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October 18, 1999
'Angel in Paradise'
A P Kamath in Toronto
While a team of detectives and soil scientists went around gathering evidence in the investigation into Sharmini Anandavel's death, over 500 mourners, including students, teachers and members of the Indian community here, gathered to pay tribute to the 15-year-old girl at the Georges Vanier Secondary School last week.
Mayor Mel Lastman was among the mourners.
The Anandavel family including Sharmini's two brothers migrated from Sri Lanka a few years ago. Sharmini disappeared about four months ago, and her skull and skeleton were discovered by hikers in a ravine near the city last week.
With the incense burning and soft devotional songs playing, mourners walked past a picture of Sharmini.
Her father Elooranayagam Anandavel recalled how Sharmini was determined to be a lawyer. Her classmates remembered her as a person who felt very much at home in Canada, but also felt proud of her Tamil roots. She had been studying Bharat Natyam for several years.
"This is an age where a child is blooming into womanhood,'' said Z Sittampalam, president of the Tamil Eelam Society of Canada. "To lose somebody at this age, it means it will just break the whole family.'' The police have not identified the cause of her death.
"Waiting for four months to know what has happened to our Sharmini was bad enough," says a family friend. "Now, we do not even know what happened to her on the day of her death -- and if the person responsible for this horrible crime will ever be arrested."
Lawmakers across Canada are also waiting to know how she met with her end. They want stricter laws to deter stalkers and other criminals.
Among the lawmakers is Ujjal Dosanjh, the attorney-general of British Columbia, who has been asking schools and colleges run programs to educate children and young adults about sex offenders and stalkers.
Dosanjh, who attended the funeral services of schoolgirl Poonam Virk murdered early this year by a jilted wooer, wants young women, particularly the children of immigrants to be encouraged by their teachers and counselors to report to the authorities about stalkers and sexual predators.
According to family members and police it took the authorities several days to identify the skull since the family did not have a dental record. The school, which had the dental records, had to be contacted before a final identification was made and the family was informed.
Once the identity was confirmed, a Web site for missing children wrote against Sharmini's name: Angel in Paradise.
Though the police will use the DNA analysis and other clues, they are also aware that evidence site has been contaminated by heavy rain in recent months.
Sharmini disappeared on June 12 after leaving the family's apartment to start a new part-time job. As the parents and members of the Tamil Eelam Society of Canada distributed pamphlets and held vigil, they found no clues to her disappearance.
The police questioned a married man who knew Sharmini many times over. While he could not provide any helpful information to the police, he has been complaining that his life has been turned upside down by the disappearance.
The police in Toronto continue asking for information about Sharmini's disappearance. If you have any information on the matter, call (416) 808-3300.
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