National News

Police make arrest in death of hockey mom

By The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Homicide investigators have announced an arrest connected to the December 2013 slaying of a 53-year-old hockey mom, a crime that shocked Surrey, B.C., and led many to question the city's safety.

Julie Paskall, a mother of three, was attacked in the parking lot of a community ice arena Dec. 29, after arriving to pick up her son, a referee was who was officiating a minor hockey game. Paskall died in hospital on Dec. 31.

Investigators said at the time that they believed the attack was random, possibly a robbery attempt. After the police investigation had been ongoing for months, Mayor Dianne Watts said in April that a significant amount of progress had been made in the case.

Late Friday afternoon, police said there was an arrest. No charges had been laid, the team said, but a news conference was to be held on Saturday.

"Of course I'm elated, of course," Al Paskall, Julie Paskall's husband of 34 years, told Global News. "I mean obviously I just have that in the back of my mind, thinking when we get him convicted and we know it's him then it will be settled for me.

Sgt. Jennifer Pound, spokeswoman for the homicide team, said investigators and victim’s family were to attend the news conference.

She said police would not release additional information. A spokesman for Watts said the mayor would not be commenting on the arrest until Saturday.

Paskall's death rattled the community's sense of security and prompted some residents of Surrey to demand the city and the police do more to keep them safe.

Even before Paskall's death, Watts had formed a task force to figure out how to curb the city's murder rate. Surrey set a grim record of 25 homicides in 2013, including Paskall's death, compared with 11 the previous year.

The task force released a report a in February that called for additional police officers and increased street patrols, which would be deployed to "high-risk" locations known for drug trafficking and other criminal activity.

The report also called for increased use of closed circuit cameras, a special Crown counsel office dedicated to prolific offenders, administrative changes to ensure information is properly shared and that more money be spent on front-line officers rather than police management.

Watts said last month that there had already been progress, including increased police patrols and changes to improve lighting in the area, and she said the community of Newton, where the murder took place, was safer than it was when Paskall was attacked.

"When you look at an act that is random, certainly it is a great cause for concern, so we want to make sure that we're working with the community doing everything that we can to ensure the safety measures are in place," Watts said.

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