Malik was killed by multiple gunshot wounds in Surrey’s Newton neighbourhood on Thursday morning. The police investigation is focusing on the white Honda CRV that was found ablaze a few blocks away.
“It arrived at about 7 a.m. and the occupants were waiting for Mr. Malik,” said Sgt. David Lee of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team in a Friday briefing.
“It was later found burned in the area of 82 Avenue and 122A Street.”
Police released security footage of the vehicle on Friday, but are releasing limited information about the “targeted” shooting so as not to “taint witnesses,” Lee said. There is no risk to the public at this time, he added.
Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri were acquitted in 2005 of mass murder and conspiracy charges related to the pair of Air India bombings that killed 331 people, mostly from the Toronto and Vancouver areas.
The attacks are the largest mass killing in Canadian history, and set off an international investigation that ended with just one person being convicted, and multitudes of criticism aimed at the RCMP and federal agencies.
On June 23, 1985, a bomb that had been planted on Air India Flight 182 exploded as the plane was mid-air over the Atlantic Ocean, nearing Ireland. No one survived, including the 268 Canadians aboard.
Two baggage handlers were killed not long after, when a bag exploded at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport as it was being transferred to Air India Flight 301.
Fifteen years later, after the conviction of bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat and the death of Talwinder Singh Parmar, believed to have been the mastermind of the attack, Malik was arrested.
He and Bagri were charged with 329 counts of first-degree murder in the Air India Flight 182 bombing, as well as murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in connection with the Narita airport bombing.
Their nearly 20-month trial ended with an acquittal in 2005, in which a B.C. Supreme Court judge determined the primary witnesses were not credible and the evidence from RCMP and Crown had fallen “markedly short” of the threshold for conviction.
Police believe additional suspects and a getaway vehicle may be involved in Malik’s death.
Lee said Malik had no “recent involvement” with police.
“We understand this is a high-profile international story, however we urge not to speculate as to the motive, as our homicide investigators will be following the evidence,” he said.
There is “a lot to process” at the crime scenes, he added, and could not provide a timeline for another update in the case.
Malik’s death has caused an outpouring of emotions in Canada and abroad.
The 75-year-old millionaire businessman was the head of the Sikh faith-based private Khalsa schools across Canada, founder of the Khalsa Credit Union, and a prominent community figure.
“Yeah, he was wrongfully charged in Air India, but I think the important thing is if anybody’s ever read those 500 pages of that judgment, Mr. Justice (Ian Bruce) Josephson says there is no evidence to connect him to any theory the Crown had about that bombing,” said Malik’s son, Jaspreet Malik, in a Thursday interview with Global News.
“The bigger part of his life was his community, his family and the legacy he’s left with. Khalsa schools, Khalsa Credit Union, five kids, eight grandkids.”
For families of those died in the Air India attacks, however, Malik’s death comes with a surge of painful memories.
“It’s like a nightmare that never stops giving,” Deepak Khandelwal told The Canadian Press of the many years it took for the trial to start, the missteps made by police during the investigation and an inquiry into Canada’s worst mass murder.
Khandelwal, who lives in Oakville, Ont. was 17 when his sisters, 21-year-old Chandra and 19-year-old Manju, were killed when Flight 182 fell from the sky.
“It just brings back all the horrible memories we’d had to go through for the last 37 years,” he said.
Police said Friday they have reached out to Malik’s family to provide assistance, and support is available to others through the RCMP’s Victims Services unit.
Investigators are asking witnesses or anyone who travelled in the 8200-block of 128 Street, or the area of 122 Street and 82 Avenue, between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Thursday to contact them.
The IHIT information line can be reached at 1-877-551-4448.