Victim of vicious reading room attack dies

Relatives of Elisabeth Salm, 59, who died after she was viciously assaulted Thursday afternoon at the Christian Science reading room in downtown Ottawa, say they are devastated.

Elisabeth Salm, 59, remembered by sister as 'the bridge between all of us'

Elisabeth Salm, 59, was found assaulted in the Christian Science Reading Room in downtown Ottawa on Thursday afternoon, and died in hospital Friday. (Facebook)

Elisabeth Salm was the centre of a local family that now feels shattered.

Salm, 59, has been identified as the victim of a vicious Thursday afternoon assault in a reading room operated by the First Church of Christ, Scientist on Laurier Avenue West. She died in hospital Friday from her injuries.

"She was like a central hub of our family. She was the bridge between all of us," said her older sister, Luc-Anne Salm.

One of five siblings, Salm studied geology at Carleton University and worked in the north for about a decade. Luc-Anne said her sister was an avid cyclist and passionate about helping others.

"She had an effervescent, joyful spirit. I would say she still does. And she was interested in people, she was interested in helping people. That was her favourite thing." 

She was like a central hub of our family. She was the bridge between all of us.- Luc-Anne Salm, victim's sister 

Luc-Anne Salm said when she went through a difficult separation, her sister was there.  

"She helped mother my kids. She was like a second mother to my kids," she said. "They are pretty devastated at the moment."

She said working at the reading room was an extension of her love of helping people. 

"She saw it as a good way to reach out and share something she felt was important."

Church devastated by the news 

Church members expressed shock at the attack. 

Hennie Buckshi said Salm was a longtime member of the church who worked at the reading room most days, helping people who came in looking for information about the faith. She said everyone is stunned by what happened.

"Anybody who would have come into the reading room would have known that she is a lovely person," Buckshi said. "It's a shock to anyone in the community."

Police tape blocks off the Christian Science Reading Room on Laurier Avenue in Ottawa Friday. (Claudine Richard/Radio-Canada)

​Buckshi said the reading room provides an opportunity for the church to share information about their faith for anyone interested. 

"It is the open door to our church. People don't have to come to the church. It is open to anybody, whatever religion people are," she said.

In an emailed statement, church spokesperson Wendy Margolese wrote that they're "grateful for all that first responders and others have done and are doing. Like most people in such a situation, Christian Scientists appreciate the concern and support of the community and the respect shown for the family's privacy at this difficult moment."

Mervyn Games, the organist at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, says he can't imagine why anyone would attack a member of their church. 0:22

Police seeking witnesses 

Ottawa police Insp. Jamie Dunlop said police want to speak with anyone who might have been in the area of the reading room between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

"We are taking this investigation very seriously. We have multiple people working on the file," Dunlop said.

Dunlop said the woman began her volunteer shift at 10 a.m. and was found by a co-worker at 12:30 p.m. Police said investigators aren't aware of any motive for the attack.

"It's really too early," he said.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Ottawa police at 613-236-1222 ext. 5477, or send an email to mcm@ottawapolice.ca.

CBC spoke with several employees who work in the same building as the Christian Science Reading Room who say they noticed police cars parked outside Thursday afternoon. 0:36