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Man accused of poisoning, sexual assault

Martin van den Hemel, staff reporter

A 50-year-old Richmond man has been charged with three counts of sexual assault and three counts of trying to poison three different women during alleged attacks dating back to January 2000.

Timothy Roy Beith was charged late last month with seven counts in all, including an assault charge stemming from a police investigation launched late last month.

Ironically, it was Beith who contacted police during a dispute in his home on No. 1 Road in the early morning hours of April 20.

A witness heard a woman screaming and crying and there were sounds of fighting in Beith's first-floor home.

RCMP Const. Peter Thiessen said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the case because it is currently before the courts. But he said police were responding to a "domestic type of complaint".

One witness said police seized at least one VCR, dozens of videotapes inside two medium-sized boxes, along with a videocamera.

According to Thiessen, police received complaints from three different women and upon conducting an investigation they arrested Beith, who was subsequently charged. All of the alleged assaults took place in Richmond.

Beith, who is described as a quiet man, has been living in a rented suite on No. 1 Road since June 2001. He often had female visitors, sometimes two at a time, whom he described as his friends, one witness said.

According to the information in Richmond Provincial Court, Beith is alleged to have administered a "poison...unknown substance to endanger the life of that person."

Beith, who has a previous criminal record, was originally released on bail on several conditions, including that he not possess video recording or playback devices or weapons.

Beith was taken back into custody on Tuesday, although The Richmond Review is prohibited from publishing the reason.

Under his original bail conditions, Beith had been barred from contacting the alleged victims, directly or indirectly, or from coming within 100 metres of their homes or workplaces. He had also been instructed to report to a bail supervisor and inform the supervisor of where he's living.

Beith is next expected back in Richmond Provincial Court on May 30.

Mother of two dies in high speed crash

Martin van den Hemel, staff reporter

Police are recommending negligence-related charges against the Coquitlam driver of a Mercedes Benz involved in a high-speed collision Sunday that claimed the life of a young Surrey mother and seriously injured her two children.

Harjeet Kaur Atwal, 30, was pronounced dead at the scene after the older model Buick she was driving near the 15500 block of Westminster Highway was struck from behind around 2:20 a.m. by the Mercedes.

According to police, both vehicles were heading east on Westminster Highway when the collision occurred, sending both vehicles into a power pole.

The rear of the Buick was completely destroyed, police said, and the two youngsters sitting in the back, a boy, 5, and girl, 9, suffered broken bones and remain in hospital. The father of the two children suffered minor injuries.

Investigators believe that both high speed and alcohol may have been factors in the accident.

Anyone who may have witnessed the accident is asked to call Richmond RCMP Const. Ken Chau at 604-278-1212.

Police believe there were witnesses to the accident who left the scene.

Police are recommending that the Coquitlam driver, described as in his mid 20s, be charged with criminal negligence causing death, three counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, refusing to provide a blood sample and driving while prohibited.

He suffered minor injuries.

The man, whose name was not released because charges have not yet been laid, is scheduled to appear in Richmond Provincial Court on Aug. 26 at 9 a.m.

Group home regulations would give city little control

Chris Bryan, staff reporter

Richmond council is debating new group home regulations, but they may do little to satisfy those who raised the issue in the first place.

"You're really not effectively doing very much," Mayor Malcolm Brodie said about recommendations made in a staff report presented to a council committee Tuesday.

Under the proposed plan, the recommendations of the Group Home Task Force, with some staff revisions, would be approved. This calls on the city to notify residents within a five-home radius of a proposed facility and solicit their comments. The new facility would be subject to a one-year probation period, and a second notification would be made before the permit is renewed.

But these are contingent upon a group home being licensed and, under new provincial statutes, only facilities providing medical care are required to apply for a license.

As a result, most group homes could be established without the city's knowledge, and the city could exert little control-something that would not please the outspoken group that has been calling for a bylaw governing drug and alcohol recovery homes.

Staff has recommended a small location limitation, that all group homes with seven to 10 people be at least 200 metres from any other residential care home or facility.

Because of the changes at the provincial level, Brodie says the only choices available to the city that have any relevance are to either stick with the status quo, or create a special bylaw requiring public input before a recovery home can open its doors.

Otherwise, the efforts are futile.

"I felt the Group Home Task Force came up with a very viable plan," Brodie said. "But it depended upon almost all premises being licensed."

Brodie rejects a bylaw for recovery homes, saying it would be struck down in court as a violation under the Charter of Rights.

But task force member John Wong said the city should take that risk.

"The city always worries about human rights issues for the alcohol and drug rehab occupants," Wong said in a prepared statement. "Then where is the human rights of those people who come express their wish for a bylaw?"

Task force member Everett Mackenzie believes the city has done all that it can to exercise what power it has.

"This is as close as we can get to any kind of control," he said. "I don't know what you'd say in a bylaw: 'you can't have a group home in Richmond if 100 people don't want it?'"

City staff have stated that in the past 10 years, other than the uproar surrounding Turning Point recovery home, there has been only one group-home-related complaint.

The report goes to council Monday.

