Globe and Mail

Mother laid plans for exit, relatives say

Children's clothes worn at father's funeral arranged on bed with letter, cash, cheques

Tuesday, July 18, 2000
The Globe and Mail

Before police found Yaso Mahendran inside a car trunk with her two dead children, relatives say, she left signs of meticulous planning.

The 32-year-old widow must have consulted the spirit of her dead husband in the family's prayer room, relatives said, because they found scrolls of paper in front of his photograph. One of them contained a simple statement in Tamil in Ms. Mahendran's handwriting.

"It said something like, 'Do you want me to come?' " her cousin Tamesh Thankaraja said. "This paper said 'Yes.' "

In a bedroom of the Scarborough home, relatives found funeral clothes laid on the bed: a sari, and formal attire for her little girl and boy, Shiyami, 5, and Sageeve, 3. They were the clothes the family had worn to the funeral of Ms. Mahendran's husband, Mahendran Thiyagarajah, after he died in an accident last August at the age of 42.

Mr. Thankaraja said that Ms. Mahendran's signature was also found on three cheques for thousands of dollars made out to the Hospital for Sick Children and a local Tamil community group. There was also a cheque returning most of the compensation money she'd received from the office furniture factory where her husband had a fatal fall from a shelving rack.

Relatives discovered the cheques and some cash -- about $200,000 in total -- in a brown envelope on Ms. Mahendran's bed on top of the clothes. The envelope also contained cash marked for funeral expenses, Mr. Thankaraja said, and a suicide note assuring police no one was to blame but herself.

"The letter said, 'I'm going crazy and there will be nobody to look after the kids,' " Mr. Thankaraja said. He said he found these things at about 6 p.m. on Monday and called police.

Later that evening, officers opened the trunk of a car parked in the driveway and found the unconscious woman and the bodies of her children.

An ambulance took her to Scarborough Hospital's General Division, where she remained last night under police guard. A hospital spokeswoman said she was "stable" but would not describe her condition.

Homicide detectives formally charged Ms. Mahendran with two counts of first-degree murder yesterday.

Relatives living nearby say the woman, who had immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka 11 years ago, had been depressed since her husband's death.

"She couldn't sleep at night," said her brother-in-law, Yogeswaran Thiyagarajah, 47. "We gave her a lot of support, but there was nothing we could do."

Friends and relatives brought her food and did the housework. They planted a garden in her yard, visiting regularly to water and weed the beds. The well-kept front garden of her bungalow on Nero Court still bursts with roses, pansies, daisies and marigolds.

Mr. Thankaraja, 26, said he would visit the children every day, put Sri Lankan music on the stereo and dance with them.

"They were beautiful kids, very smart," Mr. Thankaraja said.

But Ms. Mahendran couldn't be consoled for the death of her husband. Mr. Thankaraja would often find her crying in her room with the lights off. She refused offers of counselling, he said.

"Nothing makes her happy," Mr. Thankaraja said. "Only her husband makes her happy."

Still, Mr. Thankaraja said, relatives had no hint until Monday that her depression was so severe.

At a tearful news conference yesterday, Mr. Thankaraja voiced a prayer for the two dead children.

"As we wait for answers to our endless questions, we pray for God's grace," he said.

Autopsies are scheduled for both children this morning.

Copyright 2001 Globe Interactive, a division of Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.