National Post

July 18, 2001

'Tears in her eyes' always

Two children found dead: Mother never recovered from death of husband

Mark Gollom
National Post

Shyami and her brother, Sajeev, in a photo taken about three weeks ago, often asked if their father would be coming home.

Peter Redman, National Post
Vijithi Sivasothynathan, sister of Jasotha Mahendriran, at a news conference yesterday.

TORONTO - A 32-year-old woman has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of her two young children.

Jasotha "Yaso" Mahendriran was found semi-conscious in the trunk of the family car Monday in Scarborough, alongside the lifeless bodies of her five-year-old daughter, Shyami, and three-year-old son, Sajeev.

There were no obvious signs of trauma to the children, the National Post has learned, which may mean an autopsy scheduled for this morning will be inconclusive until toxicology tests are completed.

Relatives said Mrs. Mahendriran, who is in stable condition and under police guard in hospital, had been distraught since last year, when her husband died in an industrial accident. But some said yesterday she may have been pushed over the edge by the ongoing illness of her daughter.

Two cousins arrived at the home Monday afternoon, near Eglinton Avenue and Brimley Road, to find all the doors open and a number of financial documents strewn along a table.

"When they opened the door, we could hear her crying, all the women crying," said Khawar Mughal, a neighbour.

Police were called and did a quick search of the home before discovering car keys near the tire of the family's Honda

"The police officer opened the trunk. When he opened the trunk, I saw the legs [of the mother]. She was wearing jeans," Mrs. Mughal said.

Mrs. Mahendriran came to Canada 11 years ago to join her husband, Mahendriran Thiyagarajah, and start a family. Mr. Thiyagarajah first worked in restaurants, but eventually found a job at a furniture warehouse.

Relatives said he was thrilled with his new employment because it gave him more time to be with his family.

But on Aug. 21 last year, only six months into the job, Mr. Thiyagarajah died after breaking his neck in a fall.

Since his death, Mrs. Mahendriran was in a constant depression, those close to her said.

"Every time I would speak to her to ask her how she was doing she cried. She's always having tears in her eyes," said Mrs. Mughal.

Shan Rama, a relative, said the children always reminded Mrs. Mahendriran that her husband was gone.

"They would ask, 'When is my daddy coming back?' Every day, breakfast or lunch, they ask, 'Where's my daddy?' "

Mr. Rama was at the family home three weeks ago to celebrate Shyami's birthday.

"We came with cake but [the mother] said, 'Don't cut the cake.' It was because of the [dead] husband. They didn't want to do anything [special]."

Mrs. Mahendriran was also dealing with her daughter's illness, Mr. Rama said. Last year, Shyami began losing her hair and developed swelling on her head.

"I remember her husband taking her to the hospital sometimes once a week. She was very, very worried about her daughter. She always talked about it," Mrs. Mughal said.

She had recently taken Shyami to the Hospital for Sick Children, Mr. Rama said, but he did not know the results of the examination or the nature Shyami's illness.

But he said a suicide note discovered by her sister talked about her daughter's illness and her husband's untimely death.

"Why is she going to do it now? Because of the daughter. If she wanted to do it [because of the husband] she would have done it a month after he died," Mr. Rama said.

He said the suicide note detailed how Mrs. Mahendriran had written "Yes" and "No" on two pieces of paper. She crumpled, mixed and placed them before her husband's photo and asked if she would join him in death. According to the letter, she picked the "Yes" paper, he said.

Mr. Rama said this Sri Lankan custom, akin to flipping a coin, is usually done with different coloured flower petals and is used to make difficult decisions.

He said she was financially secure and surrounded by friends and family. A relative would call every morning to see how the family was doing, he said.

Indeed, family members made repeated calls Monday morning and began to worry when no one answered.

At a news conference yesterday afternoon, relative Tamesh Thankaraja, surrounded by other family members, noted that "before we completely recover from one tragedy, another one has struck us." He said the family has "endless questions" but acknowledged that "Yaso found it difficult to fully recover from the loss of her husband."

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