Father says victim of fatal sword attack in Vancouver, 19, was ‘a good kid’

Published: January 30, 2013
Manraj Akalirai

More than one hundred people gather on Elgin Street for a candlelight vigil Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 in Vancouver, B.C. to remember 19-year-old Manraj Akalirai, who died after a swarming attack Jan. 23. Ian Lindsay/PNG


Ranjit Akalirai is pleading for answers following his only son’s brutal slaying last week.

“I tried to ask the questions to the police and they just wouldn’t answer,” Akalirai said.

The last time his 19-year-old boy, Manraj, spoke to family was just after 10 p.m. Jan. 23 — on his way to pick up his mother from a late shift at work.

But he never made it.

Manraj was killed that night by a group of men in a swarming and sword attack near the intersection of 47th Avenue and Elgin Street — about five minutes from the family home.

Vancouver police initially said Manraj was “known” to them – but his family insists he had no criminal ties.

“He was a good kid,” Akalirai told Vancouver Desi from his East Vancouver home on Tuesday, his wife and daughter nearby.

“Just because he’s Indo-Canadian there’s a bunch of stereotypes,” his eldest daughter Aman said. “He had a bigger heart than all of us … He didn’t deserve this.”

According to Akalirai, Manraj has no criminal record — only a couple of speeding tickets.

But last October, Manraj was stabbed as he tried to protect his friend while breaking up a fight, he said.

“He had nothing to do with it,” he added.

But now he’s left asking whether this has any tie to his son’s fate: “Was he targeted?” he asked.

On Tuesday — nearly a week since the attack — it was difficult for Akalirai to speak about his beloved son with whom he spent most of his time.

Dressed in casual black clothing and a baseball cap, Akalirai’s eyes were downcast and sombre as he greeted friends, family and community members into his home. The doorbell would ring and people would flood in, exchange words, shake his hand or embrace, then join the others in the solemn home.

“(It’s the) worst thing of my life,” Akalirai said.

He recalled their love for antique cars — how on a “sunny day” they’d take a collector car out for a drive.

Manraj was busy, dividing his time between Langara College, where he was studying criminology hoping to become a police officer, his job at Rona, the Sikh temple on Joy Street, where he went for mass and to volunteer, and daily visits to Fitness World, where his father would often join him for a workout.

“We did mostly everything together,” he said. “He’s so close to me.”

He also spoke highly of a friendship Manraj developed with a disabled boy at school.

“He left him his number — he was kind. These young kids they make jokes at these people … they call him names,” said Akalirai. “But (Manraj) was kind.”

Criminal charges are yet to be laid in the case and the investigation is ongoing, VPD spokesman Randy Fincham said Wednesday.

Five people of interest were initially brought in for questioning, but have since been released. Fincham would not elaborate on how Manraj was “known to police.”

“He’s been good all his life and now the cops give him a bad name in the end,” said Akalirai. “It hurts.”

On Wednesday evening, about 100 people gathered in memorial on a dew-covered front lawn on Elgin Street – near the scene of Manraj’s murder – spilling onto the sidewalk and even between parked cars.

“I shouldn’t have to be doing this for my little cousin,” Rick Sidhu, 24, said softly as he began the candlelight vigil, surrounded by dozens of Manraj’s peers and friends.

“He was beyond his years in how humble he was and the positive attitude he brought to everything,” Sidhu told Vancouver Desi. “The amount of people here shows how many people truly did love him and care of his kind demeanor.

“He’s affected a lot of people.”

— with a file from Stephanie Ip

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