CANADA — Devastated friends of slain Delta teen Laura Szendrei had one special supporter this week — Canada’s first police trauma canine.
Caber, a two-year-old yellow Lab, was brought to Szendrei’s school — Burnsview secondary — Monday and Tuesday to help students deal with their grief after Szendrei’s fatal weekend beating
Delta Police obtained Caber for its victims’ services unit earlier this year. The dog’s specialized training ended just Sunday.
Victims’ services coordinator Kim Gramlich said the response to the dog was “absolutely remarkable.
“There are probably no words to describe the impact that the dog had,” she said Thursday, with Caber at her side. “There were multiple times
throughout the day when there would be upwards of 10 kids on the floor with their hands on Caber petting him and so on. We have been extremely pleased that we had this tool in our repertoire.”
She said many U.S. police forces use trauma dogs, but Delta is the first in Canada to get one.
“He can provide an extraordinary level of empathy that is non-judgmental, unconditional,” she said. “He is simply very affectionate and loving to all those people that he supports. And that physical contact he provides to people is really tremendous.”
She said Caber seems to have a sixth sense that enables him to seek out the most upset person nearby.
“I think dogs also have an ability to appreciate who the most troubled or upset person in the room is frankly. They can sort of pick that person out and go right to them,” she said. “He’ll know just the right person to put his head on their lap at just the right time.”
Delta Police Sgt. Sharlene Brooks said the department is working “aggressively” to find Szendrei’s killer, but also working hard to make the whole community feel safer in light of the daytime murder in a popular park.
In fact, she had several students and parents show up unexpectedly at her news conference Thursday because
they are so eager for information about their friend’s murder.
Brooks said investigators still can’t say if the 15-year-old was targeted by her killer or happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
While more than 150 tips have come in from the public, she said police still want to talk to anyone who was in the wooded area of Mackie Park between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sept. 25. Szendrei’s body was found about 1 p.m. that day.
“Police want to speak to those individuals to determine if they heard or saw anything that was suspicious in nature or something that was out of place in the area,” she said.
She said Delta is working with police agencies across the Lower Mainland and in Victoria on the case, comparing notes on any similar attacks.
“The Delta police are reviewing not only files and incidents that occur in our area, but also speaking and continuing to have communication with agencies across the Lower Mainland who have on-going investigations to determine if there are any connections,” she said.
She also confirmed that members of the Hells Angels were at Szendrei’s private funeral Wednesday and said investigators are looking at whether the family’s relationship with the bikers played any role in her death.
“We are considering all possibilities,” Brooks said.
“We were aware that there were members of the Hells Angels at this funeral. They were there to pay tribute to a friend whose daughter was tragically taken from him.”
But she said police are not ruling anything out in the early days of the investigation.
“We are dealing in the real world. We can’t solve these things in minutes, hours. It takes time. We need to be methodical and thorough,” she said.
“There is an urgency that we sense to be able to develop information with respect to a suspect or suspects.”