Hundreds Attend Vigil For Victims At Palmadeo Park

By Charlie Senack

There was complete silence at Palmadeo Park in Barrhaven on March 9, as hundreds gathered to remember the six lives lost during Ottawa’s worst mass homicide in recent history.

They stood in the rain for over an hour laying teddy bears and flowers, trying to come to terms with how such a terrible tragedy could occur. Some wrote letters to the victims, others lit candles.

Monsignor Paul Baxter students who attended elementary school with some of the deceased wept as their parents tried to console unimaginable loss. Teachers held hands as they placed notes written by their classes. One read “We will miss you, Inuka. Love your grade 2 friends.” In a rare act of public emotion, city councillors from across Ottawa hugged and held one another in a united front.

Mother Darshani Dilanthika Ekanyake, and her four children, Kelly, two months, Ranaya, 3, Ashwini, 4, and Inuka, 7, were all killed alongside family friend Gamini Amarakoon, inside their Berrigan Drive home on March 6.

Father Dhanushka Wickramasinghe was able to escape and locked himself in a room to call 911. He survived the serious physical injuries, but is now dealing with the loss of his entire family. All from Sri Lanka, they came to Canada for a better life.

In an open gazebo at the park, Naradha Kodituwakku from the Buddhist Congress of Canada told the crowd Ottawa’s Sri Lankan community is hurting. He visited Dhanushka in hospital and said the father was aware of the outpouring of support from Barrhaven and b“He’s recovering well (but) you can tell he’s still in shock. He sees the strength. He sees that people are behind him. A gathering like this will only make him stronger,” said Kodituwakku.

Anzul Jhan, Sri Lanka’s deputy high commissioner in Ottawa, said they have been Bombarded with messages for support and calls to action since the homicide occurred. A GoFundMe page to raise money for the funerals has raised over $209,000. 

“This is only a small sample,” she said. “People are reaching out to the high commission and the community, and we are overwhelmed with the outpouring.”

It was the second memorial held in recent days. The vigil was also attended by Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden, councillors from across the city, and Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs, who said the investigation was ongoing.

Police are known to typically not release much details about a case, but Stubbs told reporters after the memorial an exception was made so people would not speculate about the crime.

“When it’s something this impactful, there’s a large appetite to find out why and to get questions answered,” said Stubbs. “We wanted to be as open as we could without compromising the investigation.”

The Barrhaven Independent has learned the family was killed hours before the father arrived home from work. Ferbio De-Zoysa, 19, who was living in the family’s basement rent free, has been charged with six counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder. The family threw a birthday party for him just days before.

“There’s a lot of negativity and a lot of darkness with this, but I’m seeing positivity, too,” said police chief Stubbs. “People coming together and supporting each other. That’s so important and we’re seeing that here now.”

A motive has not been released, but sources have said the family was planning to evict De-Zoysa who recently dropped out of Algonquin College. A hunting knife was used in the attacks, the Barrhaven Independent has learned, though police are trying to figure out if more than one weapon was used.

De-Zoysa is the only suspect, said police, but even so, the community is on edge. Barrhaven has seen an increase in crime over the years with carjackings on the rise. It’s also been home to the murder of Jennifer Teague in 2005 and Linda Frederick in 2022.

For such a small cookie-cutter suburb of 100,000 people, it has seen lots of tragedy.

Barrhaven east councillor Wilson Lo, who helped organize the vigil, said he understands that residents’ views of the neighbourhood have changed, but reiterates it’s a safe place to live.

“It was a very tragic event and it’s hit a lot of people really hard because of how close to home it is. There are a lot of families in Barrhaven,” Lo told the Barrhaven Independent. “If one good thing has come out of it it’s the kindness you’ve seen go around. Neighbours have been checking in on neighbours.

Outside the family’s townhome, the police tape is gone and police cruisers are no longer seen in the area. People continue to come and lay flowers, taking a moment to mourn the loss of an innocent family who had a lot of life left to live.