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Candlelight vigil held for 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar in Brampton
Codi Wilson and Kayla Goodfield, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, February 19, 2019 7:38AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 20, 2019 5:25AM EST
Mourners gathered in Brampton for a candlelight vigil Tuesday night to honour an 11-year-old girl who was found dead at a Brampton home last week following the issuance of an Amber Alert.
At the vigil, which was held in Garden Square, members of the community remembered Grade 5 student Riya Rajkumar, who was tragically killed on Valentine's Day.
Speaking in front of the crowd at the event, Interim Peel Regional Police Chief Chris McCord read a statement on behalf of Riya’s mother, Priya Ramdin.
“She was a social butterfly who loved to spend time with family and friends. She was a great dancer and singer. She loved Drake and could beat anyone at a card game of speed. She touched a lot of lives with her laughter and contagious big smile. It breaks my heart to know I will no longer be seeing that smile, hearing her voice and knowing I will never have her in my arms again," Ramdin's statement read.
"I can’t believe that she is no longer here with me. I remember our last moments on her birthday Feb. 14. Earlier that day we went to do our nails and her choice of colour was red. She was so excited for her birthday, looking forward to having dinner later that evening. Never did I think that my daughter would not return back to me.”
In her statement, Ramdin said Riya wanted to become a doctor, drive a Lamborghini, and own a mansion.
Attendees of the vigil voiced their support for Riya’s mother and shared their condolences.
“Honestly my heart is just broken. It was absolutely just horrible what happened to her. I feel for her mother, as a mother myself I could not imagine what she is going through,” an attendee of the vigil told CP24.
“Every time I see a post about her online my eyes tear up and I hug my son because it’s just heartbreaking. I just want her mother to know that the community is here to support her. I just wanted to be here to honour this little girl.”
Peel Regional Police launched an investigation into the abduction of Riya at around 7 p.m. on Feb. 14.
Riya’s mother told officers that the young girl was supposed to be celebrating her birthday with her father but he had failed to bring her home at the agreed upon time.
Police said Riya’s father Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, had made comments to the girl’s mother indicating that he planned to do harm to himself and his daughter.
An Amber Alert was issued for the child at around 11:30 p.m. A short time later, police revealed Riya’s lifeless body had been located in her father’s basement apartment in Brampton.
Her father was arrested during a high-risk takedown at around midnight in the area of Highway 11 near Orillia.
He has been charged with first-degree murder but remains in hospital while he receives treatment for a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Community leaders attended the vigil, which was also open to the public.
“It is truly with a heavy heart that we all come to mourn this senseless and tragic loss of young Riya,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said while addressing the crowd at the vigil. “As a mother of three, I can’t bear to imagine what Riya’s mother must be feeling and going through at this very moment.”
“The turnout tonight with all of you is a testament to the love that our community has for young Riya and this is a really important first step in the healing process.”
Neighbourhood Watch Brampton spokesperson Nicole Cedrone, who is one of the organizers of the vigil, said members of the community have many unanswered questions about the tragic circumstances surrounding Riya’s death.
“Everybody has been horribly gripped by this. This is just absolutely horrible to have happened. We are still in shock. Our community is extremely sad,” she said.
She added that Neighbourhood Watch Brampton has started a fundraiser in support of Riya’s family and so far, $35,000 has been donated from people across the world.
Riya’s funeral is set to take place on Wednesday, according to a memorial page on Lotus Funeral and Cremation Centre’s website.
Riya’s classmates return to classes with heavy hearts
Over the past few days, supporters have left balloons, candles and stuffed toys at an ever-growing memorial outside the home where Riya was found.
On Tuesday, students of Meadowvale Village Public School returned to classes after a holiday weekend and continued to grapple with her tragic death.
A similar memorial of pink balloons and candles lay under a tree on the property. Inside the school, a memorial table has been set up to allow students and staff to leave messages of condolence to Riya’s family.
Since Friday, parents have been trying to find the right words to talk to their children about the devastating situation.
The Peel District School Board has pointed parents to resources on the school’s website to help kids cope, but some say it’s harder than they imagined.
“I think just open discussion, being there for them. Not holding anything back... Being an ear for them and being there to comfort her through the whole situation,” another mother said.