Killer moody before rampage

Jun 27, 2007 04:30 AM

Crime Reporter

Anna Ho wore a pink dress, her hair in curls, and nails painted as her stepfather, Alton Beckford, proudly snapped pictures of her in the school's gymnasium decorated for graduation. She was on the Grade 8 honour roll.

His hair freshly cut, Beckford wore pressed trousers and a dress shirt for the occasion.

"Everybody seemed happy," said neighbour Ria Hosein whose family was also at the graduation Monday night. Her daughter was in Anna Ho's class at Thomas L. Wells Public School in Scarborough.

But neighbours had sensed things hadn't been right at the family's Knowles Dr. home. Their fears were confirmed Monday night when emergency personnel arrived around 9:30 p.m. and discovered the bodies of Beckford, his common-law wife, Amy Ho, and her mother, believed to be 78.

Beckford had stabbed his wife and her mother before turning the weapon on himself, police said.

After leaving the graduation ceremony early, Beckford, 32, Amy Ho, 47, and 13-year-old Anna drove the few blocks back to Knowles Dr., a quiet street in a subdivision near Morningside Ave. and Finch Ave. E.

Hosein said she thought it odd that when she returned home shortly before 9 p.m. she saw Beckford around the side of his house still dressed up. Odder still, thought Lola, another neighbour, he had resumed watering the front lawn after the ceremony.

The next thing neighbours remembered seeing was Anna running out of the two-storey brick house, her hands and face spattered in blood. "She was screaming, `My mom is dying,'" said Hosein, standing on the front porch next to her husband, Tony, who had been sitting on the porch when the screaming girl ran to them for help.

"She said she told him to stop."

Yesterday the concrete remained stained with blood drops the size of quarters. A chair smeared with blood leaned against the house.

Several nearby residents, including Tony Hosein, called 911.

When police arrived around 9:30 p.m. they believed a killer was on the loose so the Emergency Task Force was called in and a manhunt began. But that was eventually called off and by dawn homicide investigators acknowledged that what they were dealing with was a double murder-suicide.

Anna was treated in hospital and released into the care of her aunt, neighbours said.

Anna's brother, Peter, a student who is either 17 or 18, was not home at the time and arrived later.

It's believed Anna and Peter's biological father lives in Hong Kong.

Neighbours recalled yesterday how Beckford went from being a happy, smiling and helpful man to becoming brooding and resentful after losing his job five weeks ago.

Retiree Lalta Persaud, who lives across the street, said until recently, Beckford worked as a sewing machine technician for a company that makes mattresses. His common-law wife also worked there and was on the job the day she died.

"He told me he wasn't happy about the way they treated him because he spoke up about things in the workplace and was fired," Persaud said. Among the things Beckford had complained about was speeding forklifts.

Beckford told him he'd gone to the union but was bitterly disappointed. "They gave him no satisfaction."

A few days ago, Beckford made a chilling threat. "He told me he's going to kill somebody there," Persaud said. Persaud urged Beckford to look for another job. "I told him there are lots of jobs," Persaud said. He dismissed Beckford's threats of returning to work to kill someone.

But Persaud also noticed Beckford had become strangely protective of Anna since he was let go, driving her to and from school.

Several neighbours said Beckford, who they believed has family in the west end, had come to them complaining of headaches.

Lola works with mentally ill patients and said it was clear he was depressed. "I could see he was suffering big time."

She liked him a lot and said he treated the children well. She pointed to the basketball net at the end of the family driveway.

"He bought that for all the neighbourhood kids," she said, shaking her head. "Something must have taken over him yesterday."

But she said there may have been earlier demons. Lola recalled Beckford resenting a woman who had dumped him after he brought her to Canada from Jamaica. She also said he was disappointed about not having children of his own.