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Police scour records for clues after fatal attack on Delta, B.C., teen

Bouquets of flowers tied to a pole serves as a memorial to Laura Szendrei, 15, in Delta September 27, 2010. Szendrei died early Sunday morning with her family at her side folowing an attack in a local park.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

As they hunt for the killer of a 15-year-old girl, fatally wounded in a shocking daylight weekend attack in a park, police are scouring their records for any signs that the park had a history of criminal activity.

But police and the mayor of this municipality south of Vancouver said Monday they were unaware of any problems with Mackie Park, where Laura Szendrei was found Saturday afternoon at about 1:30 p.m. suffering massive injuries and dying within a day.

They acknowledged, however, that they were taking a closer look at the issue, reviewing records to see if they might have missed something.

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"We are looking at a call history to that area," said Sergeant Sharlene Brooks of the Delta Police Department.

"I am not aware of this being identified as a problematic area."

Mayor Lois Jackson said safety issues in the park had not been on her radar, but that she was awaiting the results of the police review.

"As chair of the police board, I want to make sure we have all the correct information and all the correct stories, and that we're dealing with all the current, actual factual information," she said.

But Bob Heckel, who has lived beside the park for 30 years, said he was uneasy about the overgrowth in the park, calling it a "bush area with trails."

He said the park was not vigorously maintained and that the underbrush should have been cleared away. "There's much that can be done to make it safer," he said of the area he described as popular with area residents.

"It's too late now for that poor girl."

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Police said Monday they had no new developments to report in the case. They are not yet prepared to say whether Laura was the victim of a random attack or whether she was targeted.

"We're all just hugging each other and trying to make sense out of this horrible thing," said Ms. Jackson, who has lived in Delta since 1968.

She said the scenario that culminated in the death of Laura was mystifying: "Saturday afternoon. 1:30. A beautiful sunny day in North Delta. Kids are in the park. Football game going on. And, you know, the tragedy took place."

At the park Monday, students were equally at a loss. "You don't expect that in Delta," said Ryan Bhathal, 15, who said he felt safe in the neighborhood where the attack occurred.

Ryan said he knew Laura for about a year.

"She was really nice. She was a really good person," he said, walking with friends Monday afternoon on the edge of the park. "She was just always happy. She never had enemies. She was just always smiling. This shouldn't happen to her."

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Sgt. Brooks said police are "aggressively investigating" the case.

"We're working to determine the circumstances that will, hopefully, lead us to the individuals responsible for the tragic death of Laura Szendrei," she said.

No suspect description has been released, but police are looking for a man aged 16 to 25 seen in the park 15 minutes before the attack because they believe he may have information relevant to the case. Police have said he was talking on a cellphone or texting. He has not been described as a suspect.

Ms. Jackson said members of the Delta police are working "triple duty" to crack a case that hits the rank and file hard because many live in the community, and have their own children.

Delta is not part of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that handles homicides across the region. However, the force is employing resources from other departments as part of the investigation.

Laura's family has, through police, said they are grieving and have no comment at this time on the tragedy.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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