WATCH: The horrifying murder of Reena Virk sent shockwaves across the country and caused a discussion about bullying and teen violence.
It was a crime that rocked the community — and our country — to its core.
A young 14-year-old girl was swarmed and viciously beaten by her peers and then drowned in the Gorge Waterway in Saanich two decades ago.
"It's hard to believe it's been 20 years," says Staff Sgt. Chris Horsley of the Saanich Police Department.
Horsley had only been on the force for three years when Reena Virk was brutally murdered on Nov. 14, 1997.
"It was certainly a wake-up call — not just for this community because this story went national and international and I think it was a wake-up call for people to understand yes, this is possible and yes, it can happen in your own community," Horsley said.
Saanich Police spent days searching for Reena, at first believing she might be a runaway. But as the rumours grew, and even with her attackers bragging about the beating, no one came forward.
In the end, it was Horsley — in a helicopter searching the river — who spotted Reena's body in the water eight days after she was killed.
"I think up until that moment we were still potentially thinking this was all bad rumours and stories at the junior high school level," says Horsley. "It was at that moment Reena's body was discovered that we realized this is real."
Reena had been invited to a party by the Craigflower Bridge where she was swarmed by seven teenage girls and a teenage boy. They repeatedly hit, punched and kicked Reena and burned her with cigarettes.
When the beating stopped, Reena limped away but she was followed by 15-year-old Kelly Ellard and 16-year-old Warren Glowatski, who beat her again before Ellard held Reena's head under the water and watched her drown.
"Often in this line of work, we deal with things that are tragic but it was just the gravity of this, we're dealing with such young people — such young girls — and to think the story was true and they had in fact murdered their peer, it was shocking. Even for the police, it was shocking."
The horrifying case thrust bullying and teen violence into the spotlight, sparking difficult conversations many are still having today.