Vancouver woman who killed friend with a meat cleaver sentenced to life for 2nd-degree murder

Published: April 29, 2014

Nirmala Devi Arjun, 56, gets life in prison with no parole eligibilty for 12 years after she was found guilty of second-degree murder for killing William Canning with a meat cleaver. File photo/Thinkstock


A Vancouver woman who used a meat cleaver to inflict more than 50 blade wounds on a male friend has been sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 12 years.

In November, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Nirmala Devi Arjun, 56, guilty of the January 2009 second-degree murder of William Peter Canning, 65.

The two friends entered Arjun’s Vancouver apartment suite on the evening of Jan. 28 and his body was found by police the following morning, after she had called 911 twice.

Canning had suffered some of the wounds while moving through the residence, before finally collapsing in the bathroom.

In imposing sentence, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Bowden said there was no explanation for the attack and no apparent motive. There was no evidence they were in a romantic relationship at the time.

Court heard that Canning, who she referred to as a poor and often homeless man, cared for her dog when the part-time food services employee was at work.

There was some evidence that Arjun, who had a drinking problem, had consumed alcohol at some point during the night of the murder, but no evidence Canning was intoxicated, the judge noted.

Arjun, who came to Canada from Fiji following an arranged marriage and has one son and a granddaughter, saw her marriage end in 1991 after suffering physical abuse at the hands of her husband.

Both parents were abusive to each other and alcohol was a contributing factor, according to her son, who added that his mother was a different person and aggressive when she was drunk.

In 2007, Arjun was designated by the ministry of social development as a person with persistent multiple barriers to employment and began receiving $657 a month assistance.

She worked part-time as a food services worker from 2007 to 2011.

At issue on sentencing was Arjun’s parole eligibility. Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 25 years of parole ineligibility.

The judge said while there was no motive, alcohol may have been a partial explanation for the attack.

“Ms. Arjun told the probation officer that she was very sad that Mr. Canning was gone. The probation officer quotes her as saying, ‘Justice has been done to me and I think about it.’ ”

Bowden said that due to the “extremely violent” nature of the attack, Arjun should spend 12 years behind bars before being able to apply for parole.

The Crown had asked for 12 years of parole eligibility, while the defence called for 10 years.

The jury made no recommendation on parole ineligibility.

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