Conservative MP, friends say they were stunned by murder charges against party volunteer

·6 min read
Rakesh David, arrested on Sept. 24, has been charged with the murder of his grandmother, mother and brother in Trinidad and Tobago. (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service - image credit)
Rakesh David, arrested on Sept. 24, has been charged with the murder of his grandmother, mother and brother in Trinidad and Tobago. (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service - image credit)

Conservative MP Mike Lake says he and his team were "shocked" to learn that Rakesh David, a 25-year-old volunteer for his office, has been accused of killing his grandmother, mother and brother in Trinidad and Tobago.

"It's devastating. It's devastating," an emotional Lake told CBC News.

"There's really not much to say. We're all trying to understand it and I think some things you just can't understand."

David had been volunteering remotely online for Lake since May of this year.

WATCH: MP Mike Lake says he's in shock after former volunteer's arrest

An initial report from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service says Kumari Kowlessar-Timal, 77, Radeshka Timal, 48, and 22-year-old Zachary David were found dead on September 24 with gunshot wounds to their heads.

Global Affairs Canada says it is in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and is providing consular services to David and his family.

"Global Affairs Canada is aware of the death of three Canadian citizens in Trinidad and Tobago. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the Canadian citizens who passed away," a department spokesperson said in an email to CBC.

Guardian Media Limited, Trinidad and Tobago
Guardian Media Limited, Trinidad and Tobago

The initial police report says officers responding to a report of "loud explosions" arrived at the scene and met Rakesh David, a dual Canadian-Trinidadian citizen who was visiting relatives in El Socorro at the time.

The report says David told police he was using the bathroom in the family home — located on the upper level of a two-storey dwelling — when he heard loud explosions. The report says he told officers that he found his family members "slumped on a couch in the living room all suffering from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head."

Rakesh David was arrested the same day and charged with three counts of murder on Oct. 1.

Police reportedly said gun was registered in Canada

A police Facebook post says David was also charged with possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition, possession of a firearm to endanger life and possession of ammunition to endanger life.

A report in the local newspaper, the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, says homicide investigators are saying the pistol used in the crime was registered in Canada and that they are trying to determine how the firearm was brought into the country.

CBC has been unable to independently verify those reports.

Moshe Appel and Dakota Jeffery-Petts, two Conservative volunteers who befriended David while volunteering for the party, said they were appalled when they heard the news. They said the acts of which David is accused are completely out of character.

WATCH: Moshe Appel, a friend of Rakesh David, describes his reaction to the arrest

"It's tough. It's tough losing a friend, especially when that friend is being accused of murdering his family," Appel told CBC News from his home in Victoria.

"He hasn't shown any signs of, you know, family conflict. He hadn't discussed any fights that he had with his family. Nothing, just completely happy-go-lucky Rakesh."

"I was completely stunned for a good two minutes. I just couldn't move. I was just like, No way, no way. This had to be a joke," Jeffrey-Petts said from Toronto.

"And then I saw the mug shot in the article and I was like, 'Oh my God, what? No, no, no.'"

Friends talked about election the day before the deaths

Appel and Jeffrey-Petts said that after hearing the news, they immediately started reading through old emails and texts from David.

"Just trying to see if there was something that I missed or something that he said that could have maybe given some insight into what he was actually thinking. And there was nothing. It just left me more confused," Jeffrey-Petts said.

They say that the day before the murders allegedly took place, the three men exchanged texts and engaged in "casual political talk" about the recent federal election result and what it might mean for Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole's future. Nothing in David's comments struck them as out of the ordinary, they added.

WATCH: Dakota Jeffery-Petts shares his reaction to Rakesh David's arrest

"It just seemed like business as usual, just like a regular conversation that we had," Appel said.

Appel and Jeffery-Petts said that, weeks before the deaths, David started talking about getting his firearms licence and buying a gun.

They said that on Sept. 15, David sent them a text with a picture of his new gun range membership. "I am now a full member at a gun range," David wrote in the text. "Shot my first rounds today."

His friends said David shared his recent travel itinerary with them via email. It included a Sept. 8 trip to Ottawa to obtain a security clearance card to permit him to volunteer for Lake on Parliament Hill.

Conservative Party cut ties with accused

A spokesperson for the Conservative Party said the party has severed ties with David.

"The Conservative Party has become aware of extremely serious allegations against this individual. His volunteer credentials have been terminated and he holds no formal role with the Conservative Party of Canada," Cory Hann wrote in an email.

David describes himself on Twitter as an "MP's assistant" and his LinkedIn page says he served as a "campaign manager." The Conservative Party says he did not hold a paid position with the party or with any MP.

Rakesh David Twitter @_RakeshDavid
Rakesh David Twitter @_RakeshDavid

David was born with facial differences, eye disorders and minor limb disfigurements.

He wrote about it in a testimonial for Athabasca University, an Alberta-based online institution where David was a political science student. The testimonial has since been taken down.

"I have completed over 60 reconstructive surgeries and procedures since I was born, and the long list of surgeries and treatments will continue for the foreseeable future," the article says.

In his testimonial, David cites his favourite quote: "You can't blend in when you were born to stand out."

"This message has been a powerful motivator that has gotten me to where I am because I recognize that I was born for a reason and that I have to use my 'gift' to my fullest potential," David wrote.

Lake, who has a son with autism, has always been an advocate for people with disabilities.

"Our team has always been committed to helping people who are vulnerable and that's not going to change," he said.

Death penalty possible for murder in Trinidad-Tobago

David's own travel itinerary and the public prosecutor's office in Trinidad and Tobago both confirm he arrived in the Caribbean country the day before the deaths occurred.

His friends said that David texted them the day before the deaths of his family members, saying he was returning to Canada on October 10.

"I just thought he sounded so hopeful. And there were a lot of things that he was saying that he was looking forward to doing once he moved back to Canada. Which makes what happened just completely, you know, it doesn't make any sense," Appel said.

Trinidad and Tobago Director of Public Prosecution Roger Gaspar said that he could not talk about the specifics of the case, but confirmed the maximum punishment for murder in that country is death.

CBC News is trying to determine who is acting as David's legal representative in order to obtain comment.

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