‘He blocked us’: Man accused in Ottawa homicide changed recently, family says

Click to play video: '‘He blocked us’: Man accused in Ottawa homicide changed recently, family says'
‘He blocked us’: Man accused in Ottawa homicide changed recently, family says
WARNING: This video contains disturbing details. Viewer discretion is advised. – Mar 8, 2024

The 19-year-old Sri Lankan national charged in what police have called one of the worst mass killings in Ottawa’s recent history has family in the city who say his behaviour recently changed.

Ottawa police allege Febrio De-Zoysa murdered a mother, her four children including a two-and-a-half-month-old along with a family acquaintance.

De-Zoysa is facing six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. The father, identified in court documents as Dhanushka Wickramasinghe, suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

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“I’m still shaking, that family was so nice to him,” his aunt Anusha De-Zoysa told Global News Friday. “They were such a wonderful family.”

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She says the accused is her brother’s oldest son and came to Canada two years ago, describing her nephew as “quiet” and a “good student.”

“I’m frozen, I can’t sleep,” she said.

She said that De-Zoysa lived at her house for the first month he came to Canada, about two years ago. After that, he became roommates with Wickramasinghe, whom she says he met at Algonquin College.

She added that Wickramasinghe had been working to move his family from Sri Lanka to Ottawa and invited De-Zoysa to live with him at the Berrigan Drive house once the family came over.

She says De-Zoysa  stayed with relatives in Ottawa, before moving in with the Wickramasinghe family, but says he recently cut off his relatives.

“He stopped contacting us. He blocked us. Our phone numbers, social media. Everything was blocked,” she said. “Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think this would happen.”

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Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs told reporters on Thursday that investigators were still trying to determine exactly what the living situation was in relation to De-Zoysa and the victims, but confirmed De-Zoysa also lived at the Barrhaven home.

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Police have yet to identify a possible motive.

The consulate general of Sri Lanka in Toronto posted on Facebook Friday, urging “the parents of students from Sri Lanka who migrate for studies to pay more attention to their children during their transition and in integration into the new societal and psychological environment in foreign countries.”

The victims are:

  • Bandaranayake Gama Walawwe Darshani Dilanthika Ekanayake (35 years old)
  • Inuka Wickramasinghe (seven years old)
  • Ashwini Wickramasinghe (four years old)
  • Ranaya Wickramasinghe (two years old)
  • Kelly Wickramasinghe (two-and-a-half-months)
  • Gamini Amarakoon Amarakoon Mudiyanselage (40 years old)

The property owner of the home says he did not know the accused killer lived there.

“I don’t know even know this person [De-Zoysa] because I had leased out only to the family. I did not even know that this person was living with them,” Harpreet Chhabra told Global News when reached by phone Friday.

Chhabra is an Ottawa mortgage agent who rented out the property on Berrigan Dr. in Barrhaven to the family who had recently come to Canada from Sri Lanka.

Chhabra says he did not know Amarakoon was living in the house either.

According to the property owner, the Wickramasinghe family moved into the Barrhaven home last summer. He says the father arrived in Canada first and waited for his wife to come with their children.

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The property owner describes the surviving father as a “very nice guy” and good tenant.

“He was the kind of tenant who paid his rent always on time… he took good care of the house,” said Chhabra.

“I don’t even have words after all this. Shock, stress, feelings for the family,” he added.

Survivor described as a 'compassionate man'

Naradha Kodithuwakku, director of the Buddhist Congress of Canada, spoke with Wickramasinghe at the Ottawa hospital where he is being treated on Friday.

Kodithuwakku told Global News that Wickramasinghe’s compassion is still shining through.

“He was saying things like, ‘Yeah, my life is in shambles. But the person that committed the crime is a young boy too, and you have to think of him too,’” Kodithuwakku said.

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“The mental state [Wickramasinghe]’s in to even think of something like that, it’s touched us all that were there, because he’s in a strong place … to even think about the perpetrator of this crime.”

None of the allegations against De-Zoysa have been proven in court.

Kodithuwakku said that De-Zoysa was renting a room in the Wickramasinghe household.

“Some of the compassionate things that the family has done for the young man, the perpetrator is that, there was a birthday party they held about a week ago,” Kodithuwakku said.

“So, you can see as a family that they wanted to help him. They want to be there for him. And that’s what they did. And it’s just unimaginable to see.”

Bhante Suneetha is a resident monk at the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery in Ottawa, where the Wickramasinghe family worshipped. Global News/Jillian Piper

Bhante Suneetha is a resident monk at the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery in Ottawa, where the family worshipped.

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Suneetha said he visited the injured father in hospital Thursday and again Friday.

“He’s a strong person,” said Suneetha. “He’s still able to talk.”

The monk says Dhanushka Wickramasinghe returned home from work Wednesday night and discovered the bodies of his wife and children.

While inside the house, Suneetha says, the attacker ambushed Wickramasinghe – slashing his hands and face.

The monk says people across the country have reached out to the temple asking how they can help after this “tragic event.”

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The Wickramasinghe family’s next-door neighbour also expressed her sadness.

“They’ve been nothing but lovely, super quiet, hardworking, really kind people,” Anna Ryt told Global News. “Neighbours help each other out here,”

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Ryt said she had never met the accused. “I didn’t know about his existence” until police arrived, she added.

Police said on Thursday De-Soyza has recently come to Canada to study. Algonquin College – a post-secondary institution in Ottawa- confirmed he had been a student there.

According to the college De-Zoysa last attended the school during the 2023 winter semester, which ran from January to April. He was charged by police on Thursday after what the city’s mayor has called it one of the “most shocking” cases of violence in Ottawa’s history.

“Algonquin College mourns along with our community after learning the devastating news of the six individuals who were senselessly murdered in Barrhaven yesterday,” Algonquin College president and CEO Claude Brulé said in a statement Thursday.

“This news is shocking to us all and is a tragic loss to our city and community. Let us honour the memory of the two adults and four children who lost their lives, as well as share our deepest sympathies to the surviving family, friends, and loved ones.”

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