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Probe into Indian family’s deaths takes Mounties to Toronto

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Manitoba RCMP officers investigating the deaths of an Indian family of four near the Canada-U.S. border have travelled to the Toronto area to pursue leads.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/02/2022 (365 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba RCMP officers investigating the deaths of an Indian family of four near the Canada-U.S. border have travelled to the Toronto area to pursue leads.

Police have received about a dozen tips since senior officers made a public appeal last Thursday to help them track the final movements of the Patel family.

Parents Jagdish Patel, 39, and Vaishaliben Patel, 37, their 11-year-old daughter, Vihangi, and three-year-old son, Dharmik, froze to death in a field near Emerson as they tried to walk into the U.S. in a -35 C blizzard at night.

Jagdish Patel, wife Vaishali, daughter Vihanga and son Dharmik froze to death as they tried to walk into the U.S. in a -35 C blizzard at night. (Photo courtesy of Amrut Patel)

Their bodies were found Jan. 19 after seven undocumented Indian nationals were detained by U.S. border patrol agents just over the boundary near St. Vincent, Minn.

RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Julie Courchaine said officers continue to investigate how the family travelled to the Emerson area after arriving in Toronto on Jan. 12.

They made their way to the border area on or about Jan. 18. Police believe they were dropped off as part of a human smuggling operation, which is being investigated by authorities in Canada, the U.S. and India.

A vehicle was not found at the drop-off site just north of the border.

“We have received approximately 12 tips regarding the Patel family’s movements in Canada,” Courchaine wrote in an email. “Currently, we have investigators that travelled from Manitoba to the Toronto area as part of the investigation.”

Last week, police said hotel, gas station or restaurant workers may have spoken to or seen the Patels during their time in Canada.

They were from the village of Dingucha in the Indian state of Gujarat.

Family friend Amrut Patel said Jagdish Patel had told relatives he obtained visitor visas to enter Canada.

Relatives lost contact with him shortly before his family attempted the illegal crossing on foot.

A border marker is shown just outside of Emerson where the bodies of the Patels were found. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

The U.S. has started deportation proceedings against the seven Indian nationals who survived the perilous crossing. One told U.S. border patrol they had walked for more than 11 hours, a court affidavit stated.

In the U.S., Steve Shand, 47, of Florida, has been charged with transporting or attempting to transport illegal aliens. He was released from custody last week.

It was his job to pick up the 11 Indians on a rural road just over the border in Minnesota, the affidavit claimed.

Anyone with information about the Patel family’s movements is asked to call a tip line at 431-489-8551 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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