British Columbia

Husband of missing B.C. woman was charged with threatening wife last month

Crown prosecutors say the husband of a missing New Westminster, B.C., woman is facing criminal charges for allegedly threatening his wife last month, but the couple's daughter says that case is "completely separate" from her mother's disappearance.

Police say case is considered missing person investigation and not criminal at this point

Nirla Sharma, pictured in a photo provided by her family. (Submitted by Vanessa Sharma)

Crown prosecutors say the husband of a missing New Westminster, B.C., woman is facing a criminal charge for allegedly threatening his wife's safety last month, but the couple's daughter says that case is "completely separate" from her mother's disappearance.

Rishi Deo Sharma is accused of threatening his wife, Nirla Sharma, with death or bodily harm on Jan. 25. He was charged with one count of uttering threats three days later.

Nirla, 44, has been missing since Sunday.

The couple's daughter said the case against her father isn't connected to the search for her mother.

"It is completely separate. My dad loves my mom more than anything in this world," said Vanessa Sharma, 20.

Police say the case is considered a missing person investigation and not a criminal investigation at this point. 

A missing poster for New Westminster, B.C., woman Nirla Sharma is pictured in downtown Vancouver on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Nirla was last seen when she went to bed at home in the city's Queensborough neighbourhood around 9 p.m. PT. She was reported missing when she didn't show up for work on Monday morning.

Her children have spent the week pleading for anyone with information to come forward. They have plastered flyers around Metro Vancouver, saying they're desperate to have their mother home.

Vanessa Sharma, 20, said criminal proceedings against her father are irrelevant to the search for her mother, who disappeared on Sunday. (CBC News)

Vanessa, the daughter, said she's concerned with the amount of attention her father's criminal case has received since the charges were revealed in the media late this week. In a message to CBC News, Vanessa urged the public to focus its attention on the search.

"We will not be talking about any charges against my dad. It has absolutely nothing to do with my mom's disappearance," Vanessa wrote.

"For him to be put on blast like this isn't OK at all. It is no one's business."

CBC News has reached out to Rishi Sharma, the husband, for comment. The 44-year-old is also facing three criminal charges for breaching conditions of his release after his arrest.

In a previous interview, Vanessa said her father was extremely worried for his wife.

"He can't stop crying. He just wants her home. I know my dad has a lot of love for my mom. He'd do anything to get her home right now," Vanessa said.

Major crime officers, search and rescue involved in case

Police believe Nirla left her house at 4 a.m. Monday, a few hours after going to bed. Family members heard the front door chime around that time.

New Westminster police spokesperson Sgt. Jeff Scott said it's not clear why Nirla might have left. The mother-of-two was last seen wearing pink pyjamas and a T-shirt. Her cellphone, car keys, identification and bank cards were left at home.

She may be wearing bright orange Nike shoes and a black jacket as those items are missing.

"Questions of how Mrs. Sharma disappeared and what happened certainly need to be answered," said Sgt. Scott.

"We're following up with family and with all the different people involved in her life to help answer these questions." 

Police said Nirla is considered to be a high-risk missing person because her disappearance is so out of character. She didn't have a history of depression or mental illness as far as investigators are aware. 

"We're not ruling out foul play but we are not at a place right now in the investigation where it has gone from a missing person to a criminal investigation," Sgt. Scott said.

Major crime investigators have been assigned to the case. On Thursday, local search and rescue personnel were also asked to help.

Anyone with dashcam footage taken in the city's Queensborough neighbourhood between midnight Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday is urged to speak with police.

Rishi Sharma is next due in court on March 4.

With files from Meera Bains, Dan Burritt and Deborah Goble