Canada rocked by ‘disturbing’ killing of homeless man beaten to death by teen girls

A homeless Toronto man who was allegedly murdered by eight teenage girls in a so-called “swarming” attack has been identified by police.

Ken Lee, 59, was stabbed and beaten in the centre of the Canadian city just after midnight on 18 December, the Toronto Police Service said in a statement.

Three 13-year-olds, three 14-year-olds and two girls aged 16 have been charged with second-degree murder over the killing.

Friends and community leaders who gathered at a memorial service held at the Toronto Homeless Memorial on Tuesday after Lee’s name was released on Tuesday said the killing had shocked the city.

“Hearing something like that and the people who were involved, it’s just something that’s completely beyond my understanding,” Diana Chan McNally, harm reduction case manager at All Saints Toronto, told the CBC.

Ms McNally told reporters she was seeing increasing numbers of homeless people who were being beaten in random attacks.

Ken Lee, 59, was beaten to death by a group of teenage girls in Toronto, police say (Toronto Police Service)
Ken Lee, 59, was beaten to death by a group of teenage girls in Toronto, police say (Toronto Police Service)

“This is the most extreme example of that, but we see it all the time,” she said.

“I think there’s just so much hatred and dehumanisation of people who are unhoused.”

At the memorial, friends described Lee as a quiet and devoted man who had been trying to defend a homeless person who was being robbed of a liquor bottle when he was attacked.

Lee, an immigrant from Hong Kong, had recently moved into the city’s shelter system and was trying to find housing, friends told the CBC.

He was set upon by the group of teenagers at about 12.15am on 18 December on the corner of York Street and University Avenue, metres from Union Station, police said in a statement.

He was rushed to hospital with critical injuries where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

The eight teenage suspects, none of whom have been identified due to their age, were arrested nearby.

Detective sergeant Terry Browne described the slaying as a “swarming” incident, where a group simultaneously attack a single person at a press conference last month.

He said that all eight suspects had “played a role” in Lee’s death.

“I won't say what each one individually did, but all eight were together and participating in this event, which is disturbing,” Mr Browne said.

He confirmed that the initial dispute had been over the attempted theft of a bottle of liquor.