British Columbia

Julien Levasseur charged with 2nd-degree murder in New Westminster attack

Julien Levasseur, 23, has been charged in the random attack that left an elderly woman dead in New Westminster, B.C., on Wednesday.

Random attack left an elderly woman dead on Wednesday

Julien Levasseur, 23, has been charged in the attack that left an elderly woman dead in New Westminster, B.C., on Wednesday. (Felicity Don)

A man has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with an apparently random and unprovoked attack that left an elderly woman dead in New Westminster, B.C., on Wednesday evening. 

The suspect, Julien Cadrain Levasseur, 23, appeared in court on Friday morning and remains in custody. 

The New Westminster police were called to the area of 1500 Eighth Avenue around 7 p.m. PT on June 3.

It appears the victim, 79-year-old Charan Kaur Dhandwar, was simply out for an evening walk after having visited a friend when she was attacked. 

The victim succumbed to her injuries at the scene. Police did not say how her injuries were caused. 

A member of the New Westminster Police Department keeps traffic from entering a large section of Eighth Avenue that was behind police tape early Thursday morning. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Family shaken

"This is a tragic event and the family is understandably shaken and needs time to process the loss of a dear family member," the New Westminster police said in a statement. 

She was killed a block away from a school where her grandchild studies. She regularly was seen in the neighbourhood taking walks with three other elderly women. Grief counsellors were at the school to offer support to families.

"We have lost not only our mom but a wife and grandma," said a spokesman for the Dhandwar family in a press release.

The family said they wanted to thank the police and emergency workers for "their quick response in not only taking the suspect into custody but more importantly tending to our mother and making every effort to save her after the attack."

Levasseur made his first appearance before a judge at the courthouse where Dhandwar's son is a sheriff. Levasseur's lawyer said his client is a New Westminster resident with a job who once was a post-secondary student. 

Driver who struck suspect sought

Levasseur was not known to police, and he is believed to have been living in the area where the attack took place. 

The fatal incident is believed to have a connection to a house that neighbours say has been occupied by squatters. It was sold in April, but the new owners haven't moved in yet.  

Integrated Homicide Investigation Team investigators are still looking for the male driver of a dark green SUV or van that the suspect collided with when he was fleeing. The vehicle may have sustained some damage, and the police want to get the driver's statement. 

Anju Parmar, who witnessed that collision from her garden, said the suspect ran into oncoming traffic. 

"He was just running and he looked like he was lost, so he was running back and forth on the sidewalk." 

He was hit by a vehicle but got up and kept running, she said. 

The vehicle was damaged in the collision, she said. "Side-view mirror broke, and [it] also got a big dent right away."