This story has been updated with new police developments.
Responding to “numerous” complaints from the public after a late-night Amber Alert was sent out about a missing 11-year-old child, who was later found dead, Peel Regional Police are urging people to weigh the results of the alert against the inconvenience it caused them.
The body of Riya Rajkumar was found late last night after police issued a province-wide Amber Alert that she was missing. She was allegedly abducted by her 41-year-old father Roopesh Rajkumar, who was arrested in Orillia, Ontario in a “high-risk takedown” after a member of the public saw a car with his license plate, which was listed in the alert, and reported it to police.
Rajkumar allegedly abducted his daughter after taking her out for her birthday on Thursday afternoon. The child didn’t live with her father full-time, and had been dropped off at a gas station in Mississauga, so Rajkumar could pick her up, around 3 PM. By 6:30 PM, the pair still wasn’t home, and Riya’s mother contacted police and reported that her father had made comments suggesting that he could harm their daughter and himself, according to police.
“That obviously set off alarms,” Constable Danny Marttini told reporters Friday. “It was of extreme concern, which is why she attended the division, saying ‘I’ve got that information and I’m concerned for the well-being of my daughter.’”
Riya's body was found in her father's apartment in Brampton, said police. Rajkumar is facing a first degree murder charge, which police plan to lay after he's been medically cleared. He was taken to a hospital, and then to a different trauma centre, for treatment for a "medical concern" identified by police, although they haven't released any further details.
“In a tragic situation like this when your daughter goes to spend her birthday, especially on Valentine’s Day, with her father and you expect your child to come home, my heart aches for this family,” Peel Region Constable Akhil Mooken told reporters shortly after the body was found.
“As a parent, I can’t even begin to imagine what the mom is going through and it’s something that we never want to be involved in, but it’s a terrible situation.”
An initial Amber Alert notification—a loud, beeping noise, accompanied by text—was sent to LTE-enabled phones by the Ontario Provincial Police around 11:30 PM. A second notification, ending the alert, was sent just past 12:30 AM. Around 3 AM, Peel’s Twitter account tweeted that their communications bureau was receiving “numerous” 911 calls, complaining about the late hour of the Amber Alert.
“As a direct result of someone receiving the alert, we were able to locate the suspect & his vehicle,” said the police tweet. “The system works.”
An email sent out to families of students at Riya's elementary school said counsellors would be available for as long as needed. "She was extremely vibrant, sparkling personality—very well liked," a spokesperson from the school board told the CBC. "A great academic as well."
Speaking with reporters on Friday, spokesperson Danny Martini, said police were still receiving complaints hours after the initial alerts were issued.
“You know, it’s unfortunate when an Amber Alert goes off in the sense that it disrupts people’s lifestyle,” said Martini. “But at the same point, we’re talking about a child that was missing and, in this case, the child was found deceased,” Marttini said.
“I think you have to weigh that out,” she said.
Mooken echoed those sentiments on Twitter.
“I can’t even begin to describe how disappointing and upsetting it is to read the comments, emails and calls to our communications bureau complaining,” tweeted Mooken. “The immediate need to locate the child outweighed the momentary inconvenience that some people encountered.”
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