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Ibrahim Ali surveilled for weeks before arrest in Burnaby murder case, jury told

VPD Det. Derek Wong described to the jury at the Ibrahim Ali murder trial Thursday how he collected a cigarette butt discarded by Ali in August 2018 for DNA evidence.
A detective who obtained crucial DNA evidence testified at the Ibrahim Ali murder trial this week.

Up to eight officers secretly followed accused killer Ibrahim Ali around for 18 days before his arrest, according to testimony from a detective who collected one of Ali's discarded cigarette butts near his Burnaby apartment building for DNA evidence.

Vancouver Police Department Det. Derek Wong was on the witness stand at Ali's murder trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Thursday.

Ali has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 13-year-old girl, whose body was found in Central Park on July 19, 2017, less than two hours after her family reported her missing at about 11 p.m. on July 18, 2017.

Ali has pleaded not guilty.

The girl cannot be identified because of a publication ban.

Ibrahim Ali under surveillance

Wong, who worked for ISPOT (the Integrated Sexual Predator Observation Team) in 2018, told the jury his unit was tasked with conducting surveillance and obtaining DNA from individuals in the young teen's homicide case.

From Aug. 21 to Sept. 7, 2018, Wong said he was part of a team that conducted surveillance on a group of men that included Ali, with Ali being the primary target.

On Aug. 24, 2018, Wong said he was on foot surveilling Ali after Ali left his home at a lowrise apartment building on Telford Avenue.

At about 6:47 a.m. that morning, Wong said he observed Ali walking west on Maywood Street, smoking.

Approaching the corner of Maywood and Willingdon Avenue, Ali took a long, final drag, threw the cigarette on the ground and ground it out with his foot, according to Wong, who said he was about 20 feet away.  

Wong said he kept his eyes on the cigarette to make sure no one else touch it, but he didn’t retrieve it right away.

Ali kept walking but stopped a short distance away at the intersection of Maywood and Willingdon, according to Wong.

"The cigarette butt was discarded about a quarter block just to the east of that location, so I wanted to ensure that I wasn't observed picking up that cigarette butt in view of him and others there," Wong said.

Once Ali left the corner, Wong said he scooped up the discarded butt with a DNA retrieval kit.

Earlier in the trial, the jury heard that DNA from a cigarette butt submitted to the RCMP’s forensic lab matched DNA from semen found inside the girl.

Wong said his team kept Ali under surveillance until Sept. 7, 2018, the day he was arrested.

Police detective cross-examined

During a brief cross-examination Friday morning, defence lawyer Kevin McCullough asked Wong about other people he had helped surveil during the investigation.

"You surveilled a whole bunch of other different people, yes?" McCullough asked.

"Yes," Wong said.

"And, again, it's all for the purpose of trying to get DNA?"


When McCullough asked more questions about Wong's surveillance of other people in the case, however, Crown prosecutor Daniel Porte objected on the basis of relevance.

After Justice Lance Bernard asked McCullough about the relevance of his questions, McCullough said "It's the dollar volume the police are spending in this investigation that equals having to charge someone."

But Benard shut down the line of questioning, saying it was "not relevant to any issue material in the case."

McCullough did not ask Wong any further questions.

The Crown plans to call two more witness before wrapping up its case, but the jury isn't scheduled to sit again until Nov. 1.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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