Mystery surrounds Vancouver City employee Hanif Jessa’s murder, police continue to seek witnesses

EVEN as the flag at Vancouver City Hall flew at half-mast on Thursday in honour of slain employee Hanif Jessa, 53, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced they are continuing to seek witnesses in his shooting death and pursuing a number of tips and that they have no suspect.

Jessa was shot in his vehicle outside of his residence on the 7900 block of Wickham Place at approximately noon on July 15 (Wednesday).

A neighbour told the media that she heard some shouting and then a pop followed by more shouting and two more pops.

Another neighbour told the media that Jessa was shot in the presence of his son who was screaming in shock.

IHIT Sgt. Stephanie Ashton said: “This investigation has raised concerns throughout the Lower Mainland [and] we want to remind the public that we are treating this homicide investigation with the seriousness it deserves and the public can be assured all possible steps are being taken to address their concerns by conducting a thorough and detailed investigation.”

She added: “At this point investigators believe this to be a targeted attack and are speaking with a number of witnesses.  IHIT is working closely with Burnaby RCMP in order to determine a definitive motive for the shooting.

“IHIT is concentrating our efforts to identify any and all evidence in order to shed some light on the events preceding Mr. Jessa’s death.  These investigations take time and it may be several days before updates will be provided.”

Anyone with information regarding this investigation can call the IHIT tipline by calling 1-877-551-IHIT (4448) or email at [email protected]

If you wish to remain anonymous provide your anonymous tip information on the web at solvecrime.ca or by phone at 1-800-222-8477.

 

SOME more information on the victim emerged when Abby Jan Dharamsey of U.K. tweeted on Thursday: “Very saddened & grief stricken to be informed about tragic death of #HanifJessa, my cousin’s husband in Burnaby yesterday.”

He also tweeted: “Conscientious dedicated easygoing fellow who would light up a place with his jokes. Family man with two 20 something boys.”

The Province newspaper reported on Thursday online that their sources told them that on the day of the murder, a high-ranking union official had complained about Jessa’s treatment of workers. He was said to have been a tough boss.

Interestingly, The Province noted that it has been reporting for the past few years that the city’s sanitation department has been notorious for its alleged fear-based and toxic work environment with ongoing tension between management and employees.

 

JESSA was a superintendent for street cleaning operations. The shooting was first rumoured to have been the result of a dispute with a former city employee.

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer told the media on Thursday that later on Wednesday the information they had received from Burnaby RCMP changed and that led them “to downgrade and realize that there’s no longer a threat to anybody at the city.”

Vancouver Police had advised media after the shooting on Wednesday that “due to a threat against a City of Vancouver employee, the city and the police have taken the unusual steps of securing a number works yards and job sites.” They added: “The police do not believe that there is a risk to the general public at this time.”

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement on Wednesday: “This kind of incident is very challenging for the thousands of hardworking staff who come to work every day to make Vancouver a better place, and their safety and well-being is my utmost concern.

“As such, in an abundance of caution, VPD members and additional security have been and continue to be deployed as appropriate at various city sites. Employees have been asked to carry on business as usual unless otherwise directed by their supervisors.”

Port Moody Police issued a statement on Thursday, stating: “During the initial stages of yesterday’s tragic shooting in Burnaby the city was made aware that there was a possible safety issue for two of its employees. As such, steps were taken to safeguard their well-being. As the evening progressed, we were made aware that the threat had subsided and the employees were no longer in danger. As a precaution, police had a marked unit at city works for the morning until other employees could be made aware that there were no safety issues.”

 

ON Thursday, the City said in a press statement: “The Mayor and Council, City Management Team, and staff across all departments are shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic murder of a long-time city employee.

“Deepest condolences and support have been offered to the family and friends of our colleague.

Many city staff will be deeply affected by this event. Counseling and support is available for any staff and co-workers at this most difficult of times. In honour of our colleague, the flag at City Hall will fly at half-mast.”

It added: “Over the course of yesterday, following the tragic incident, precautionary security measures were put in place on the advice of Vancouver Police Department (VPD). At this time, those measures are no longer necessary and we are returning to normal operations.

“VPD have committed to keeping the Mayor and City Management Team apprised of any further developments which might require any changes to security as their investigations proceed but at this point, there is no change anticipated.

“Waiting for the results of the police investigation is very difficult in these situations. These things are complex, take time and require much patience. Any information which comes available to us will be shared with staff.

“In the meantime, as an organization, our goal is to ensure staff receive the support they need and to find our way forward to continue serving our citizens.”