The Disturbing Story Of Reena Virk, The Canadian Teen Brutally Murdered By A Group Of Her Peers In 1997

Published April 11, 2024
Updated April 19, 2024

Reena Virk was a victim of bullying who desperately wanted to fit in with her small-town Canadian peers — then a mob of them beat and killed her in a horrific swarming attack.

Reena Virk

Wikimedia CommonsReena Virk was brutally murdered by her bullies in 1997.

On Nov. 14, 1997, 14-year-old Reena Virk was beaten and killed by a group of her teenage peers.

That night, seven girls and one boy between the ages of 14 and 16 cornered Virk beneath a bridge in Victoria, British Columbia and accused her of trying to steal one of the girls’ boyfriends. Then, the group attacked her, viciously punching and kicking her and trying to light her hair on fire.

Bloodied and bruised, Reena Virk nearly escaped with her life, staggering away across the bridge. But two of her assailants — Warren Glowatski and Kelly Ellard — followed her and continued the beating, knocking her unconscious.

They dragged her body to the edge of the Gorge Waterway — and drowned her.

Eight days later, Reena Virk’s body was found in the inlet. Her injuries were so severe that the pathologist who examined her determined she would have likely died even if she had not been drowned.

Nearly three decades later, Reena Virk’s story is being given new attention, thanks in part to the Hulu series Under the Bridge, raising questions about race, bullying, and the desire to feel accepted.

Who Was Reena Virk?

Reena Virk was born on March 10, 1983 to Suman and Manjit Virk. Manjit had immigrated to Canada from India, while Suman came from an Indo-Canadian family. But unlike other South Asian families in the community, they were not practicing Sikhs.

Instead, Suman’s family had converted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses after moving to Canada, and Manjit later made the same transition. Various reports described the family as “a minority within a minority.” And Reena grew up feeling like an outsider.

Virk Family

Virk FamilyThe Virk family in happier times. Reena is on the right, standing next to her mother Suman, with her father Majit behind them. In front are Reena’s younger sister Simren and brother Aman.

She also despised her parents’ strict rules and made several attempts to run away from home. In part, she was motivated by a desperation to fit in among her predominantly white peers, who were reportedly influenced by Los Angeles gang culture.

But Reena Virk’s desperate struggle to fit in was only made worse by the bullying she suffered. Her peers allegedly mocked her relentlessly for her weight and for being different.

This caused her to take extreme measures to escape what she felt was an oppressive home. In 1996, she falsely accused her father of sexually molesting her. This accusation led to Reena being placed, for a few months, in a foster home while her father was scrutinized by investigators.

Reena reportedly dropped the charges, and her claims were found to be groundless. But as the CBC reported in 2006, her parents believe that if social workers had been more thorough in their investigation, and Reena had not been placed in foster care, she might never have met her killers in the first place.

Unfortunately, there was no way to change what happened.

The Attack Under The Bridge

On Nov. 14, 1997, Reena Virk was invited to a party in a field behind the Shoreline School in View Royal. Police arrived to break up the party, however, and the group quickly moved to a spot near the Craigflower Bridge to drink and smoke.

But the party quickly turned into a nightmare for Virk.

As a small crowd watched, one girl, Nicole Cook, approached Virk and put out a lit cigarette on her forehead. She went on to berate Virk, accusing her of spreading rumors about her and trying to steal her boyfriend.

Then, the other teens swarmed.

Craigflower Bridge

Thermal1 / Flickr Creative CommonsCraigflower Bridge in Victoria, B.C., where Reena Virk was killed.

Eight teens gathered around Virk, viciously punching and kicking her and burning her skin with cigarettes. As she lay on the ground bearing the brunt of this assault, she reportedly cried out, “I’m sorry.”

Most people who were there left once the attack broke out, but some stayed and continued to watch. Eventually, one teen called out for the others to stop, and it seemed as if this violent attack had come to an end.

But as Reena Virk staggered, bloody and beaten, across the bridge, she was approached again by two of her assailants: 15-year-old Kelly Ellard and 16-year-old Warren Glowatski.

The Murder Of Reena Virk

Ellard and Glowatski once again started attacking Virk, punching her and bashing her head off a tree.

Virk lost consciousness, and Ellard and Glowatski dragged her body to the edge of the Gorge. There, Ellard allegedly held Virk’s head underwater, drowning her. Although Ellard later denied this, she did admit to rolling Virk’s unconscious body into the water.

Reena Virk’s parents reported her missing after she didn’t return home from the party that night. But it wouldn’t be for another eight days that her partially-clothed body was finally found floating in the Gorge.

