Toronto’s Tibetan community is paralyzed with grief.
In June, Nyima Dolma, a Tibetan woman, was doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire at Kipling Station.
The attack, which 28-year-old Dolma died from last Tuesday after two-and-a-half weeks in hospital, was initially considered “hate-motivated” by police. In an email to the Star Tuesday, police now say homicide investigators are “exploring the motivation behind this attack and are not ready to commit to anything yet.”
In a news release Monday, Toronto police said there was “no relationship” between the victim and her attacker, Tenzin Norbu, 33, also of Tibetan descent.
“I don’t know how they could say ‘hate-motivated,’ ” said Sonam Lankar, former president of the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario. “(Dolma and Norbu) didn’t even know each other … She was on the bus on her way to work and this happened. What hate motivated that?”
Lankar said while Norbu’s family regularly attended community events, Norbu himself didn’t seem to.
“He doesn’t come to the community centre, he isn’t involved in activities, nobody hardly even saw him,” said Lankar.
The lawyer representing Norbu, Loui Dallas, said his client’s mental health may be a consideration in the case.
“Usually, for an allegation like this, mental illness is a live issue,” said Dallas. “In a case like this — which is very sad, make no mistake about it, it’s a very sad case — mental health and mental illness are a huge factor.”
Norbu’s next court date is July 25. No bail hearing has been scheduled — “That’s not where my head is at with this case, we’re not pursuing that at the moment,” said Dallas.
Norbu’s initial charges were attempted murder, assault with a weapon, common nuisance and mischief. On Monday, he was charged with first-degree murder, following Dolma’s death last week. Dallas anticipates he will not plead guilty.
“Usually, if somebody is charged with first-degree murder, they wouldn’t plead guilty,” he said. “It’s a life sentence and you’re not eligible for parole for 25 years.”
Last week, Dolma’s family set up a GoFundMe page to cover funeral costs and health-care expenses. In it, her family, who have asked for privacy, described Dolma as someone who “lived a life of service to others and cared for many people.” The fundraising page was paused after reaching its goal.
“It’s still a shock for the family,” said Kalsang Phuntsok, current president of the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario. “Everyone is shocked. What has happened is beyond belief. No one has any idea why it happened.”
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