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Monday,September 28,2020 10:27 AM

A Parent’s Nightmare

By Vision Reporter

Added 30th March 2004 03:00 AM

EVERY parent’s worst nightmare came true for Raymond Zhang and Sherry Xu this past weekend.

EVERY parent’s worst nightmare came true for Raymond Zhang and Sherry Xu this past weekend.

Letter From Toronto - Opiyo Oloya

EVERY parent’s worst nightmare came true for Raymond Zhang and Sherry Xu this past weekend.

Cecilia Zhang, the couple’s 10-year-old Chinese Canadian daughter who was abducted from her bedroom on October 20, 2003, was found on Saturday near a Ukrainian Church, just west of Toronto. She was likely killed within the first few hours of being kidnapped, and her body dumped not far from where the Police think the kidnapper or kidnappers had used a public phone to call her house.

In the immediate wake of the girl’s disappearance, the distraught parents made a number of pleas to whoever had taken Cecilia to let her go. As much as $200,000 dollars was put up for information leading to the release of the girl — at the time, the conventional thinking was that the highly intelligent only child, was still alive.

Who kidnapped Cecilia and why she was kidnapped may never be known. What is known is that she has now joined a growing list of Canadian children, boys and girls murdered by predators mostly for sexual gratification. In 1977, 12-year-old Emmanuel Jacques was lured into an apartment, tied up and gang-raped before being drowned in a kitchen sink. In 1983, nine-year-old Sharin’ Morningstar Keenan disappeared from a Toronto park, was sexually assaulted and her dead body stuffed in a refrigerator in a house less than 100 metres from the park. In 1985, nine-year-old Christine Jessop disappeared while riding her bike to a corner store, and the body was discovered three months later.

In 1986, 11-year-old Allison Parrot was lured from her home by a photographer, and was found two days later, raped and strangled. In 1988, Christopher Stephenson was led away from his family while in a shopping mall, and the body was found the next day, sexually assaulted and stabbed. Six-year-old Andrea Atkinson disappeared in 1990, and the raped and strangled body was found a week later.

Three-year-old Kayla Klaudusz was murdered in 1991, ten-year-old Heather Thomas murdered in 2000, five-year-old Jessica Koopmans was murdered in 2001.

And just last May, 10-year old Holly Jones disappeared while walking home, and was later found dismembered and body parts dumped in the lake.

As a father of two boys growing in the Greater Toronto Area, the list of children killed by twisted sexual deviants alarm me immensely. My wife and I keep constant watch over our children, never letting them stray out of eyesight except when they are in daycare or school. The first thing you learn is never to trust anyone with your children — well, you may trust long-time friends you have known for many years.

We only let Oceng out to play when other neighbourhood children are playing outside, and only if our immediate neighbours to the left or across the street are outside to supervise. The alternative is to supervise his one-hour romp ourselves, or if we are too busy, simply say no and keep him in the house.

If, as it happened last summer, we cannot verify the whereabouts of our son within two minutes, we go into the emergency mode. On that day, I was working in the backyard, and my wife decided to walk to the store located about a kilometre from the house. Our son was playing with neighbourhood children at the front — I heard her distinctly instruct Oceng to check with me every few minutes.

Then, just before she left, she reminded me again that Oceng was playing in the front yard, and to keep an eye on the boy. I acknowledged in the affirmative. Then things were quiet for a while and may be ten minutes passed.

When my son did not report as agreed, I stopped what I was doing and hurried to the front — it was deserted, and all the neighbouring children had returned to their homes.

I quickly knocked on the neighbour’s door even though I knew Oceng could not possibly be there because he knows never to enter a neighbour’s house without letting us know first.

He was not there. Now, it was a full-blown emergency and I was ready to call 911, but first, I drove like a maniac to the shopping mall to see if perchance he had accompanied his mother after all. At the first store, the manager quickly called out my wife’s name over the PA, but none responded. The same happened in the second store.

Less than ten minutes had passed since my search began, but as experienced police officers will tell you, the first one-hour of a child’s disappearance is very crucial.

I was just in the process of pulling my cellular phone to call 911 when I saw my wife strolling leisurely in the parking lot, followed by my son who was happily licking on ice cream. As they say around here, I could have strangled my wife, if only out of sheer relief. She had allowed Oceng to go with her to the store after all but had neglected to tell me.

It’s a tough life for young children with plenty of energy to burn, but that’s the life we learn to live here in Toronto. That’s the life Cecilia lived until last October.

oloyao@ycdsb.edu.on.ca

A Parent’s Nightmare

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