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Man arrested in triple homicide was a suspect in death threats against Peter MacKay


Man arrested in triple homicide was a suspect in death threats against Peter MacKay

OTTAWA—Peter MacKay’s representatives have asked Ottawa police to reopen an investigation into threats made against his family during last year’s Conservative leadership race after a man who was questioned in connection with them was charged with three homicides last week in the Caribbean.

Rakesh David, 25, was arrested in Trinidad and Tobago on Sept. 24 in connection with the slayings of his grandmother, his mother and his younger brother.

The news stunned those in Conservative party circles, where David was a well-known activist who was poised to take up a volunteer role on Parliament Hill in the next few weeks.

David was an active supporter of MacKay’s 2020 bid to become leader of the Conservatives, turning his involvement with an online booster group into a volunteer role that included providing policy ideas on disabilities and other issues.

As the leadership race drew to a close in August 2020, MacKay reported that he and his family were receiving death threats on social media and via email.

The threats included photos of the family with targets drawn on their faces, photos of Elections Canada records with their home addresses, and promises that if MacKay won the leadership race, someone would show up with specifically described weapons as soon as the family was seen in public.

David was among those working on the MacKay campaign who were also tagged on the threats.

MacKay declined to comment when contacted by the Star on Friday.

But sources who worked on his leadership campaign said they began to suspect David for a number of reasons.

The Star was shown emails sent by David which included unusual phrasings and use of capitalization, which was very similar to wording used in the threats.

Campaign sources also linked an email-mimicking account from which the threats were sent with another message, which they said David provided and claimed had been sent to him by the Liberal party.

The MacKay campaign forwarded its suspicions to Ottawa police, who began an investigation, according to correspondence viewed by the Star.

A police officer also went to David’s home, but at the time he was in Trinidad and Tobago, where he had lived on and off for several years.

No charges were ever laid in connection with the case.

In a written statement, Ottawa police said Friday that the service “does not identify complainants/victims of crime; nor do we confirm or deny investigations about a named person, unless a charge is laid.”

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A source close to the MacKay campaign said they reached out to Ottawa police this week to ask if David was in fact the person behind the threats.

“These were treated as very real and very serious threats,” said the source, who spoke confidentially as the MacKay family had not authorized them to speak publicly about the issue.

“We hope this incident might revive the investigation so the family can get closure.”

During the investigation by Ottawa police, David retained a lawyer, who declined to comment Friday when reached by the Star.

However, David himself wrote to the MacKay campaign in March 2021, saying he was aware he was the subject of the investigation and denying any involvement.

David wrote that while he was aware the threats may have come from his “geographic location” — he had been in Trinidad and Tobago during that period — he had been a victim of security breaches to his computer, cellphone and social media accounts during the same period and he had informed police.

David accused the police of ignoring evidence that would have exonerated him, and called the whole investigation an “unnecessarily stressful and malicious situation that I did not deserve.”

“My only hope is that you understand the situation I was placed in, and understand that there was no way I could have sent those hateful threats and messages to us, and I was a victim too,” he wrote in the email, which was viewed by the Star.

“If you don’t believe me, all I can do is apologize for not being a good enough person for you to trust me. I too would like to know who was responsible for this, but there is only so much I can do, and the police seem not to really care.”

The MacKay campaign says it spent upwards of $100,000 on private security following the threats, which ceased before the end of the leadership race.

David was arrested in Trinidad and Tobago on Sept. 24 after three members of his family were found dead. All had suffered gunshot wounds to the head.

Trinidad and Tobago media reported the names of the victims as Kumari Kowlessar-Timal, 77, Radeshka Timal, 48, and Zachary David, 22, all of whom were Canadian citizens.

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said it is aware of the killings, and is in contact with local authorities. It said it is also providing consular service to “a Canadian citizen” detained in relation to the incident, but cited privacy concerns in declining to provide any further information.

David’s next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 29, according to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.

The Star was unable to reach David or his legal counsel.

Stephanie Levitz is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @StephanieLevitz

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