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"AKK" 2006 Obituary


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AKKAD o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-09-14 published
Love triangle suspected in double-slaying, suicide
Police theorize Swiss man may have found his girlfriend with German
By Timothy APPLEBY with reports from Omar EL AKKAD and Naomi BUCK, Page A13
Three European tourists found stabbed to death early Monday at an expensive downtown Toronto hotel were slain in a double murder-suicide, police confirmed yesterday, and likely perished in a deadly love triangle.
Killed were Swiss nationals Nadja WYRSCH, 24, and Andre ASCHWANDEN, 35, along with German-born Thomas KAUFMANN, 35, who also lived in Switzerland.
Police believe Mr. ASCHWANDEN killed Ms. WYRSCH, his girlfriend, and Mr. KAUFMANN and then turned his knife on himself.
Ms. WYRSCH was a biologist specializing in cytology, the study of cells, while Mr. ASCHWANDEN is believed to have been a salesman for a fuel-injection company. Both were residents of Lucerne, in central Switzerland, where German is the predominant language.
Ms. WYRSCH would have turned 25 yesterday.
Their friend, Mr. KAUFMANN, lived near Bern, the Swiss capital, where he worked at the University of Bern's veterinary clinic.
Together, the three flew to Toronto from Zurich on Sunday afternoon and were part of a tour group of about 24 people -- mostly Germans but also including some Swiss and French -- that was to tour Canada for three weeks, visiting several large cities.
Ms. WYRSCH and Mr. ASCHWANDEN knew Mr. KAUFMANN, police believe, which would explain why they agreed to share a room on the 19th floor of the Delta Chelsea on downtown Gerrard Street, Canada's largest hotel.
"We believe they all knew each other reasonably well," said Detective Dan NIELSEN of the Toronto homicide squad.
As well, each of them appeared to have a hearing disability.
"The information we have is that at least two of them were hearing impaired, and possibly all three," Det. NIELSEN said. "We're trying to verify that."
Ms. WYRSCH, who was on the board of LKH Switzerland, an association for the deaf, was killed by stab wounds to the chest and a slash to the neck, inflicted by a multibladed, Swiss army-type knife that was found in the blood-soaked hotel room.
The same weapon was used to kill Mr. KAUFMANN and Mr. ASCHWANDEN, both of whom died from stab wounds to the chest.
With no signs of forced entry to the room and no evidence of robbery, the working theory of investigators is that the violence stemmed from anger or jealousy.
Police believe Mr. ASCHWANDEN may have unexpectedly discovered his girlfriend and Mr. KAUFMANN in the room together and that he flew into a murderous rage.
Other guests on the 19th floor reported hearing loud arguing and the sound of running.
A hotel security guard making his rounds shortly before 4: 30 a.m. discovered Mr. KAUFMANN on the floor of the corridor near one of the elevators, reportedly clad only in a pair of boxer shorts, after apparently fleeing the murder scene. He was taken to nearby Saint Michael's Hospital, where he died shortly afterward.
A trail of blood led down the hallway to room 1908, where Ms. WYRSCH's body was found on the floor. That of Mr. ASCHWANDEN was lying on one of the beds. Police described the scene as horrific.
No other suspects are being sought and Det. NIELSEN said he expects the investigation to wrap up soon.
"We're still processing the [crime] scene and a few more witnesses, but we're getting pretty close."
The three visitors were on a tour organized through the company Jonview Canada, owned and operated by Transat A.T. Inc. of Montreal.
The double murder pushed Toronto's homicide total so far this year to 46.
A Swiss relative of Ms. WYRSCH, a farmer who said he had known her since childhood and described her as "a good person," said she knew several members of the tour group.
"She worked hard, she deserved the holiday. She didn't go on holiday often…. It was a normal group tour."

