Friends shocked

Couple found dead in Orléans broke up only days ago

Andrew Seymour and Jessey Bird, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Monday, June 02, 2008

OTTAWA - Alicia Bateman and Ryan Sawchuk moved into the two-storey red-brick home on Côté Royale in Orléans a few years ago, after leaving Calgary to start a life together in Ottawa.

Ms. Bateman had landed a job with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and Mr. Sawchuk had hoped to find work after he moved east.

Mr. Sawchuk returned to Calgary March or April of 2007 when he couldn't find a job, but the couple stayed together despite the distance, and in December, were engaged to be married.

Police keep a close eye on a house Sunday, June 1, 2008, that was the scene of a suspected murder suicide Saturday in Orleans.
Photograph by : David Gonczol, The ttawa Citizen


Mr. Sawchuk's grandmother, Mary Sawchuk, said the pair had visited her for lunch that month and seemed very much in love. Mr. Sawchuk had his arm around Ms. Bateman and was tickling the hair at the back of her neck, she recalled in a phone interview from Calgary.

A week ago, however, for reasons still unknown, the couple broke up.

Shortly after that, police say Mr. Sawchuk made a last-minute trip to Ottawa, perhaps hoping to reconcile with the petite, fair-haired Ms. Bateman.

On Saturday, just after 5 p.m., police were called to the home the 28-year-olds once shared at 302 Côté Royale Cres. and what they discovered has left the quiet neighbourhood reeling and has shocked people who knew the pair.

Mr. Sawchuk was found hanged inside the house and Ms. Bateman was found dead in a Jeep in the garage, in what police say is a murder-suicide.

Police say there was obvious trauma to Ms. Bateman's body, although the cause of death won't be known until an autopsy is performed Monday in Kingston

Police can't say at this point what, if any, weapon Mr. Sawchuk used to kill Ms. Bateman.

Forensic teams are still processing the scene and police won't say if they recovered a note. However, they say there was no indication Mr. Sawchuk would commit such an act.

"To do something like this, I don't understand it," Ms. Sawchuk said on Monday.

"Why would he do such a thing? There's no rhyme or reason to it."

Calgarian Jason Konoff played hockey with Mr. Sawchuk in a men's league for about six years. He hadn't seen Mr. Sawchuk for about a year and the man wasn't on the team list for this summer's league.

He was "shocked" to hear about what happened.

"From what I knew of him, he was a relaxed and laid back kind of guy," Mr. Konoff said last evening.

"I couldn't see him even remotely being capable of that, based on his attitude and nature.

"I never saw him as a moping type."

Mr. Sawchuk's grandmother said he was "a jokey fellow" who she last saw last month when he stopped by, ate dinner and borrowed a cook book. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, Ms Sawchuk said of her grandson, who loved cooking and had recently found work with Mazda.

Then, about two weeks later, Ms. Sawchuk's son, Barry Sawchuk - Ryan's father - stopped in to give her the news: "Ryan is dead."

Late Saturday afternoon, neighbour Tammy Bastarache said she heard a man scream - a sound that made her think something was terribly wrong.

Shortly after that, Sean Burns, who lives down the street, said neighbours saw the body of a woman wearing a white shirt and jeans being pulled from the garage and watched as paramedics tried to resuscitate Ms. Bateman.

Manon Bérubé, a spokeswoman for CSIS, declined to say what Ms. Bateman's position was with the spy agency.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by her death," Ms. Bérubé said, adding the agency had no further comment because the police investigation was ongoing.

Sunday afternoon, the house remained cordoned off as investigators continued their probe.

The sight of police investigators has upset the residents of the quiet, tree-lined street. They remembered Ms. Bateman as friendly, but very private. She was often seen jogging or walking her dog.

"She was a person in our neighbourhood who we didn't know all that well, but it is our neighbourhood," said 35-year-old Mr. Burns, who lives with his wife and children.

"This is a quiet street, with a few families and a few singles, and the worst thing that happens here is graffiti ... and we talk about that for months," he said.

Vicky Swinburne-Kennelly, 58, has lived in the neighbourhood for more than 20 years.

"It is a very quiet neighbourhood. The biggest thing we ever have is an ambulance for the seniors," she said.

A neighbour who did not want to be identified is looking after Ms. Bateman's dog - a boxer that Mr. Burns said was named Jenna.

This is Ottawa's third slaying of 2008.

James Christopher Kennedy, 38, was killed April 4 after an altercation in Lowertown. Daniel Guindon, 40, has been charged with manslaughter.

Pierre Benge, 59, died on Jan. 21. His youngest son, Elliot, a schizophrenic, has been charged with second-degree murder.

With files from Suzanne Wilton, The Calgary Herald