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Father charged with first-degree murder in daughter’s death

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  • The alarms rang out in the middle of the night, triggered by a mother’s urgent pleas to police to save her daughter hours after she celebrated her 11th birthday.

    Many jolted awake by the ringing of an Amber Alert hoped Riya Rajkumar, who was last seen with her father, would be found safe. Those hopes were dashed Friday when police found the child’s body in the home of her father, who was later charged with first-degree murder.

    “It’s very heart-wrenching,” said Peel regional police Const. Danny Marttini, making particular note of the mother’s pain. “We have to remember that this is a family, and she’s now moving forward without her daughter.”

    Riya had just celebrated a joint Valentine’s Day birthday with her mother before being dropped off at a gas station in Missisauga, Ont., on Thursday afternoon for a visit with her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, who did not live with them.

    When he failed to return Riya home at the scheduled time, Marttini said the mother became concerned. That anxiety morphed into something more serious after Rajkumar, an ex-boyfriend, allegedly indicated to the girl’s mother that he planned to harm both himself and their child, Marttini said.

    “She came in already fully concerned saying, ‘this is what he’s saying to me, I’m concerned for the well-being of my daughter, I need some help,'” she said.

    Marttini said police began investigating the situation right away, but did not immediately have grounds to enter Rajkumar’s home, where Riya’s body was found roughly five hours after she was reported missing.

    “We need extenuating circumstances to force entry into somebody’s residence,” Marttini said. “To do a door-knock? No problem. But if nobody answers, that’s sort of as far as we go … As the investigation unfolded, they did receive information that they did believe she was in the residence. As soon as they had that information, they proceeded.”

    Shortly before entering the home, however, police had issued an Amber Alert in Riya’s disappearance. The alert, released just after 11:30 p.m., was issued via the national Public Alerting System on cellphones across the province.

    That bulletin, police said, directly led to Rajkumar’s arrest.

    Ontario Provincial Police Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne said a motorist driving on Highway 11 in Oro-Medonte, Ont., shortly before midnight noticed Rajkumar’s vehicle, which had been described in the Amber Alert.

    “As a result of the Amber Alert, they observed the vehicle and gave us the coordinates,” she said. “Thankfully … we were able to apprehend this man.”

    When Peel police took custody of Rajkumar from the provincial force, Marttini said officers became aware of an undisclosed “medical condition” that meant he required treatment at a trauma centre. Rajkumar remained in hospital under police custody on Friday evening.

    Police declined to offer details on the cause of either Rajkumar’s condition or Riya’s death.

    As news of the girl’s death spread, several people stopped by the area around Rajkumar’s home to leave flowers and pay their respects.

    Emmanuel Okafor, who lives nearby, paused near the home, clasped his hands and said a silent prayer.

    “I pray to God the family lives through this,” he said. “No family should ever go through this … It breaks my heart.”

    Okafor said he followed the situation closely after the Amber Alert was issued.

    “It’s senseless,” he said. “We were really hoping last night she would be found alive, not knowing this morning we’d have this tragic news.”

    Jennifer Fuller, who has a daughter around the same age as Riya, laid flowers on a snowbank near the home. 

    “It’s sickening and it’s sad,” she said.

    Grief and shock were also setting in at Meadowvale Village Public School in Mississauga, Ont., where Riya was a Grade 5 student.

    The school issued a statement expressing shock at the girl’s “tragic” death, announcing flags would be lowered to half-mast, and outlining supports available to students.

    “Riya was a well-liked student, and her death is deeply felt by everyone at the school,” Principal Stacy Service said. “Even students who did not personally know Riya will also be affected.”

    Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie called Riya’s death “senseless,” and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown called the alleged killing a “horrific act.”

    Both Peel and provincial police said they continued to deal Friday with another form of fallout from the Amber Alert — people calling to complain about the late-night alerts or repeat broadcasts that were issued after Rajkumar was in custody.

    Dionne lamented that some people valued their own convenience over the safety of a child, a sentiment echoed by Marttini.

    “We’re talking about a child that was missing,” Marttini said. “I feel for everyone, but given the circumstances, I think it did lead to the arrest of the individual. I think that’s what we have to focus on.”

