Court watches police interview with 9-year-old daughter of victim hours after 2014 stabbing death
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After several lengthy delays, the trial for a Calgary man accused of stabbing his ex-wife and her friend to death more than three years ago is underway, amid concerns surrounding Hari Pal’s mental state.
Pal is charged with two counts of second-degree murder for the May 2014 deaths of his estranged wife, Sanjula Devi, and her friend, Fahmida Velji-Visram. Pal is also charged with the attempted murder of his landlord, who tried to intervene in the attack.
On Monday, court watched a police interview with Devi’s daughter, recorded hours after the killings.
Now 13 years old, she was just nine when she witnessed her mother’s murder. She cannot be named due to a publication ban in the case.
The young girl testified that on May 4, 2014, she had gone home with her mother and Velji-Visram, 29.
She said they had just started packing when her stepfather (Pal) began stabbing Velji-Visram.
She told the detective her mother locked the bedroom door and tried to call 911, but Pal got in. The young girls said the landlord’s daughter tried to rescue them, but she was stabbed in the back.
She said her mom tried to run out of the home and told police: “My mom was trying to get up the stairs and she was bleeding all over.”
Devi’s body was later found in the doorway to the basement suite.
The Crown previously told court that Devi had moved out of her house several weeks before the attack.
She was returning home with her daughter, Velji-Visram and Velji-Visram’s mother, Munira Velji, on the night of the stabbings.
Munira Velji waited in the car while the two women and young girl went inside. Court heard it was moments later that Velji-Visram appeared on the sidewalk covered in blood. She collapsed shortly after.
The little girl then appeared crying, saying her mother had been stabbed.
Pal appeared in court Monday, but when asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, he simply stated: “I do not know.”
His lawyer asked court to bring in a psychiatrist to assess Pal, who deemed him fit to stand trial Monday afternoon.
Velji-Visram’s family is frustrated the case has taken so long to go to trial.
“I am trying to stay positive about the upcoming trial but I know there is always potential for more delays,” Velji Visram’s husband Rahim Visram told Global News.
“Each delay just keeps increasing my frustration.”
The trial was originally scheduled for September 2016 but was delayed several times to allow time for further psychiatric evaluations.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. David Tano previously testified he suspects Pal has a neurocognitive illness that causes short episodes of confusion.
Earlier this month, Pal was once again assessed and found fit to stand trial.
Tano had previously conceded that there is no guarantee Pal would be found legally fit on any given day in the future.
In the Canadian justice system, an accused is deemed fit to stand trial if he understands the nature of the charges against him, can participate in the court process and instruct counsel.
The case will be heard by judge alone and is expected to take less than a week.
With files from Global’s Nancy Hixt and David Boushy
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