30th Anniversary: Tragedies brought national spotlight on community

Murders of Reena Virk and Lindsay Buziak rocked the community of Saanich

The Feb. 6

The Feb. 6

Two of Saanich’s greatest tragedies in the past 30 years are also two of the most defining incidents that drew national, and international attention to Saanich.

On Nov. 14, 1997, Saanich resident Reena Virk, just 14 years old, was beaten, and then drowned, by peers under the Craigflower Bridge. Like Virk, some of the attackers were from the Shoreline school they attended across the Gorge in View Royal.

Virk’s body was discovered eight days later by a helicopter. It had washed ashore farther up the Gorge Waterway.

Two of Virk’s assailants, teens Warren Glowatski and Kelly Ellard, took the brunt for the murder charges and were tried as adults, though there were others involved in earlier parts of the incident. The group was known as the “Shoreline Six.”

The teen-on-teen violence was a touchpoint that sparked a media frenzy around the case. National newspapers and television cameras packed the media room of the Saanich Police detachment, visited the crime scene, and told Virk’s story through ongoing news segments, features, and in hour-long news specials such as Hard Copy.

In 1997 and 1998, the Saanich News’ coverage was shared by talented reporters Jeff Gaulin and Cindy Harnett.

“Covering the murder trial was a very difficult experience, both as a member of the community and as a professional journalist,” Gaulin recalled. “It was incredible to experience the influx of national media for a few days and then experience its departure. Getting to know the police officers involved. Walking the community. Visiting the crime scene under the bridge.”

At the time, Gaulin worked with Const. Chris Horsley, who handled the media relations for Saanich Police.

By Jan. 14, 1998, Gaulin featured Horsley in a Saanich News piece that looked at the aftermath of the media frenzy.

Flash forward to 2016, and Horsley is now a detective sergeant and is in charge of the Lindsay Buziak homicide in Gordon Head.

Buziak was a 24-year-old real estate agent showing an unoccupied home when she was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008.

It took days for Saanich Police to release information regarding the murder, and to date no arrests have been made, nor have the police been able to name a prime suspect. Yet the case remains active.

Erin Reynel (Cardone) was the Saanich News reporter at the time.

“It was an exceptional case in that it remains unsolved, despite the number of tips and amount of evidence the police collected,” Reynel recalled. “Secrets do a great job of hiding the truth, even when there’s some evidence that tries to reveal it.”

For the past six years, Buziak’s father, Jeff, has led the Lindsay Buziak Walk for Justice, a 17-kilometre trek on the day of Buziak’s death. Dozens of community members join Jeff for the march which starts at the Royal Oak Burial Park (where her ashes remain), then visits the murder scene at De Souza Place before heading back to Saanich Municipal Hall.

In 2016 Jeff Buziak made a bold statement by wearing a noose around his neck for the sixth annual walk.

“I feel like a prisoner, like I’m being hanged by this noose, every day I’m just hanging on,” Jeff said.