It’s not uncommon for kids to get bullied by their peers, especially in middle school when they transition from being children to adolescents. However, when bullying goes too far, lives and families can be destroyed. This is the tragic story of 14-year-old Reena Virk, who was murdered by a mob of teens in British Columbia, Canada.
A Strict Upbringing of Reena Virk
Reena Virk was born on March 10, 1983, in Saanich, British Columbia. Her mother was from an Indo-Canadian family that converted to Jehovah’s Witness from Hinduism after settling in Canada. The family was deeply devoted to their new religion. Reena’s father was an immigrant from India.
Both parents were considered very religious.
Reena was the eldest of three children and was raised in a middle-class suburb of View Royal. Her neighborhood was comprised of primarily white, upper-class families, which made her stick out. As a result, Reena was often bullied for her race and appearance.
Being bullied brought out the worst in Reena, and she began to act out at home and in school. She would pick fights with her family members and soon slipped into depression. Once her parents discovered she was being bullied, the family moved in hopes of helping Reena start anew.
In 1996, Reena began attending Colquitz Middle School and found a new group of friends she deemed the “cool kids.”
Unfortunately, her new group of friends only made Reena’s life worse. Desperate for acceptance amongst her peers, Reena began to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes and marijuana.
However, she couldn’t maintain the same party lifestyle as her friends due to her strict parents and craved more freedom.
Possible Solution to Problems
In 1996 when Reena was 13 years old, a friend gave her a solution to her problems. Her friend advised her that if she needed to escape her home, she could claim abuse to the police and be put into foster care. Reena followed through and told the police that she was being physically abused. However, no charges were filed due to a lack of physical evidence.
Due to her allegations of abuse, she was eventually removed from her parent’s home and sent to live with her grandparents.
This time, the story stuck, and in 1997, Reena’s father was arrested for sexual abuse and put in jail. However, Reena eventually told the police that she lied, and all charges were cleared.
Reena then said that she was uncomfortable staying with her grandparents. She was sent to live in a foster home like she originally wanted. At the foster home, she met new friends and adopted their bad habits, such as smoking, drinking, and even claiming she was in a gang.
It wasn’t long until Reena realized that living in a foster home wasn’t what she thought it would be, and she wanted to go home. She apologized to her parents and went home for a short period before deciding to leave again. She stayed in a youth shelter before being placed in government care.
The Murder of Reena Virk
On November 14, 1997, Reena was staying at her parents’ house for an overnight visit when her friend invited her to a party at a local school. The police eventually broke up the party, so the teens moved to the nearby Craigflower Bridge, where they continued to drink and smoke.
At 10:40 p.m., Reena called her parents to tell them that she was on her way home and would arrive before her 11 p.m. curfew.
That was the last time Reena’s parents would ever speak to her. Before leaving the Craigflower Bridge, Reena was swarmed by a group of girls, later known as the Shoreline Six.
The beating continued until one of the girls told the others to stop. Witnesses say that the attack was unprovoked.
While Reena lived through the initial beating and started to walk home, she didn’t get far before two other teens at the bridge, 15-year-old Kelly Ellard and sixteen-year-old Warren Glowatski, started to follow her.
They eventually grabbed Reena and dragged her to the other side of the Craigflower Bridge, where they gave her a second beating.
After the event at Craigflower Bridge, the teens involved made a pack to not “rat each other out.” However, it wasn’t long until rumors started to spread around Shoreline Middle School about the beating that Reena received. While several students and teachers uninvolved with the incident heard the rumors, no one came forward to report it to the police.
On November 22, 1997, the rumors were confirmed when police used a helicopter to help locate Reena’s body which was washed ashore at the Gorge Inlet.
While many people were involved in the murder of Reena Virk, not all received the same sentences.
All but one of the girls received sentences as she was found to be incapable of going to jail due to several suicide attempts. The girl in question had PTSD from childhood due to having seen her father’s violent death.
Warren Paul Glowatski, the male perpetrator who played a crucial role in Reena’s death, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. On the night of Reena’s murder, Warren got involved in the beating and kicked Reena twice in the head.
Warren, along with Kelly Ellard, followed Reena after the first beating had ended and partook in the second beating.
As Warren was 16 at the time of the murder, he became eligible for parole after serving just seven years. However, he was denied day parole in November 2004. Reena’s family did not contest Warren’s parole as they believed he had expressed responsibility and remorse for the part he played in the murder.
In December 2006, Warren applied for day parole again and was granted in June 2007. He was released on full parole in June 2010.
The Fate of Other Girls
Kelly Ellard stood trial three times for the murder of Reena Virk and was convicted twice. The first conviction was overturned on appeal, and the BC Court of Appeals overturned the second conviction. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Kelly’s third trial was fairly executed, and her conviction would stand.
In November 2017, Kelly was granted conditional parole, and in October 2018, her day parole was extended. However, it was later suspended in August 2021 when she failed to report domestic violence. The suspension was canceled in October 2021. In May 2022, Kelly waived her right to a parole hearing. She has since changed her name to Kerry Marie Sim.
Nicole Cook, who was involved in the beating and responsible for putting out the cigarette on Reena’s forehead, had lived in the group home with her around the time of the murder. In an MSNBC documentary, Nicole revealed that she had started the mayhem with the cigarette act and also punched and kicked Reena repeatedly.
Nicole returned to the crime scene the following day to retrieve Reena’s sweater and shoes. She brought the items back to the group home and forced another resident to hide them in her closet. Nicole also forced the younger resident to call Reena’s mother while the search efforts were going on.
While no motives have been revealed by the perpetrators involved in the crime, a book about the case, titled Under the Bridge, by Rebecca Godfrey, sheds some light on possible motives.
Two of the girls that were convicted in the initial beating of Reena Virk allege that Reena had stolen a phone book belonging to Nicole Cook and began calling Nicole’s friends and spreading rumors about her.
Race was also a theory in crime. Missy Grace Pleich, one of the girls involved in the initial beating, allegedly targeted Reena due to her race. Others in the group, including Warren, had allegedly bullied Reena for racial reasons.
The death of Reena Virk promoted nationwide attention to subjects like bullying and racism, especially among young girls. Following their daughter’s death, Reena’s parents established several anti-bullying campaigns and spoke about the effects of bullying on students, teachers, and law enforcement officials. Sadly other crimes that started out as innocent bullying have continued in Canada, like the murder of Serena Mckay in 2017.
Reena’s parents were given British Columbia’s Anthony J. Hulme Award of Distinction in 2009 for their efforts toward crime prevention and community safety.
In 2012, Reena’s mother spoke out about her death and the profound effects of bullying, saying the following:
“For so long, we were consumed with the legalities of dealing with our murdered child, the courts prolonging the cases. And it’s kind of like you put your feelings and your grief on hold. And I’m finding that now I’m feeling more of the impact of losing Reena, the emotions and feelings. So actually, I’m struggling more now and missing her more. I’m sad to say that the severity and the frequency of bullying are increasing instead of decreasing. And also, I think we’re all shocked by the means that young people are using to bully their peers, with cyberbullying and texting and all these things that were not there when Reena was killed.”
Reena’s mother, Suman Virk, died at 58 in an accident on June 16, 2018. British Columbia Premier John Horgan expressed his condolences to the Virk family on Twitter, stating, “Suman’s tireless work to end bullying has helped make life better for countless kids in BC.”