Montreal man visited Toronto Zoo in middle of killing spree, coroner's inquest hears

Zoo visit during killing spree

A coroner's inquest heard Monday that a man killed two people at random in Montreal in August 2022, then travelled to Ontario to visit the Toronto Zoo and Canada's Wonderland before returning to Quebec to murder again.

Police identified Abdulla Shaikh, 26, from video at the Ontario amusement parks, and receipts from the venues were found in his car, provincial police investigator Alexandra Caron Vadeboncoeur told the inquest.

Shaikh killed three people in the Montreal area at random within a 24-hour period before police tracked him down and shot him dead, the inquest heard Monday. Coroner Géhane Kamel is presiding over the inquiry into the murders of André Lemieux, Mohamed Belhaj, Alex Lévis-Crevier and the police killing of the 26-year-old suspect.

Kamel said in her opening statement that the hearings will shed light on the deaths and produce recommendations to help prevent similar murders from occurring.

Caron Vadeboncoeur testified that there were no links between Shaikh's victims. She said that according to witnesses and video footage, a white Dodge Challenger was in the vicinity of where all three people were killed.

Police have said that within about one hour in Montreal on Aug. 2, Shaikh fatally shot Lemieux, 64, who was inside a bus shelter and Belhaj, 48, who was walking to work. About 24 hours later in Laval, Que., just north of Montreal, he killed 22-year-old Lévis-Crevier, who was skateboarding on the street.

Shaikh, who had a history of mental-health problems, had no criminal record despite some brushes with the law. Caron Vadeboncoeur said he was diagnosed with schizophrenia around 2017 or 2018 and was not taking his medication as prescribed: one injection every three months. She did not say what medication he had been taking.

In the lead up to the killings, Shaikh had been living alone in a Montreal apartment but did not have any friends, Caron Vadeboncoeur said. He was close to his mother, who had been texting him on the messaging application WhatsApp around the time of the murders.

Quebec's mental-health review board ruled in March 2022 that Shaikh, who was under the supervision of a mental-health hospital, posed a "significant risk'' to public safety but could continue living in the community, having shown improvement over the previous six months.

Police tracked him to a room at Motel Pierre, in Montreal's St-Laurent borough, where officers killed him, allegedly after an exchange of gunfire at about 7 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 4, 2022.

Caron Vadeboncoeur said police recovered two weapons linked to Shaikh: one was on the suspect and another in the Dodge Challenger, which had been parked near the motel. She said the suspect had rented the Dodge using a car-sharing application called Turo.

Caron Vadeboncoeur said Shaikh had no permit for a weapon.

"What we can say about the origin of the weapons is they were legal, he wasn't allowed to be in possession, but they were possibly found on the black market, or could have been assembled," Caron Vadeboncoeur said.

Kamel told the inquiry that a presentation on the weapons would be heard later.

Earlier this month, the province's prosecutor's office said no charges would be laid in connection with Shaikh's death.

The public hearings will continue through this week, as well as over a few weeks in October

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