National Post

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Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Dentist killed husband in defence, father says
Parents in Saskatoon seek embassy help for daughter wed by arranged marriage

Tom Arnold
National Post

Dr. Viresh Patel, left, towers over his bride, Dr. Alpna Patel, during their arranged marriage 10 months ago. Alpna Patel has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of her husband.

The father of a Saskatoon dentist charged with murdering the husband she wed 10 months ago in a high-profile arranged marriage has backed her claim that she fatally stabbed her partner to protect herself.

In the family's first media interview, Dr. Dev Amin, a prominent Saskatoon physician, said he is fighting to get Canadian Embassy officials involved in the case and hopes the government can help his daughter, Dr. Alpna Patel, get out on bail while she awaits a grand jury investigation.

Now behind bars under an around-the-clock suicide watch, the 27-year-old dentist faces first-degree murder charges in the death of her husband, Dr. Viresh Patel. He was enrolled in a surgical residency program at a U.S. hospital when he was stabbed in the neck and chest with a kitchen knife, at his Baltimore, Md., apartment.

She could face the death penalty.

"I think we know our daughter and we feel, and the whole community here feels, that this is something that she is not capable of," said Dr. Amin.

"Alpna is a very intelligent, kind and loving person. She is very articulate, very well informed, and mature in her views and opinions. We know our daughter, and there is no violent tendencies in her. There never has been."

Alpna Patel, who lived with her in-laws at the time of the murder, confessed to police that she had stabbed her husband after he came at her with a knife.

The Patels were the subject of a nationally televised CBC documentary last fall, entitled Bound by Tradition. In it, the couple said they chose an arranged marriage after being introduced by their parents.

"We just couldn't believe it," Dr. Amin said upon hearing the news from the police on March 24.

"It was very emotional when we first saw her but there was no personal contact allowed. We were talking through windows. She was quite scared and afraid of being in there."

The family is restricted to one visit each week. Dr. Amin returned to Saskatoon a week ago, while Alpna Patel's mother came back to Canada this past weekend. Her mother hired a lawyer and began compiling facts to prepare for the legal proceedings. Dr. Patel is expected to be arraigned later this month.

Detective Marvin Sydnor of the Baltimore police department said he does not believe Dr. Patel's version of events because there is no evidence to support her story.

Dr. Amin said the family has been unsuccessful in getting any help or advice from embassy officials since the ordeal began.

But Michael O'Shaughnessy, a spokesman for the department of foreign affairs, said Dr. Patel has been offered a list of lawyers as well as any necessary medical help.

"We have offered consular assistance to the individual in question," he said, but would not elaborate.

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