Harkirat Batalia quietly wiped away tears from his face as police announced that, after 14 months of grieving, two men had finally been arrested and charged in the death of his daughter.
Gurjinder “Garry” Dhaliwal, 21, is charged with first degree murder of Maple Batalia. Gursimar Bedi, 22, is charged with manslaughter and accessory after the fact.
The arrests were announced Saturday afternoon via a press release, followed by a press conference later in the evening, detailing the two men’s identities.
According to Maple’s sister Roseleen, the family – her father Harkirat and mother Sarbjit sat silently with their eyes downcast during the press conference – were still in shock over the news, something they had long been waiting for.
She spoke to media on behalf of the family, calling the major development “bittersweet”.
“Although we can’t have Maple back, we’re happy to see that the people who are (allegedly) responsible for this will suffer the consequences,” Roseleen said softly, holding back tears. “It has definitely been a long wait but it’s worth the wait.”
“We can finally start to grieve.”
Investigators said that the two men were arrested in their homes – Dhaliwal in Burnaby and Bedi in Surrey – on Friday evening following months of heavy investigation.
“We’re looking at months of hard work,” said Sgt. Jennifer Pound, noting police would not be commenting on the investigation as the charges are now before the court. Chief Supt. Bill Ford, officer in charge of Surrey RCMP, called the death a “tragedy that cannot be measured in this community.”
“My hope is that today, with this significant development, you will feel some sense of justice,” he said to the family, who sat silently before a gripping black-and-white poster of their daughter’s face.
Dhaliwal and Bedi will remain in custody and are next scheduled to appear in Surrey court Monday.
In the days immediately following the shooting, Dhaliwal had been identified as Maple’s ex-boyfriend. It was alleged that Dhaliwal assaulted two people at a Surrey Tim Horton’s on Sept. 24, four days before Batalia died. A warrant was issued the day after the shooting for Dhaliwal’s arrest in connection with the assaults.
He turned himself in on Oct. 3, 2011 but those charges were later stayed.
The 19-year-old aspiring model, actress and health-sciences student was gunned down Sept. 28, 2011 in an open-air parkade at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus. She was rushed to Royal Columbian Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds but died soon after.
There had been reports that two men were seen driving away from the scene of the shooting in an SUV. Police could not comment on whether Dhaliwal and Bedi had been the same men seen fleeing.
Following the incident, her father Harkirat had speculated that it was an ex-boyfriend, overcome with jealousy and rage, who was possibly behind the act. He had told The Province that Maple and her mother had been at Holland Park only days before the shooting and had been followed by someone identified as Maple’s ex-boyfriend.
Maple had also made it into the final round of a model search hosted by Central City Mall, adjacent to the campus where she was shot. The competition’s finale, originally scheduled to take place only days after the shooting, was then rescheduled. The finale then took place the following January and included a tribute to the young girl.
In the wake of Maple’s death, her family had also set up scholarship memorial funds, to help young women studying the arts and health sciences at Simon Fraser. The Maple Batalia Memorial Fund sits at $50,000 and was made possible by donations from community groups and other businesses.
On the day of the 2011 shooting, Maple’s father had spoken with The Province, demanding justice for his “best jewel.” “Give us justice,” Harkirat had said while grieving. “Bring that person to justice – that’s the final thing I want to see.”
Courtesy of The Province.