VANCOUVER — The Chinese mother of a 13-year-old girl found dead in a Burnaby, B.C., park six years ago has taken the witness stand at the murder trial of her accused killer.
The mother, who cannot be named under the terms of a publication ban on the girls' identity, broke down in tears as she talked about the meaning of her daughter's Chinese name. The name is a reference to the light rain that was falling on the day the girl was born, she told the British Columbia Supreme Court hearing.
The girl's body was found in Burnaby's Central Park in the early hours of July 19, 2017, just hours after her mother reported her missing.
The woman repeatedly wept at the mention of the girl's name during the trial of Ibrahim Ali on Wednesday.
Ali pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the case earlier this year.
The mother, testifying in Mandarin through an interpreter, told the court her daughter had been taking morning summer school classes in July 2017 and spent her afternoons looking at her cellphone or doing crafts.
She testified her daughter "was always home" at night when the mother would get home from her job at a grocery store, noting the latest she would work was 8 p.m.
The girl was also learning to play the flute and she would sometimes go jogging, the court heard.
"Sometimes she'd go out to have fun with friends but she'd always tell me where she was going," the mother said.
She told the court she would often take her daughter skating and swimming.
Holding back tears, the mother held up her cellphone and repeatedly zoomed in on a photo of a girl in ice skates.
"That's when I took her skating," she said through tears. "On July 10, I still brought her skating."
The judge then suggested the Crown take a 20-minute break.
The mother later testified her daughter never had sleepovers with friends and she never saw her with boys or men.
She said she also never saw the teenager drink alcohol or do drugs, and she only spoke Mandarin and English.
The mother told the court she spent time with her daughter in the weeks leading up to her death, including bringing her and a friend to Canada Place for Canada Day fireworks and for a hike at Joffre Lakes Park.
She also recounted going shopping to buy the girl clothes at the mall.
"She never got to use any of them before she died," the mother said.
The mother's testimony came Wednesday after defence attorney Kevin McCullough cross-examined the victim's brother.
The man said his sister was having "conflicts" with their mother before her death.
In response to McCullough's questions, the man said he had very little in-person contact with his sister in the years before her death because he was living in Beijing, but they often spoke over the phone when he'd call his mother in Canada.
He said he and his sister had five direct-message conversations using the app WeChat after he visited Canada in February and March 2017.
"We also spoke when my mom called me through my mom's WeChat so we did chat more frequently than this would indicate," he said.
The man testified Tuesday that he last saw his sister on a video call a few weeks before she died, saying she was laughing and seemed happy.
He said he spoke to the girl via WeChat around 7:15 p.m. PST on July 18, 2017. She had texted him in a mixture of English and Mandarin about his clothing size and which Harry Potter house he would choose, he said.
He told the court he first learned of his sister's disappearance from their concerned mother a few hours later, prompting him to reach out to her again.
Crown attorney Isobel Keeley said at the start of the trial that the court would hear evidence showing the girl's killing was random, but that DNA results would prove Ali sexually assaulted her.
She said the evidence would show the girl was passing through a neighbourhood park when she was dragged off a pathway into the forest by Ali, sexually assaulted and strangled.
The defence has not yet told the jury its theory of events.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 23, 2023.
Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press