Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Behind Closed Doors

"He was nice. If there was a new kid in the school he was like, 'You want to be friends?'"
Shawna Sebastian, ten, Mississauga, Ontario

Shawna was speaking of one of her classmates, Tyrese Masih, in Grade five at Bishop Scalabrini Catholic School in Mississauga, a Toronto suburb. Her friend Tyrese is dead. In front of the Masih family home within a community of spacious, double-garage brick homes fronted by neat lawns, a makeshift memorial has been gathering tributes to ten-year-old Tyrese, his little brother Santosh, four, and the boys' father, 36-year old Samuel Masih.

Facebook   The bodies of Samuel Masih, 36, and his sons Tyrese, top-right, and Santosh were found in a burned-out car near Barrie.

Shawna left her own note in memory of her now-dead schoolmate. It read: "You did not deserve this and you are a very sweet boy."

That very sweet boy and his very sweet younger brother lived with their mother and their grandmother as well, in the home they all shared as a happy family. Father Samuel informed his wife, Brintha Shanmugalingam, of his plan to take the boys to a see a film. They took a 118-kilometre drive from home to the Sunset Barrie drive-in.

A fairly long haul to see a film. But at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday for $17 a carload, people could take their choice of films. With three screens, there was a choice of three popular new family-oriented films that could be viewed.

According to the drive-in manager of the popular outdoor theatre, that Thursday night was packed with 450 people. He himself drove home at 4:30 a.m. Friday, passing Holick Road. It was an unusually cool evening for a 3rd of July, last week, when in greater Toronto nighttime temperatures dipped to 10C.

An hour later on July 4th, a passing motorist saw a plume of smoke from Holick Road. It is located a block from the drive-in; the road itself a remote dead-end street. Fire crews arrived to put out the flames that engulfed the Toyota Venza SUV. The three bodies within the vehicle were so badly burned police were unable to differentiate age or sex of the three bodies that had been consumed.

A later autopsy at the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Toronto concluded that Tyrese and Santosh had been immolated in the family van, together with their father. And it is solid police belief that whoever was responsible for the fire resulting in those three deaths, is among them.

Neighbours adding notes, lighting candles and praying among the flowers, teddy bears and balloons gathered on the front steps of the Masih-Shanmugalingam home report that the mother of the children, wife of their father, has not been seen in over a week. They also described a soccer-loving little boy excited at the thought of starting Grade 6 in the fall.

A makeshift memorial lays on the stairs of the home of a Missisauga father and two sons whose remains were identified in a burnt out vehicle near Barrie in Mississauga, Ontario on Thursday, July 10, 2014.
Laura Pedersen/National Post   A makeshift memorial lays on the stairs of the home of a Missisauga father and two sons whose remains were identified in a burnt out vehicle near Barrie in Mississauga, Ontario on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Tyrese's maternal grandmother lived with the family. She and the children's mother were accustomed to driving the two boys off to school in the morning, picking them up in the afternoon. Ten-year-old Shawna said she had noticed that Tyrese had abruptly changed his behaviour; he seemed to be sad, was no longer interested in speaking with anyone, preferring to be left alone.

"I just don't know how their mom's going to handle it. It's a lot to lose, to lose everyone she loved at once", said Emily Ah-Yen, 17, a next-door neighbour of the family. Mr. Masih was often away from home during the working week, as a psychiatrist working in North Bay. But he was home on weekends. The boys' mother worked in IT. "They loved their kids. It is shocking", said another neighbour.

Reverend Shahid Kamal, pastor at Evangelical Asian Church where the Masih family had been long-time members, recalled the father as "...a very quiet and serious guy. Very organized." The church, located on Royal York Road in Etobicoke, gives service to a small community of Pakistani and Indian Christians.

No one can ever know what lives behind the closed door of a family home. Mostly all is normal and family life results in children growing into adults maintaining loving relationships with their parents. The great unknown is the mysterious capacity of the human mind to forge within itself scenarios when the belief that life is no longer worth living, becomes a reality.

It is simply another irony that this might have been the conclusion that a medically trained mind of a psychiatrist had arrived at. A mind twisted enough by some inner tragedy of self to deprive two very young children of their futures and their mother of her pleasure in witnessing their gradual migration toward adulthood.

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