Hilary Bonnell's family continues to face adversity 11 years after her murder

·4 min read

As she stood looking at the charred remains of her home on the Esgenoopetitj First Nation, Pamela Fillier wondered what else her family could endure.

Eleven years ago, her daughter Hilary Bonnell was murdered and her body was not found for two months. After a seven-week trial in 2012, her cousin was found guilty of first-degree murder.

Earlier this month, not long after the fire, her husband's son was stabbed seven times in Toronto.

"I'm wondering how much more I can take," said Fillier.

She said all that she had left of her daughter besides precious memories were special mementos and the urn containing her ashes she kept in her bedside table.

Volunteer firefighters from the Neguac Fire Department were able to find the urn and give it to Fillier and her husband, Fred Fillier.


"I really thought I was going to lose Hilary's ashes," said Filier. "I told them the most important thing to me right now is get my daughter's ashes out."

As for Bonnell's other things — her first communion and confirmation dresses and the flower girl dress she wore to her parents wedding — they likely can't be salvaged.

Urn found

Gail Harding/CBC
Gail Harding/CBC

Fillier said firefighters told her the area around where the ashes were found was not burned.

"It's crazy because even the picture that was on top of her ashes you wouldn't even think it was in a fire. Even the box her ashes were in, it didn't even catch fire."

Fillier said since the night of the fire on June 26, her family has been struggling with what happened and knowing she could have lost another child that night as well.

The couples' 14-year-old son, Frederick, was home alone playing video games in the living room when he smelled smoke. He went to the kitchen to check but didn't see anything. Only when he said he saw sparks from the fire fall down in front of the living room window, did he realize the house was on fire.

"I ran downstairs thinking I was saving my sister. I was looking for my mom and dad."

'It was bad'

Gail Harding/CBC
Gail Harding/CBC

Frederick then ran and grabbed his video game console and phone and ran out through the smoked-filled kitchen. Once outside, he ran to a neighbour's for help.

"It must have been so scary for him. That's what freaks me out a lot. Really, I don't want to believe someone would do this."

"When we got here, it was bad, Everything was up in flames."

As she walked around the house looking at items her husband had brought out, Fillier said it's a lot to process.

"These are my mother's paintings. They are totally ruined. My mom's gone. Her paintings being gone that's it. I won't get another painting."

Fillier said her son is having a difficult time over the loss of his home and belongings. Now he, his parents, and an older sister and her three young children are living in two hotel rooms while they wait to see if the band council is going to replace the band owned house.

"I get so caught up when I come here because you're trying to save whatever you could."

Another child hurt

Fred Fillier/Facebook
Fred Fillier/Facebook

Then, if dealing with the loss of their home wasn't enough, the couple received news on July 5 that Fred's son had been stabbed and was in hospital in critical condition in Toronto. He is expected to recover.

"You can't lose anything greater then a child, you really can't," Fillier said. So after you lose a child everything else, it adds on but there's nothing worse than losing a child, nothing."

"But this doesn't frigging help, that's for sure."

Gail Harding/CBC
Gail Harding/CBC

The family is also waiting to see what, if anything will come of the RCMP's investigation of the cause of the fire, which they were told by firefighters was suspicious. The fire is believed to have started on the outside of the house under the patio.

CBC News did not get a response from the RCMP for an update on the file.

As Fillier stood looking at her home and watching her son poke through the rubble, nearby on a wooden bench lay two stones with the words "hope" and "believe" etched on them.

"I found those. I think it was a sign."