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AKKAD o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-09-25 published
Runner dies in marathon
By James CHRISTIE with a report from Omar EL AKKAD, Page A10
A 41-year-old Toronto runner collapsed near the end of the 2006 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and died in hospital.
Martin POYSER fell to the pavement at Wellington and Bay Streets, 800 metres from the finish line of the 41.195-kilometre course.
"He was given cardio-pulmonary resuscitation within a minute at the scene and Emergency Medical Services paramedic service were there within three minutes to take him to Mount Sinai Hospital," said race general manager Dana ALLEN of Toronto. "They worked on him for about an hour in hospital, but he did not survive."
Mr. POYSER is the first fatality in the seven-year history of the event. Last October a 36-year-old Oakville man died after running a half-marathon in the Toronto Marathon.
"We send our condolences to Martin's family, Friends and fans," said Alan BROOKES, the race director. "Martin will be remembered as a wonderful spirit, with a tremendous passion for running."
Relatives at Mr. POYSER's house yesterday refused to speak to a reporter. One family member, contacted yesterday evening, said he was still on the phone with a doctor regarding what happened.

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AKKAD o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-11-28 published
Croatian army hero dies after scuffle with officers
By Omar EL AKKAD, Page A20
A former Croatian army officer who became involved in an altercation with Toronto Transit Commission and police officers two weeks ago has succumbed to his injuries.
Jasen DRNASIN, 32, died yesterday afternoon at Humber River Regional Hospital, the province's Special Investigations Unit confirmed. He had been in the hospital -- in critical condition -- since the incident.
Mr. DRNASIN became a military hero in Croatia after becoming the first citizen of that country to graduate from the prestigious West Point military academy in the U.S.
That fame turned to infamy a few years ago after Mr. DRNASIN was charged in Croatia with stabbing his girlfriend.
The Special Investigations Unit continues to investigate Mr. DRNASIN's death.

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AKKAD o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-12-05 published
Details emerge about 401 deaths
By Hayley MICK and Omar EL AKKAD, Page A16
The family of a woman who clutched her toddler and leaped from an overpass onto Highway 401 was rocked yesterday by the news of their deaths, homicide investigators say.
Almost 24 hours after Andrea JOHNSON and her son, Sulla GENUA, died just west of the Toronto Zoo, family members were still hearing the terrible news from Toronto police investigators.
Sulla's father was among those investigators spoke with yesterday.
"He's obviously upset," said Detective Mike BARSKY of the Toronto police homicide squad. "This is a tragedy."
The detective refused to comment on the nature of the relationship between Ms. JOHNSON and the boy's father, who was not identified.
For most of yesterday, the identities of Ms. JOHNSON, 30, and Sulla, 2, had remained a mystery to police: the woman had not been carrying identification when she jumped just after 7 p.m. Sunday, and no Friends or relatives had reported the pair missing.
Police also revealed more details about what happened Sunday evening on the Morningside Avenue overpass, where bloodied concrete and a small a bouquet of red flowers -- tied to a railing by an anonymous person -- were the only signs early yesterday that a tragedy had occurred there hours earlier.
Toronto Transit Commission bus drivers helped police piece together the final part of the woman's trip to the bridge over the highway. She and the toddler boarded the bus -- Route 116 on Morningside Avenue -- at Sheppard Avenue after transferring from another bus, police said.
Just before 7, she and the boy disembarked at the corner of Morningside and Midland Avenues. After big-box stores gave way to a grassy buffer littered with Slurpee straws and pop cans, she reached a bridge spanning 16 lanes of Highway 401.
According to police, Ms. JOHNSON climbed over a railing and stood for a moment on a small, half-moon-shaped ledge, which juts over traffic pouring west at more than 100 kilometres an hour.
witnesses: said she was holding the boy, said Detective Sergeant Chris BUCK of the Toronto police homicide squad.
At about 7: 10, several motorists on the overpass noticed the unfolding scene and dialled 911, he said. A few parked their vehicles, leaped out and moved quickly toward the woman, he said. One man spoke to her. "It was a short conversation," Det. Sgt. BUCK said. She appeared calm, he said.
Before anyone could reach her, the woman leaped, he said.
Police said both were hit by more than one vehicle. Bloody marks stretched some 30 metres along the pavement, suggesting one or more people had been dragged. Police said Ms. JOHNSON died on the highway; Sulla was pronounced dead at Sunnybrook Hospital.
An autopsy yesterday found Ms. JOHNSON died of multiple trauma Sulla, who stood three feet tall, died of blunt-impact head trauma.