Bridgeport noise complainants win interest in airport suit

Martin van den Hemel, staff reporter

Three Richmond families who were awarded a combined $175,000 for the airplane noise they've had to endure for several years earned another win recently.

The B.C. Supreme Court also awarded the families several years worth of interest on top of the original award.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ronald Holmes awarded the families interest on the period between when they filed the court action and when they were awarded a victory last July.

Counsel for the Vancouver International Airport Authority argued that the families should not receive the interest portion because the award was in current dollars. Awarding interest would "constitute a double recovery," the airport's lawyers argued.

But Darrell Roberts and John Shewfelt argued their clients have been kept from the monies which could have mitigated some of their injuries from the airplane noise nuisance.

"I accept generally the position of the plaintiffs that the evidence indicated that the real estate market in Richmond from 1996 through 2001 was declining and that deflationary rather than inflationary factors influenced prices," Holmes ruled. "The reality is the current dollar award of May 2001 would not likely have varied significantly if assessed at various times within the period in question."

On Friday, lawyers for the airport and the residents wrapped up their arguments before the B.C. Court of Appeal. The Attorney General of Canada and the airport had appealed the original ruling handed down in July 2001.

A decision on the appeal has been reserved.

Last year, airport authority lawyer Andrew Borrell said the original ruling would be appealed on the grounds that the noise nuisance was inevitable and that the airport was authorized under statute to build the runway.

"It has the potential to impact other airports...and other public works that generate noise," Borrell said of the ruling.

Andrea and Robin Jones, Helen Page and the Livingstone family won a combined $175,000 in what lawyer Darrell Roberts hailed at the time as a precedent setting decision.

Cloudy water prompts caution

Chris Bryan, staff reporter

Taps in the Steveston area have been coming up cloudy in recent weeks, but it's nothing to worry about for most people, according to the city's chief health inspector.

Kelvin Higo said the increase in small particles is from scaling off of water mains which occurs during periods of heavy spring runoff.

This turbidity coincided with a dramatic increase in water demand, which is thought to be a contributing cause. Most of the cloudiness was in the area south of Francis Road between No. 5 Road to Seventh Avenue.

Currently, water samples tested have shown to be within the safety range. The city has been flushing the system to remove this material, and is working with the Greater Vancouver Regional District to find a solution.

Although Richmond Health Services is not issuing a boil water advisory, some water users may want to consider boiling their water as a precaution.

Those with immuno-suppressed medical conditions should consider boiling their water on a regular basis or drink bottled water.

During high levels of turbidity, others at risk, such as the very young or the elderly should also consider boiling their water or drinking bottled water.

Private school receives rezoning

Chris Bryan, staff reporter

Steveston Academy has moved one step closer to a September opening.

The Steveston Independent School Society was granted rezoning following a public hearing Tuesday that heard from several residents who said the new private school would be good for Richmond, and provide parents with a local alternative to the public system.

"It wasn't even partly controversial," Mayor Malcolm Brodie said.

The school plans to open in the former offices of B.C. Packers, located at 4200 Moncton St. In the first year, 280 students from Kindergarten through Grade 8 will attend, and Grades 9 through 12 will be phased in over the next four years. The school expects 400 students by year five.

Roy Akune, former principal of Steveston Secondary, is spearheading the project, which he calls an independent, co-ed, inter-denominational and university preparatory school.

To prevent parking issues, Akune said the school will have a policy to ensure students do not drive to school.

Leap year

Chris Bryan, staff reporter

A strong family can be a great resource.

It can also provide great source material and inspiration for writing a book, as Julie Northey, a Richmond children's book illustrator, found.

Her first children's book, I'm a Hop Hop Hoppity Frog, has been just released by Canadian publisher Stoddart Kids Ltd. and, despite the green skin of the characters, is somewhat autobiographical.

"It's a really nice reflection of our family," says Northey, who also illustrated a cookbook in 1997, but counts this as her first real break.

I'm a Hop Hop Hoppity Frog was written for children three to seven years old, and follows a rambunctious young frog who gets into everything.

"He's creative, he's full of beans...yeah, he's active," she says. And quite similar to Northey's son, Ono (now 22) when he was a child.

There are details from her own life sprinkled throughout the book that spring from her past. For instance, the frogs live on a houseboat, much like the one Julie and her husband Lawrence shared on Slocan Lake in the 1970s. If you look closely, you can see the name "Ono" on the small mug the young frog carries.

But otherwise, it's a universal tale of a precocious young child and the efforts of his parents to keep him under control and, finally, put him to bed by reading "Super Sleepy Stories."

Julie was a bit of a precocious kid herself, and has wanted to make her own picture book since the age of four, she says. She has always been actively involved in art and illustration ever since, studying both fine art and classical animation.

While she and her husband raised her son, she slowly developed her portfolio and sold some smaller, freelance illustrations on the side. In the summers, she sent samples of her work off to book publishers hoping for a response, but received little more than rejection letters.

"I have these samples from the '80s and they're so cute and so primitive," she says, with a laugh.

