A man has been charged with multiple counts of murder and arson in connection with the triple homicide of his wife and two young children on Montreal’s south shore.
Mohamad Al Ballouz, 36, is the same man who was questioned by investigators and was previously considered an “important witness” by Longueuil police.
Police say he appeared by telephone at the Longueuil courthouse Monday afternoon from his hospital bed, where he remains in custody.
Al Ballouz is facing two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two children and one count of second-degree murder in his wife Synthia Bussières’ death. He has also been charged with arson with disregard for human life.
Authorities responded to a fire early Sunday morning at a residential building in Brossard, where the three victims were found inside the apartment. The fire was contained to that residence and no damages to the building were reported.
Police say the 38-year-old woman and their children, ages two and five, were declared dead in hospital. In court on Monday, Crown prosecutor Éric Nadeau would not say how the three victims died, only saying it was a gruesome discovery for first responders.
“Autopsies, carried out on the bodies of the victims, will make it possible to determine the exact causes of death,” police said in a statement Monday.
The accused, who was also in the apartment, was arrested at the scene. Al Ballouz was not known to police and the apartment — where the family lived — was not a place of interest to investigators.
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The investigation is ongoing and forensic technicians are still at the scene as of Monday afternoon.
Al Ballouz is expected to return to court on Oct. 20.
‘My heart breaks for their loved ones’
Brossard Mayor Doreen Assad briefly commented on the victims’ deaths online, saying she she was speechless and offered her condolences to their family. She declined to speak with Global News, instead referring media questions to police.
“My heart breaks for their loved ones,” she wrote on Facebook late Sunday.
Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault, who is the province’s incumbent premier, called the triple homicide as a “horrible tragedy.”
“These murders break my heart,” he wrote on social media Monday morning, adding that resources are available for domestic violence victims.
But advocates say the provincial election campaign hasn’t focused nearly enough on violence against women and children and they would like to see more done.
Manon Monastesse, executive director of the Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes, which represents 36 women’s shelters in Quebec, said there have been eight femicides in the past two months in the province.
“We are going to vote in one week and nobody is talking about issues of violence against women and children and the rights of women also,” she said. “We are quite disappointed.”
— with files from Global’s Anne Leclair, Alessia Simona Maratta and The Canadian Press