Half-brother of accused in Red Deer doctor's killing points to history of mental illness in family

The half-brother of Deng Mabiour, who was charged with the first-degree murder of Red Deer physician Dr. Walter Reynolds, says the accused once suffered a brain injury and later had brain surgery in Vancouver.

Relative in Seattle says Deng Mabiour once suffered a brain injury

Dr. Walter Reynolds, 45, was attacked and killed in an examination room at the walk-in medical clinic where he worked in Red Deer, Alta., on Aug. 10. (Submitted by Johan Myburgh)

The man accused of fatally attacking a Red Deer doctor with a hammer and a machete at a walk-in clinic last week is being described as an isolated loner.

Deng Mabiour, 54, is charged with the first-degree murder of Dr. Walter Reynolds. The 45-year-old family physician was attacked Aug. 10 in an examination room at the Village Mall Walk-in Clinic. He died in hospital.

Friends, family, patients and colleagues in Alberta's medical community attended vigils for Reynolds on Friday in Red Deer, Calgary and Edmonton. The doctor, originally from South Africa, was remembered for his humour and compassion.

RCMP have described the attack on Reynolds as targeted and premeditated. Mounties have also said Mabiour had no known mental health problems.

But Mabiour's half-brother told CBC News that the accused once underwent brain surgery in Vancouver and that the family has a history of mental health problems.

Deng Mabior, 41, lives in Seattle. He goes by the same first name as his older half-brother. Their surnames have different spellings.

The two men shared the same father but had different mothers.

Mabior said his half-brother came to Canada as a government-sponsored refugee in the late 1990s. He had fled South Sudan and was in a refugee camp in Ethiopia when he emigrated to Vancouver.

"When he was in Sudan, somebody attacked him and hit him on the head," Mabior said. "Then when he came to Canada, he got brain surgery. That's what he told me. That is what I know."

Mabior said his half-brother has always been a loner. 

"That was his behaviour back home," he told CBC News. "He doesn't like to be staying with people. He liked to isolate himself, to live alone without people." 

Mabior said the last time he spoke to his half-brother was in 2005.

Learning about the murder charge shocked and saddened him.

"I don't like it at all," Mabior said. "Maybe he's got mental problems, because his uncle, the brother of his mother ... got sick back home with mental problems. He died without getting married."

Mabior was not sure what mental illness the late uncle suffered from.

"Back home in Africa, we don't have medical family history," Mabior said. "We don't have medical records to show what was wrong in the family." 

'I do remember him always being alone'

An article posted online by Alberta-based multicultural publication Diversity Magazine says "contacts on the ground" in Red Deer describe Mabiour as a man who lived alone with "personal and mental health issues due to his loneliness [and] anti-social behaviour."

A member of Red Deer's Sudanese community said he's seen ugly comments online since Mabiour's arrest.

The person, who spoke to CBC News on the condition his name not be used, said he fears backlash in the central Alberta city against members of his community.

"People are looking at us with a disgusting look," he said.

"Yesterday while I was sitting in my vehicle, my neighbour across the street came out and just stared at me for a good five minutes."

The man said he would spot Mabiour walking in Red Deer at least a couple of times a year. He said he always said hello to Mabiour, but that often the greeting wasn't returned.

Deng Mabiour, 54, is arrested by RCMP outside a Red Deer medical clinic. Other citizens told CBC News he was always seen wearing the same clothing. (Facebook )

"He would walk by in the same clothes," the man said. "He never changed those clothes. So I don't know who in their right mind can be like that?"

An employee of a Red Deer dollar store also recognized Mabiour and his hoodie when she saw a picture that had been taken of his arrest.

CBC News has agreed not to name her because she's afraid speaking out could mean the loss of her job. 

The dollar store worker said Mabiour was a regular customer.

"I do remember him always being alone," she said. "I don't think I ever heard him say thank you or hello or anything like that. He never said a word, hardly. Very anti-social." 

She said he never smiled. But a few weeks ago, she said he was emotional while he was inside the store. 

"I was working and he came in with tears just pouring down his face," she said. "He didn't say anything. He just stared at me when I said, 'Are you OK?' Then all of a sudden he just turned around and walked out."

The employee said she never felt threatened by Mabiour or uneasy around him. Nor did it ever appear to her that he was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.

But after reading the accounts of what happened at the walk-in medical clinic, she's rattled. 

A memorial of flowers, balloons and stuffed animals last week outside the Red Deer. Alta., walk-in clinic where Dr. Walter Reynolds was fatally attacked. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

"I started thinking about it and I thought, 'Oh my God, what if he lost it at our store?'" she said. 

Mabiour is being held at the Red Deer Remand Centre. He makes his next court appearance on Sept. 9.

During his first court appearance last Wednesday, Mabiour told the judge he couldn't remember anything. He said he was sick and needed a doctor.


Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.