Young Reena Virk

HandoutLeading up to her murder, Reena Virk was relentlessly bullied by her peers.

An autopsy report detailed extensive damage to Virk’s body: multiple severe blows to the abdomen, bruising all over her face, a sneaker-shaped bruise on the back of her head, and swelling in her brain.

The coroner ultimately concluding that Reena would have likely died from her injuries had she not been drowned.

Now, the question for investigators was: Who had killed Reena Virk, and why?

Who Were Reena Virk’s Killers?

It didn’t take long for some of the teens who attended the party under the bridge to report the swarming attack they’d witnessed. By the end of the month, all eight of Reena Virk’s attackers were arrested.

In total, seven of them were prosecuted in relation to Virk’s murder. They were Nicole Cook, Nicole Patterson, Missy Grace Pleich, Courtney Keith, Gail Ooms, Kelly Ellard, and Warren Glowatski.

Six of the girls were convicted of assault causing bodily harm and sentenced to up to one year in custody. But only Ellard and Glowatski were charged with Virk’s murder.

Warren Glowatski had a troubled home life. His mother was an alcoholic, and his father had left and moved alone to California, leaving Warren behind. At the time of Virk’s murder, he was living with a friend. It’s not clear why, exactly, he had involved himself in the initial assault on Virk, or why he joined Ellard in the second attack.

He was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after seven years. His first request in 2004 was denied.

Under The Bridge

Disney/HuluReena Virk’s story has been dramatized in the miniseries Under the Bridge.

Kelly Ellard, meanwhile, came from a relatively stable, traditional family, though her parents were reportedly divorced. Again, it’s not entirely clear why she initially attacked Virk — though some, such as the academic activist Yasmin Jiwani, have argued racism may have played a part.

At her first trial in 2000, Ellard was found guilty of second-degree murder. However, the Supreme Court of Canada later overturned that decision on technical legal grounds.

A second trial in 2004 resulted in a deadlocked jury and a mistrial. At this trial, Ellard insisted she was innocent, telling jurors, “I am not a monster,” according to a 2017 VICE article.

In 2005, however, a third trial saw Ellard convicted. She was sentenced to life in prison.

The Aftermath Of Reena Virk’s Killing

In the wake of their daughter’s gruesome murder, Suman and Manjit Virk became prominent anti-bullying advocates, successfully pushing the government of British Columbia to create a number of anti-bullying programs in schools. In 2009, they were even honored with British Columbia’s Anthony J. Hulme Award of Distinction for their efforts.

While incarcerated, Warren Glowatski showed deep remorse for killing Virk. He also discovered that he was of Métis heritage — a person of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry — which helped guide his rehabilitation. Eventually, his work toward healing led him to meet with Suman and Manjit Virk to apologize in person.

Surprisingly, the Virks forgave him, telling the Globe and Mail, “I think the most important reason why we’ve forgiven Warren is so we can just put this whole matter aside and for our own healing and sense of wholeness.”

Suman And Manjit Virk

Virk familyManjit and Suman Virk turned their grief into a public awareness campaign, highlighting the issue of bullying in British Columbia.

In 2010, Warren Glowatski was fully paroled, a decision which the Virks supported.

Kelly Ellard, meanwhile, continued to proclaim her innocence in prison. During this time, she also smuggled in illegal drugs and broke numerous penitentiary rules.

She was given conditional day parole in 2017, which was then extended multiple times in the subsequent years. It was also revealed that she had changed her name to Kerry Marie Sim, and that she had given birth to a child conceived during a conjugal visit with her boyfriend.

They had a second child in 2020. Then, Sim’s day parole was suspended in August 2021 because she failed to report an incident of domestic violence, though this suspension was cancelled in October of that same year. The parole board also deemed her to be of a moderate to high-moderate risk of re-offending.

In 2022, Sim waived her right to another parole hearing, saying that she did not believe she was ready to return to society.

Now, the murder of Reena Virk has been dramatized in the Hulu miniseries Under the Bridge, starring Lily Gladstone and Riley Keough. The series will explore the culture of bullying that contributed to Virk’s tragic death.

After reading the heartbreaking story of Reena Virk’s murder, learn about the tragic murder of Yusuf Hawkins at the hands of a white mob. Then, read about Shanda Sharer, the 12-year-old who was brutally murdered by a group of teen girls in Indiana.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Harvey, Austin. "The Disturbing Story Of Reena Virk, The Canadian Teen Brutally Murdered By A Group Of Her Peers In 1997.", April 11, 2024, Accessed June 21, 2024.