British Columbia

Man accused of 1st-degree murder of Burnaby teen pleads not guilty

The jury trial of a man accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl in Burnaby in 2017 began Wednesday in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Ibrahim Ali said 3 times that he ‘did not’ kill 13-year-old girl

An artist's courtroom sketch of a man in a dark suit wearing headphones, holding his hand to his chin.
A court sketch depicts Ibrahim Ali, who is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of a 13-year-old girl. (Felicity Don)

The jury trial of a man accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl in Burnaby in 2017 began Wednesday in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Ibrahim Ali is charged with first-degree murder in the death of the girl. He entered a plea of not guilty to the crime in court Wednesday morning. 

The B.C. Crown Prosecution Service informed CBC on Wednesday a publication ban had been placed on the girl's name.

The girl's body was found in a wooded corner of Burnaby's Central Park on July 18, 2017, several hours after she went missing. 

Ali was arrested over a year later, on Sept. 7, 2018.

Police have said Ali, who was 28 years old at the time of his arrest, had no previous criminal record and arrived in Canada as a refugee from Syria 17 months before his arrest. He has remained in custody since then.

When asked for his plea in front of a B.C. Supreme Court jury, Ibrahim Ali said three times through a Kurdish-speaking interpreter that he "did not'' kill the 13-year-old girl.

Police tape still surround much of Central Park in Burnaby where Marrisa Shen's body was found.
Police tape surrounds Central Park in Burnaby, B.C., following the discovery of the girl's body in July 2017. (GP Mendoza/CBC)

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has called the investigation into the teenager's killing its largest to date. Police say more than 600 interviews were conducted, over a thousand hours of video footage collected and over 2,000 persons of interest identified. But to date, few details have been made public about what exactly led homicide investigators to Ali more than a year after the crime. 

The 13-year-old girl was seen leaving her family's apartment building across from Central Park at around 6 p.m. PT on July 18th, 2017. Surveillance footage later showed the teenager entering a nearby Tim Hortons minutes after she left her apartment. She stayed there for an hour and a half.

Her family reported her missing to police at 11:30 p.m. PT on July 18. Just over an hour later, her body was found in the brush in the southeast corner of the park. Police tracked her location through her cellphone. 

Cautions against prejudice

In the past, protesters have appeared at the court dates for the trial, criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's policy of allowing Syrian refugees into the country. RCMP have said Ali had no criminal record and was unknown to them before he came to their attention as part of the investigation into the girl's death.

There were no such protests on Wednesday, and the judge, in his opening remarks to the jury, reminded them of their commitment to not showing a bias against a Muslim Kurdish man from the Middle East.

"Our biases about personal characteristics such as race or gender, whether we realize it or not, can affect how we believe or disbelieve things we see or are told or how we react to those things," said Bernard.

"You must make a conscious effort to resist and to help other jurors resist jumping to conclusions based, for example, on race, ethnicity, religion or gender."

The girl's family did not comment on Wednesday, filing into the court quietly and sitting alongside journalists covering the proceedings. Her family has endured a lengthy wait for the trial, which was originally slated to begin in September 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic and other procedural delays.

On Thursday, the Crown is expected to make its opening arguments to the jury and introduce its first witness.

The jury trial is taking place in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver and is expected to last until June 30.


Michelle Ghoussoub

Reporter, CBC News

Michelle Ghoussoub is a reporter and anchor for CBC News based in Vancouver. She has received a nomination for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Local Reporter. She can be reached at

With files from The Canadian Press