The True Story Behind ‘Under the Bridge’: What Happened to Reena Virk?

How does a fight between a group of teenagers result in murder?

Hulu’s new true-crime series “Under the Bridge,” based on the late Rebecca Godfrey’s non-fiction book, portrays the before and after of 14-year-old Reena Virk’s brutal murder. The first two episodes, released on April 17, show the timeline of events leading up to Virk’s death and the investigation that took place.

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The show, created by Quinn Shephard, tells the story of the events that unfolded through the lens of Godfrey (Riley Keough) a journalist who grew up in Victoria and was working on a novel about teenage girls in her hometown when she found out about the murder, and police officer Cam Bentland (Lily Gladstone), a local police officer who investigated and solved the case.

Godfrey told Interview Magazine in 2019 how she became involved in the show. “I was living in New York City. This would’ve been in the late 90s, and I was working on a novel about teenage girls in my hometown of Victoria, British Columbia. Then I started getting all these calls from friends that there had been a murder in Victoria. I went home soon after and went into the prison. I was just stunned because the girls all looked like normal, cool, young teenage girls, not particularly like killers.” she said.

The show’s cast also includes Vritika Gupta, Ezra Faroque Khan, Archie Panjabi, Chloe Guidry, Javon Walton, Izzy G., and Aiyana Goodfellow.

What Happened to Reena Virk?

Virk’s father, Manjit, wrote “Reena: A Father’s Story” in 2008, which details his daughter’s life and death. According to Manjit, Virk grew up feeling like an outsider and was bullied throughout her youth. She had a complicated relationship with her Indian Canadian parents who raised her as a Jehovah’s Witness.

When she was 14, she started to hang out with a group of teens including Nicole Cook. In the novel “Under the Bridge” it details how Virk allegedly spread rumors about Cook saying she had fake breasts, wore colored contact lenses and had AIDS.

On the evening of Nov. 14, 1997, Virk was invited to a social gathering by her peers near the Craigflower Bridge in Saanich, a community outside Victoria, British Columbia. According to the TV program “Bloodlust Under the Bridge,” Virk was confronted by Cook at the party about spreading rumors. Virk called her a “bitch,” which prompted Cook to put a cigarette out on Virk’s forehead. Cook and Missy Grace Pleich said that Cook’s best friend, Kelly Ellard, and Pleich both started to hit and kick Virk. Then, the rest of the group, including Warren Glowatski, joined in.

Virk managed to get away. However, Ellard, then 15, and Glowatski, then 16, followed Virk when she and kept attacking her, dragged her into the water, and Ellard held Virk underwater until she drowned. Vice obtained a coroner’s report that indicated Virk sustained multiple blows throughout her body and suffered a “convulsion injury as often seen in car crash victims.”

Police found Virk’s body on Nov. 22, 1997, eight days after she was killed.

Who Were the Teenagers that Killed Her?

The six girls involved in the inital attack became known as the “Shoreline Six.” They were convicted of assault in juvenile court for their role in the initial attack that took place. They received sentences ranging from 60-day conditional sentences to one year in jail.

Ellard and Glowatski were both tried as as adults in separate trials. Glowatski was tried first, and in June 1999, he was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years, but was later granted parole in 2010.

Ellard’s trial began in March 2000 and she was charged with second-degree murder. However, in February 2003, The British Columbia Court of Appeals ruled to overturn Ellard’s conviction. Ellard’s second trial ended in a mistrial in June 2004. Following her third trial, in April 2005, jurors convicted Ellard again and she received a life sentence, and her parole eligibility was set to seven years. She was granted day parole in 2017.

Ellard has since changed her name to Kerry Marie Sim and gave birth to two children. She remains behind bars.

What the Show Runners and Cast Want the Audience to Take Away

“Under the Bridge” show runner’s Quinn Shephard and Samir Mehta, told Variety’s Marc Malkin at the premiere on Monday, how important it was to cast girls that were the same age as the real-life killers.

“We were like, ‘please trust us, the show won’t work if they’re not really young.’ And luckily, we were given the freedom to do so,” Shephard said about the initial casting process. “It was the most inspiring experience getting to work with them [the kids] and seeing how seriously they took the subject matter, and how much they wanted to do justice to the story.”

Because of the heavy subject matter in the show, there were social workers and trauma counselors there on set for support, if needed.

“We had many conversations just kind of beforehand, not only in rehearsal, but just in meetings to talk about the subject matter and really make sure we were all on the same page in terms of responsible portrayal,” Mehta said.

Mehta spoke about how he hopes this show inspires “more investigation of the self.”

“Could I have been a part of this? If I was that age, I was there under the bridge that night? You know, is the thing that I’m judging so fiercely, because of how horrible it is? Is that actually on some level of projection of something that might be live within me?” Mehta said.

Gladstone also told Malkin what she hopes audiences take away from the series.

“I really hope that looking at the series, we focus on the true part of true crime a little bit more than the crime aspect,” she said. “Sensationalizing the crime elevates the perpetrator to celebrity status and erases the victim in the process. And when we do that, we also lose the opportunity to talk about what made that person… what in society enabled it so that vulnerable person became the victim.”

The remaining episodes will drop weekly on Hulu until the finale on May 29.

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