BREAKING NEWS B.C. jury finds Ibrahim Ali guilty of first-degree murder...

B.C. jury finds Ibrahim Ali guilty of first-degree murder girl, 13

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A first-degree murder conviction comes with a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

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The marathon murder trial of Ibrahim Ali has concluded with a jury finding that he sexually assaulted and strangled a 13-year-old girl, then left her body on the forest floor of a park in Burnaby more than six years ago.

It took the B.C. Supreme Court jury just a few hours to reach its verdict of first-degree murder after a trial that lasted more than eight months.

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There were repeated delays related to Ali’s mental and physical health, violent threats against defence lawyers, and the death of a Crown witness that prompted an unsuccessful mistrial application.

The jury returned with its verdict minutes after asking the judge to clarify the differences between first- and second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Justice Lance Bernard told them murder would mean Ali deliberately caused the girl’s death or meant to cause her bodily harm and knew that this was likely to cause death.

Bernard said it would qualify as first-degree murder if it happened while Ali committed or attempted to commit a sexual assault against the girl, whose name is protected by a publication ban.

The judge thanked the jury for their “patience and dedication.”

Ali had little reaction and those in the packed courtroom were quiet as the verdict was read out.

A first-degree murder conviction comes with a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

The main Crown evidence was semen found inside the girl’s body that was a DNA match to Ali.

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But Ali’s lawyer Kevin McCullough said the girl was not an “innocent” and it wasn’t “outlandish” to suggest she may have found Ali attractive.

Ali was a 28-year-old refugee from Syria when he was arrested for the death of the girl. Described by McCullough as unable to read or write in any language and suffering “serious mental health issues,” Ali had only been in Canada 17 months and had no previous criminal record.

Bernard told jurors in his instructions on Thursday that the case against Ali was circumstantial, requiring them to infer that Ali dragged the girl into the woods of Burnaby’s Central Park in July 2017, sexually assaulted her, then strangled her.

His defence lawyers told the jury they couldn’t find him guilty of first-degree murder because he had sex with a teenager, even if they found that “reprehensible.”

Ali pleaded not guilty in April at the start of what was supposed to be a three-month trial.

The jury heard from almost 50 Crown witnesses, including police, civilians and experts.

The defence called no witnesses and presented no evidence. McCullough told the jury the Crown hadn’t met the burden of proof.

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Behind the scenes, McCullough and his co-council, Ben Lynskey were threatened for their defence of Ali.

On Friday, McCullough told the court he had just “just received a litany of death threats” including ones he called “imminent.”

He asked the judge to move the hearing to a more secure courtroom, but the request was denied.

In hearings without the jury present this week, just before the judge was to give his instructions to the jury, McCullough read a note sent to him which said his family would suffer a violent death.

“It will happen before Christmas. The last thing you will know is that your family suffers like the child suffered. I am suicidal due to childhood predators looking for someone to cause pain to. I’ll burn myself alive.”

In September, the jury had heard from Dr. Tracy Pickett, a sexual assault expert who testified that the teen’s injuries strongly indicated that she had been sexually assaulted. But her testimony under cross-examination was never completed and she was found dead on the day she was due to return to the stand.

Bernard instructed the jury to disregard Pickett’s testimony and to resist all speculation about her death.

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Ali is expected to return to court on Tuesday.

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