    The Amber Alert that helped lead to Rajkumar’s arrest is a special bulletin issued when a child under 18 is abducted and believed to be in imminent danger. In order to meet the criteria for the alert, police must also have a description of either a suspect or a suspect vehicle.

    Michelle McQuigge and Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press




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    New Afghanistan memorial will be opened to public, Gen. Jonathan Vance says

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  • OTTAWA — Canada’s top military commander says soldiers, veterans and their families can now visit the Afghanistan memorial at the new National Defence headquarters.

    Gen. Jonathan Vance says in a statement that the memorial, which once was the cenotaph at Kandahar Airfield, was opened without enough thought to how people who aren’t regularly in the headquarters’ secure zone would be able to see it.

    He says the monument is designed to be a daily reminder for staff at headquarters of the cost of war, while a public monument close to downtown Ottawa would be the national memorial for Canada’s Afghanistan mission.

    Vance asks for forgiveness for the decision and communications that “alienated and angered” the same people the military meant to honour.

    He says members of the military, veterans and families can schedule a visit, or show military identification at headquarters to be escorted inside.

    Vance says the memorial hall will be opened to everyone who wishes to visit once security concerns are dealt with.

    The Canadian Press

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    New air passenger rights: What they say and when they land

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  • OTTAWA — The federal government unveiled new regulations for air travel Friday, requiring compensation for passengers suffering from flight delays, tarmac delays, trip cancellations and other headaches. The passenger-rights rules apply to all flights to, from and within Canada and come in two waves. Here’s what’s coming and when each measure arrives:

    Starting July 15:

    — Airlines will have to compensate anyone who is denied boarding for situations within an airline’s control, such as over-booking. Delays of up to six hours will cost $900, when the compensation doubles to $1,800; it’s $2,400 if the delay is longer than nine hours. Payment will have to happen at the time the passenger is notified of the denied boarding.

    — Airlines will have to provide passengers clear, concise and accessible information about delays, cancellations, denials of boarding, lost or damaged baggage and the seating of children under 14, and provide updates on flight status as soon as possible and then every 30 minutes until a new departure time is set.

    — Airlines will have to let passengers get off planes if a tarmac delay hits three hours, unless within the next 45 minutes there is an imminent probability that the flight can depart. After the extra time, if the plane is still on the ground, everyone has to get off unless there’s a safety or security reason against it.

    — During tarmac delays, passengers must have access to working lavatories, food and drinks, and the plane must be properly ventilated, heated or cooled.

    — Airlines will have to pay up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage.

    — Musical instruments will be allowed on flights, either as checked or carry-on baggage, but airlines will have to create policies detailing size restrictions, cabin-storage options, and transportation fees.

    Starting Dec. 15:

    — A new compensation structure takes effect for any passenger whose flight is delayed from departing or cancelled. Large airlines — those that transport more than two million passengers annually — will have to pay $400 for delays between three and six hours, $700 for delays stretching to nine hours, and $1,000 for delays beyond that. The compensation levels for smaller airlines are $125, $250 and $500.

    — To get the money, passengers will have to file a claim with the airline, which then has 30 days to pay up or explain why it doesn’t think it has to pay.

    — Passengers will get to decide whether to take cash, vouchers or rebates. If a passenger chooses non-cash compensation, the value will have to be higher than the cash offer, and can never expire.

    — Once a delay hits two hours, airlines will have to offer “reasonable quantities” of food and drink and amenities such as free Wi-Fi.

    — Once a delay hits three hours, passengers will have to be booked on the next available flight, or potentially on a competing airline. If rebooking doesn’t meet a passenger’s travel needs — if they no longer need to fly, for instance, because they’ve missed what they were flying for — they can get a refund and an extra $400 from large airlines, and $125 from small carriers.

    — Children under age five will have to be seated next to a parent or guardian at no extra cost. Children five to 11 years old can be separated by no more than one seat in the same row, while 12- and 13-year-olds can’t be separated from guardians by more than one row.

    The Canadian Press

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    may, 2019

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