Police arrest Hirji suspect

<p>Police may have a break in their investigation into the killing of a popular Surrey elementary school principal.</p>


Popular Surrey school principal killed July 5



Kristen Thompson/For Metro Vancouver


RCMP Cpl. Dale Carr, right, spokesman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, answers questions yesterday afternoon after a “primary suspect” was arrested and released in the July 5 slaying of Surrey elementary school principal Shemina Hirji.

Police may have a break in their investigation into the killing of a popular Surrey elementary school principal.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) arrested a “primary suspect” in the killing of Shemina Hirji, 41.

Hirji was killed during an apparent home invasion at her Burnaby townhouse July 5.

The suspect was arrested late Saturday afternoon in Surrey. Media reports identified the suspect as Narinder (Paul) Cheema, Hirji’s husband of five days.

However, RCMP would neither confirm nor deny the reports.

“Until charges are laid we are not going to be in a position that we can speak the name of the individual arrested,” said IHIT spokesman Cpl. Dale Carr.

From the outset, police have repeatedly said Cheema was not considered a suspect in Hirji’s death, but Carr wouldn’t confirm this is still the case.

“I said that last week. But today we have a suspect who is our primary suspect.”

Cheema reportedly did not attend a memorial service for Hirji yesterday afternoon at East Vancouver’s Akali Singh Temple. The service was hosted by his family.

Carr said it was his understanding the suspect was released Sunday afternoon and that no charges have been laid. Carr denied early media reports the suspect was arrested while attempting to flee the country, but confirmed police were aware of the potential.

“We have taken steps to ensure the suspect won’t flee (the) country,” he said.

Although the investigation was entering its eighth day when the suspect was arrested, Carr would not confirm how long the suspect had been under surveillance.

“We’re not going to compromise the integrity of this investigation just for the sake of a news story.”

Last week, more than 2,000 family, friends, colleagues and Lower Mainland Ismali community members paid their last respects at Hirji’s funeral.

To date, RCMP have executed two police warrants to search Hirji’s Burnaby home to gather more evidence.