For model and actress Maple Batalia, Friday was supposed to mark another trip down the fashion show runway. Instead, friends will honour the 19-year-old’s memory with photos of her past work, two days after she was gunned down inside a university parkade.
No arrests have been made and police remain tight-lipped about the case. The victim’s father pleaded for justice Thursday for his “rising star,” his “charming little daughter.”
Raanee Khaira, owner of Surrey, B.C., clothing store Crossover Bollywood Se, echoed that call. During a tearful interview, she said Ms. Batalia was the type of child a parent could be proud of – intelligent, driven, beautiful.
Ms. Khaira met Ms. Batalia three years ago. She was looking for models when Ms. Batalia introduced herself. The teen was shorter than what Ms. Khaira had envisioned – 5-foot-4 instead of 5-foot-7 or taller – but what she lacked in height she made up for in spark and stage presence.
Ms. Khaira last saw the Simon Fraser University student two weeks ago. Ms. Batalia was scheduled to appear on the runway at the store’s fashion event Friday night, but now her photos will be splashed across a screen.
“I want her to walk the runway with my girls,” Ms. Khaira said, her voice breaking.
Ms. Batalia was shot at 1:10 a.m. Wednesday inside a parking lot adjacent to SFU’s Surrey campus. She died in hospital. Forty to 50 officers are working on the case, and police say the shooting was “quite likely a targeted attack,” though they have not disclosed a potential motive.
Last year, Ms. Batalia had a small role in the Hollywood film Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, which was made in Vancouver. Just weeks ago, she filmed her last role, in a television series that has yet to air. The teen dreamed of becoming a doctor.
The victim’s family has suggested police interview Ms. Batalia’s former boyfriend. Sergeant Peter Thiessen, spokesman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said Thursday police are looking into that but are also considering other theories.
He would not disclose who police have spoken to or whether they’ve identified any suspects. “We’ve spoken to a variety of different individuals in regards to this,” he said. “I could maybe describe them as persons of interests.”
Sgt. Thiessen said police are looking into whether there might be video of the attack. He provided little new information and could not indicate when an arrest might be made.
“Nobody should have to experience this,” he said. “There are officers on this investigation, me included, we have daughters. So that certainly motivates us as police officers even more and takes it to a whole other level to imagine what this family must be experiencing.”
The victim’s father pledged his support for the work investigators have done so far. “We’re happy with what the police are doing,” Harkarit Batalia said.
Dressed in black, his eyes puffy and red, Mr. Batalia prayed his daughter’s killer or killers would be caught. “We are looking for justice. I pray, God, please give us justice,” he said.
Don MacLachlan, an SFU spokesman, said Ms. Batalia’s death has hit the school hard. “We’re at a campus where it’s usually full of bright and bouncy people,” he said. “There’s a lot of long faces and subdued silence. They’re still in shock.”
Mr. MacLachlan said he believes there is little the university could have done to prevent the shooting. “We are reviewing security, but realistically no amount of security could have anticipated or prevented what happened yesterday. Indeed, I think it’s pretty safe to say that if a security guard had been in the parking area during the shooting, we’d have had two victims, not just one.”
Priya Chundunsing, who modelled with Ms. Batalia for two years, described her as an amazing, positive person. She said other models Ms. Batalia worked with are looking for ways to honour her memory. One idea that’s been bandied about is developing some sort of event to support South Asian women.
The family has not announced when Ms. Batalia’s funeral will be held.