Suspect charged in mass killing of Sri Lankan family in protective custody: lawyer

By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The 19-year-old charged with killing six people in an Ottawa suburb last week is being held in protective custody, his lawyer said Thursday.

Febrio De-Zoysa was arrested March 6 and is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

“I can comment that he’s in protective custody. He’s doing OK,” his lawyer, Ewan Lyttle, told reporters after a brief court appearance that took place by phone.

De-Zoysa’s matter was adjourned until March 28 to give Lyttle time to receive and begin reviewing disclosure from the Crown, a process he suggested would span months.

Police say De-Zoysa, who came to Canada as an international student, had been living with the victims, who were also newcomers from Sri Lanka.

They included 35-year-old Darshani Ekanayake and her four children, who range in age from two months to seven years old, as well as a family friend.

Her husband and the children’s father, Dhanushka Wickramasinghe, was taken to hospital with injuries to his hands and face.

Barrhaven murders
Police officers hold up a sheet as members of the coroner’s office remove a body at the scene of a homicide where six people were found dead in the Barrhaven suburb of Ottawa on Thursday, March 7, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Lyttle said he has been in touch with the young man’s family and that they are “obviously very upset.”

He said they do not reside in Sri Lanka and declined to say where they live.

Any potential request for his client to undergo a mental-health assessment would “probably be a few months from now,” Lyttle said.

He declined to comment on the suspect’s mental state, saying only he had met with him in person and over video.

Police have not publicly suggested any motive behind the alleged murders.

Chief Eric Stubbs told reporters last week the victims were attacked with a “knife-like object.”

The family had moved to Canada in recent months with three children — Inuka, 7, Ashwini, 4 and Ranaya, 3. Kelly, two-and-a-half months old, was born in Canada.

A friend who had been living with them, 40-year-old Gamini Amarakoon Amarakoon Mudiyanselage, was also killed. He had a wife and two children living in Sri Lanka.

Barrhaven murder flowers
Flowers sit at the scene of a homicide where six people were found dead in the Barrhaven suburb of Ottawa on March 7, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The deaths have triggered an outpouring of shock and grief from the community.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe called the killings “one of the most shocking incidents of violence” in the city’s history.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 13, 2024.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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