s head in the water, callously claiming she was already unconscious so there was ‘no point.'

Kelly was convicted of second-degree murder two out of three trials and was ultimately sentenced to life in 2005 without parole eligibility for seven years. She was granted full parole in 2009 after apologizing to Reena’s parents. Kelly became pregnant and gave birth in prison in 2016, the father, a federal parolee. She now has two children and says that becoming a parent has had a, ‘positive impact’ on her. She is now on day parole with several restrictions.

The remaining perpetrators all received sentences ranging from sixty days to one year in jail.

As with most tragedies, we must try our best to focus on the positives. Suman Virk, who sadly passed away in 2018, dedicated the rest of her life to the advocation of anti-bullying, raising awareness of teen violence and improving mental health resources for students.

Reena’s death resulted in the implementation of several province-wide drop-in centers for vulnerable youth. Suman and Manjit visited school after school across the province speaking to students about the tremendous impact of bullying and helped create several anti-bullying programs in the school system and Manjit even published a book called Reena: A Father’s Story.

If just one person had called for help at Craigflower bridge that dreadful night, it could have saved Reena’s precious life.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

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