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AKKAD o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-12-06 published
A devoted mother's tragic decision
By Omar EL AKKAD and Hayley MICK, Page A1
Toronto -- By all accounts, Andrea JOHNSON was the perfect mother right up to the moment she killed herself and her two-year-old son.
Family and Friends described 30-year-old Ms. JOHNSON as an incredibly dedicated mother yesterday, two days after she wrapped her arms around her child, Sulla GENUA, and leaped off an overpass onto the 401.
Daniel JOHNSON described his daughter as "the greatest" mother, totally devoted to Sulla.
"There was a bond between them," Mr. JOHNSON said from his home in Brampton. "You'd never see one without the other."
But those who knew her also spoke of a woman under enormous pressure, and who often suffered bouts of depression. "She'd been very depressed for a while, on and off," Linette BATTICKS, Ms. JOHNSON's mother, said yesterday.
Weeping, she taped a photo of Ms. JOHNSON to the railing on Morningside Avenue bridge where the lives of her daughter and Sulla came to an end. Since Sunday night, a small shrine has grown at the spot.
Amid flower bouquets and a dozen stuffed animals, a child had penned a note attached to a teddy bear that read: "This lady must have believed that there was no future for her and her son. I wish she would have asked for help."
Ms. JOHNSON moved out of a women's shelter in the east end of the city about seven months ago. Against all odds, she succeeded in securing a $700-a-month, one-bedroom apartment on Eglinton Avenue West above a clothing boutique. At the time, K.D. SINGH, the landlord and owner of the boutique, had five potential tenants. Ms. JOHNSON was the only one without a job -- her references were three relatives and a social worker from the women's shelter.
Figuring Ms. JOHNSON needed the apartment more than any of the other applicants, Mr. SINGH picked her. For the next six months, he says, she always paid her rent on the first or second day of the month.
"She was very proud, very self-respecting. She lived within her means," he said. "I see some people, they come [to the clothing store] and they say, 'I want this and I want this.' Not her."
Her neighbours also came to know how proud she was. Whenever any of them offered to help carry Sulla's stroller up the stairs, she politely declined. Mr. SINGH said that every once in a while, "a white man," possibly the boy's father, would come by to pick up Sulla.
Ms. JOHNSON's life revolved around her toddler. Most days, she took him to a nearby park, then a library.
She had a degree in political science from the University of Ottawa, according to an uncle identified only as Harold. But she didn't have a job. Indeed, Mr. SINGH says, she didn't seem like she wanted one. He says he offered once to help her find work, but she said her entire day was spent taking care of Sulla. Besides, she added, if she did get a job, daycare costs would eat up everything she made.
The attention seemed to have paid off -- relatives described Sulla as a very intelligent child, fluent in English and French, like his mother.
"She really took care of that kid," Mr. SINGH said. "Everything was around that kid."
Her father agreed, adding: "Andrea was the greatest. I love her dearly." But asked why she might have committed suicide, Mr. JOHNSON said he had no answers. He said he spoke to his daughter recently she said she felt "okay."
"I'm not sure we'll know why she did what she did. We're just searching for answers right now," he said.
Homicide detectives continue to investigate what they have classified as a murder-suicide. Detective Sergeant Chris BUCK refused to comment on any details. "It's a tragic situation and I'm not going to embellish on the personal lives of anyone involved in it," he said.
Sulla's father and his relatives have kept their feelings private. "We're not going to say anything right now," a male relative said yesterday.
It appears no one foresaw what Ms. JOHNSON planned to do Sunday. Police pleaded with the public for almost a day before any relatives came forward. Ms. JOHNSON was not carrying any identification when she jumped off the Morningside overpass, making it that much more difficult to find relatives.
Mr. SINGH last saw Ms. JOHNSON on Saturday. She had come to tell him she would be a bit late with the rent this month. Maybe next Saturday or Sunday, she told him. He says he didn't mind.
As was the case almost every time he met her, Ms. JOHNSON seemed fine, Mr. SINGH said. She was her usual self, full of confidence. Had he seen any signs she was planning to do what she did the next day, he would have called police, he said.
But having watched her struggle to take care of her son over the past seven months, Mr. SINGH says he knew Ms. JOHNSON's life was by no means easy.
"She had the whole pressure of the world on her, and she never showed it," he said. "She never complained."

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