A 33-year-old man accused of killing a 13-year-old girl discovered dead in a Burnaby park more than six years ago has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
The jury returned with its verdict Friday afternoon in the trial of Ibrahim Ali, who was charged in September 2018 with the death of the girl, whose half-naked body was found in the forest in Central Park just after 1 a.m. on July 19, 2017, less than two hours after her family reported her missing.
The girl cannot be identified because of a publication ban.
Gasps could be heard in the gallery in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver when Justice Lance Bernard announced the jury had reached its verdict just minutes after he had given them "clearer definitions" of murder and manslaughter.
The jury had asked for the clarification Thursday evening after Bernard's final instructions.
Ali, who had sat beside his interpreter outside of the Plexiglas prisoner's box throughout the trial, was moved into the box while audience members in the packed courtroom waited restlessly for the jury to file in.
Four additional sheriffs lined the gallery.
Once the jury arrived, the foreman was asked to stand.
"Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?" the court clerk asked.
"Yes, we have," the foreman said.
"Mr. Foreperson, what is your verdict as to the accused Ibrahim Ali on count 1 of first-degree murder, guilty or not guilty?"
"We find him guilty."
Members of the girl's family could be seen hugging and shaking hands as they filed out of the courtroom.
The girl's brother gave no comment to the media as he left.
"We'll do that later," he said. "I'm happy to do that, but just later."
Crown prosecutors Daniel Porte and Isobel Keeley also declined to make a statement as did defence lawyers Kevin McCullough and Ben Lynskey.
The jury's verdict shows jurors accepted the Crown's theory that Ali had pulled the girl off a secondary path at Central Park and strangled her to death in the forest while sexually assaulting her.
Ali's sperm was found in the girl's vagina and anus, according to DNA witnesses who testified at the eight-month trial.
But jurors rejected the defence's explanation that Ali and the girl had had sex somewhere outside of the park and someone else had later killed her and dumped her body in the forest.