VANCOUVER—Rajinder Atwal gazed down from the prisoner’s box and appeared on the verge of tears today as a judge detailed how he repeatedly stabbed his daughter—disfiguring her face even after she was dead.
“This was a cold, brutal and sober attack of his completely defenceless young daughter, carried out with the intention to cause her death,” Justice Catherine Wedge told a sentencing hearing in B.C. Supreme Court.
Wedge ruled that Atwal, who was convicted of second-degree murder in March, won’t be eligible for parole for 16 years.
Atwal’s wife Kulwinder began crying as her husband was led away by sheriffs and her son Narinder put his arm around her.
Amandeep Atwal was 17 in July 2003 when her father decided to end her life after discovering she’d been having a secret love affair with schoolmate Todd McIsaac.
The discovery led to considerable conflict in the Sikh family, followed by a decision by Amandeep that she would leave her home in Kitimat, B.C., and move with her boyfriend to Prince George in central British Columbia.
Court has heard that Atwal vehemently objected to the move but persuaded his daughter to accompany the family to the Vancouver area so she could tell relatives there that she was relocating to attend school.
When Amandeep told her family she would be returning to Prince George, her father insisted on driving her there himself.
It was during that trip in Atwal’s car that he stabbed his daughter 17 times at a rest area near Cache Creek, B.C.
“Amandeep remained in the car throughout the attack, still secured by her seatbelt,” Wedge said. “Her final moments in life must have been terrifying.”
Atwal then placed his daughter’s body in the foot well of the car and covered her with a blanket, continuing to drive for 2 1/2 hours before taking her to hospital.
“This was not the result of any confusion on his part, as suggested by the defence,” Wedge said.
“No parent could drive that distance with a dead or dying child without seeking help.”
At the hospital, Atwal presented himself as a grieving father and said his daughter had killed herself.
“While he must have loved his daughter at some level, he permitted that love to be displaced by anger at her unwillingness to comply with his values or accept his view of the world and his plans for her future,” Wedge said.
“This was a selfish act of the highest order, beyond the comprehension of any reasonable person.”
In quoting Atwal’s lawyer David Butcher, Wedge said Atwal’s motive for the murder related solely to his daughter having begun to make her own choices that conflicted with his cultural conservatism.
Outside court, Atwal’s wife continued weeping as she was flanked by supporters.
They included her son Narinder, 25, who said he was “very torn” about his father’s predicament.
“On the one side is my father, on the other side is my sister,” he said, without commenting further.
McIsaac, Amandeep Atwal’s boyfriend, said he hadn’t found the peace he was looking for after the sentencing hearing.
“There’s nothing that could ever give me back what I had, and her life back,” McIsaac said outside court.
He said Amandeep cared about her father but that he wouldn’t ever trust him.
Seeing the rest of her family in court was stressful, he said.
“I’m not even sure how they feel towards me,” McIsaac said, adding he doesn’t see a day that he would even approach them.
He described Amandeep as a “friendly, outgoing, beautiful, bright person,” whose positive influence still guides him.
A community activist, who didn’t wish to be named, said outside court that the case is a tragedy for everyone involved.
“It’s a sad day,” he said. “The family has lost a child and a father and a daughter and a sister. Todd McIsaac has lost his soon-to-be-wife.”