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The injured father Dhanushka Wickramasinghe, 38; Kelly Wickramasinghe, 2½ months old; Ashwini Wickramasinghe, 4; Ranaya Wickramasinghe, 3; Inuka Wickramasinghe, 7 and mother Darshani Dilanthika Ekanayake, 35.supplied

A 19-year-old is accused of stabbing a Sri Lankan family with whom he shared a suburban Ottawa townhouse, killing an infant, three other children and their mother, as well as another resident of the home, in what police believe is the deadliest mass homicide in the capital’s history.

The attack happened Wednesday night at the home, located in Barrhaven, a fast-growing Ottawa neighbourhood about 20 minutes south of the city’s downtown.

The accused, Febrio De-Zoysa, was charged Thursday with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. At a news conference, Ottawa police said they believe he is a Sri Lankan national who came to Canada as a student, but otherwise did not comment on how he knew the family or came to be living with them. They also did not speculate on a motive for the attack.

“I want to emphasize this was a senseless act of violence perpetrated on purely innocent people,” Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs said at the news conference. “I know our whole community is shocked and mourning this event.”

The father of the family, 38-year-old Dhanushka Wickramasinghe, was injured in the attack but survived, and was in hospital in stable condition, police said.

Police identified the family members who died as Darshani Banbaranayake Gama Walwwe Darshani Dilanthika Ekanayake, the 35-year-old mother of the family, and her children, seven-year-old Inuka Wickramasinghe, four-year-old Ashwini Wickramasinghe, three-year-old Ranaya Wickramasinghe, and 2½-month-old Kelly Wickramasinghe. The other victim was 40-year-old Amarakoonmubiayansela Ge Gamini Amarakoon, whom police described as an acquaintance of the family and fellow resident of the house.

Chief Stubbs said the family was new to Canada. Sri Lanka’s High Commission in Ottawa confirmed that the victims were from that country, and said officials were in touch with their family members in the Sri Lankan city of Colombo.

Asked if the killing was the largest in Ottawa’s history, Chief Stubbs said, “It certainly is.” Veteran officers who have been with the force for 30 years “haven’t seen one as significant as this,” he added.

Earlier in the day, he had described the incident as a “mass shooting,” but the force later said he had misspoken.

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A police officer and workers in protective clothing talk at the scene of a homicide where six people were found dead in the Barrhaven suburb of Ottawa on March 7.PATRICK DOYLE/The Canadian Press

Naradha Kodituwakku, a past president at the Sri Lanka Canada Association of Ottawa, said he got to know Mr. Wickramasinghe, the father of the family, through their local temple, the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery. He recalled that Mr. Wickramasinghe had offered to let the 19-year-old stay in the home.

“That’s Dhanushka – somebody wants help, he wants to help out,” Mr. Kodituwakku said. “He opened the doors for him ... And then this is what ends up happening.”

He said Mr. Wickramasinghe had eye surgery on Thursday for his injuries, and that his fingers were also slashed.

Bhante Suneetha, a monk at the temple, said he had visited Mr. Wickramasinghe at the hospital. The father is in “great shock,” he added.

He said Mr. Wickramasinghe had told him that Mr. De-Zoysa was experiencing problems at school, and was having thoughts of suicide.

Algonquin College, which has its main campus in Ottawa, said in a statement that Mr. De-Zoysa had been a student at the school, and that it appears his last semester of attendance was winter 2023.

The family had been in Ottawa for more than a year, Mr. Kodituwakku said. Mr. Wickramasinghe had recently started an office cleaning business to support his four young children. He was a regular at the temple, where he helped to set up and close out events.

“He likes to help in the community,” Mr. Kodituwakku said.

“To have something like this happen to a guy like that, it pains me so much.”

Mr. Kodituwakku added that the killings have been “sheer devastation” for the city’s small Sri Lankan community. A GoFundMe account and charity fundraiser for the families of the victims are being set up.

Chief Stubbs said police hadn’t had any previous interactions with Mr. De-Zoysa, who appeared in court on Thursday afternoon. The case was adjourned until March 13 to give him time to find a lawyer.

Police brought the bodies of the victims out of the home on Thursday morning. Blood could be seen on the door of the brick townhouse, and on the nearby sidewalk.

Chief Stubbs said officers were called to the townhouse before 11 p.m. on Wednesday, after neighbours reported that a man, later identified as Mr. Wickramasinghe, was outside yelling for someone to call 911. Officers arrived soon after and identified the suspect, who was arrested without incident, he said.

When officers entered the home, they discovered the six victims and a “horrific” scene, Chief Stubbs added. He said a knife-like object had been used on all of the victims.

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A worker in protective clothing moves a stretcher at the scene. Ottawa police say this is believed to be the largest homicide case in the city’s history.PATRICK DOYLE/The Canadian Press

Ottawa residents and politicians reacted to the killings with shock and distress on Thursday, with some leaving bouquets of flowers on the front lawn of the townhouse. A vigil was held in a nearby park.

Monsignor Paul Baxter School, a Catholic school in Barrhaven, confirmed that two of the victims were students there: Inuka Wickramasinghe in Grade 2, and Ashwini Wickramasinghe in junior kindergarten. Principal Vincenza Nicoletti said in a statement that the school wanted to express its deepest sympathies and condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims.

“We cannot imagine the pain and sorrow they must be experiencing,” Ms. Nicoletti said.

The school plans to provide grief counselling and crisis support to students and staff affected by the killings for as long as needed, she added.

Harpreet Chhabra, who owns the Ottawa townhouse and was renting it to Mr. Wickramasinghe, said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon that he had just learned of what took place. He said he had rented out the property last year and that he did not know so many people were living there.

“I’m literally in shock,” he said. “I’m honestly beyond words.”

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, who attended the news conference along with Chief Stubbs, said residents had woken up Thursday to news of a “shocking and devastating event.”

“This news has shaken many residents throughout Ottawa,” he said. “Of course, it’s particularly troubling to neighbours and anyone living in Barrhaven.”

Harjinder Chouhan, who lives in the neighbourhood, said residents had been deeply affected. “We’re shocked, we feel like it’s not safe anymore,” she said.

Speaking in Toronto, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians had reacted with “shock and horror” to the incident.

“We expect the police of jurisdiction to be doing the work and keeping us all informed of this terrible tragedy,” he said.

The Ontario legislature held a moment of silence for the victims. Premier Doug Ford said on social media that the news was “heartbreaking.”

With reports from The Canadian Press and Stephanie Chambers

Ottawa police say four children and two adults are dead and a seventh person is injured after what the police chief is describing as a late-evening attack by a lone actor at a townhouse in an Ottawa suburb. Police went door-to-door in Barrhaven the next morning to hear from potential witnesses as they continue to investigate at the home. (March 7, 2024)

The Canadian Press

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story, based on comments from police, said the victims were killed in a mass shooting. Ottawa Police now say the weapon hasn't been confirmed. This version has been updated.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article included incorrect details provided by police about two of the victims of the March 6 mass killing in Ottawa. The correct spelling of the mother's name is Darshani Dilanthika Ekanayake. The correct spelling of her toddler's name is Ranaya Wickramasinghe, and she was three years old. This version has been updated.

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