Teen killed in Burnaby park lost oxygen to brain for up to 10 minutes, expert witness says

A court sketch depicts Ibrahim Ali, who is facing a first degree murder charge in the death of a Burnaby teen.  (Felicity Don - image credit)
A court sketch depicts Ibrahim Ali, who is facing a first degree murder charge in the death of a Burnaby teen. (Felicity Don - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains details of sexual violence and assault.

A 13-year-old who was found dead in Burnaby Central Park had bloodflow cut off to her brain for up to 10 minutes before she died, according a neuropathologist who testified in court on Tuesday.

Dr. Stephen Yip, a neuropathologist with Vancouver General Hospital, examined the victim's brain in the weeks that followed her death on July 18, 2017. Neuropathologists identify injuries, illness and disease in the human brain.

Through analysis of brain tissue through a microscope, he said there were a number of "abnormalities" including shrunken neurons, indicative of a lack of oxygen or bloodflow, or hypoxic ischemia.

Dr. Yip told the jury the extent of the injuries suggest blood was cut off to the brain "from a few minutes to 10 minutes."

He said once the victim's blood and oxygen flow were no longer interfered with, she was likely still alive for 30 minutes to an hour as her body shut down. He said the brain injuries were most likely terminal.

"I think she most likely was still physiologically alive," he said. "Some of her basic cellular functions were still working but most likely unconscious, and it was a most likely irreversible process."

Dr. Yip said there was no visible damage to the victim's skull.

During cross-examination, Dr. Yip was asked if the brain injuries indicated exactly what happened to the victim to cause the lack of oxygen and blood to the brain. He said he couldn't say definitively.

Ibrahim Ali has been charged with first degree murder of the victim, whose name is protected by a publication ban.

In the Crown's opening statements, prosecutors said the teen was raped and strangled to death.

Her body was found by police in the early hours of July 19, after she was reported missing. Prosecutors say Ali's DNA was found at the crime scene.

Officer called to stand

The Crown also called Const. Ian Archie Robertson to the stand, who was with Coquitlam RCMP at the time of the victim's death. He said he was asked to assist with the crime scene in the morning of July 19.

He said his duties were to secure the perimeter of the crime scene and to help escort workers tasked with transporting the body to Vancouver General Hospital.

During cross-examination, defence questioned Robertson over a short interaction he said he had with a homeless resident near the scene.

Robertson said he only had a short conversation with the man, who then spoke with officers from the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

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