As her son got older, she started thinking more about her goal, and it became easier to find the time to develop her skills and begin networking. To succeed, she concluded, she had to quit her job as a special education assistant.

One day, when she was trolling around for ideas for a children's book, her husband suggested she do something based on a song he wrote in the 1980s. Lawrence had created two animated sculptures that sat in Granville Island. One was a frog who played the guitar and sang if you put a coin in the slot.

The song was "I'm a Hop Hop Hoppity Frog."

"When we went there, kids would dance and sing," Julie says. "They loved it."

Julie took the idea and ran with it. She joined professional organizations for children's book illustrators and began attending conferences and workshops as much as possible.

In 2000, she received an invitation from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators to moderate a forum at a conference in Ontario. The bonus: a chance to speak with a publisher, which turned out to be Kathryn Cole of Stoddart.

Northey knew that for her work to stand out from the "slush piles" of submissions a publisher receives every year, she needed an "in."

Her meeting with Cole went well. She arrived well-prepared, with a mock-up of a book.

"I could see that she knew I could do the job," Julie says. "We really connected."

Several months later, Julie learned Stoddart was very interested in the frog story and e-mailed her an offer.

"Then I was freaking out," she says. "When it happens, it's a real rush."

Julie plunged headlong into blocking out the story for the 32-page (standard format) picture book, drawing and re-drawing the pictures until they were just right.

"I think Christmas was about 12 minutes long for me, because I didn't want it to fall out of my head," she says of the story and characters. "I wanted to make sure they knew I was a hard worker and could meet deadlines."

In February 2001-a month ahead of time-she shipped her final proofs to the publisher. A year later, the book hit the shelves. Five thousand have been published in the first printing in Canada, and a further 10,000 will be published in the United States this fall.

"It's not J.K. Rowling yet," she quips.

But it's a start, and Julie expects it will help open more doors in the future. Random House is looking at one of her other projects and she continues with several different book ideas simultaneously, submitting some to publishers as she creates more.

The story of the characters in I'm a Hop Hop Hoppity Frog may appear again in future books. Julie is working on a prequel, that tells the story of how the parents of the young frog met, and possibly another about the family travelling across the country.

"My head sort of gets hurt because I've got all these ideas," she says.

For all her own efforts, Northey credits her husband and son for their unflagging support.

"My family wouldn't let me give up," she says. "It's a real rush to give birth to this thing after so long. Living the dream."

I'm a Hop Hop Hoppity Frog is available at Serendipity's Backyard and Cristy's Gifts in Steveston, as well as Chapters.

School cultural exchange helps bridge two nations

Don Fennell, Staff Reporter

It's been two years since Sarah Evans and several of her schoolmates visited Wakayama, Japan on a cultural exchange.

But the positive memories only get stronger with time.

For Evans and a few of her friends who make the trek to Japan, those memories were revived last week during a visit by students from Fukko and Juto high schools in Wakayama to J.N. Burnett and London secondaries.

Attending a sayonara party for the Japanese students hosted Friday by the Richmond City Sister City Committee and the Steveston Community Centre, Evans noted how similar this exchange was to the one she was part of.

"They're a very happy bunch and they love to travel," says Evans, who was a Grade 12 student at Richmond's Charles London Secondary during her trip to Japan.

Friday's send-off also confirmed something else: the more differences one might expect to discover, the more similarities they're likely find between the two cultures.

Consider fashion, for example.

Evans said other than at school, where the Japanese students wear uniforms, they're as trendy as their North American peers. In fact they may be more trendy, she said.

"Kids are kids (no matter where they live)," said Glenn Kishi, vice-principal at Burnett and emcee for the event.

"Someone said everyone smiles in the same language and that kind of said it all right there."

Kishi said it's clear people in both countries care about many of same things "The only barrier is the (different) language. And it's not too much of a hurdle."

Masakasu Takeuchi, who is retiring as principal of Fukko High School at the end of this school year, has participated in five cultural exchanges. He said every one has helped to strengthen the bond between the two nations.

"Meeting each other face to face deepens the relationship," he said.

Takeuchi said while there may be cultural and language differences, the heart of the people is the same.

"Teens here opened their hearts to everybody so they absorbed a lot of things," he said. "At a young age they mix very well and open their hearts. It is a most wonderful thing."

Richmond school trustee Gerry Retallick also participated in many cultural exchanges while a principal in the district. He still looks back fondly on all of them.

There's a great depth and emotion to the exchanges, he said.

"We often talk about adults living what we do, but these kids absolutely live this," he said.

Boom year

Chris Bryan, Staff Reporter

The City of Richmond could have as much as $3 million dollars to spare this year if the current building trend continues-a possible boon to frustrated taxpayers.

Building approvals have shot through the roof so far this year, and the city has already received $1.45 million, or almost three-quarters of the $2.12 million the city expected to receive.

If this continues, the surplus could total more than $3 million.

Surplus money often equals smaller tax increases. The city's five-year financial plan projects an increase of 4.23 per cent next year. For every $1 million the city has in surplus, they can reduce the tax increase by one per cent, on average.

But Rick Bortolussi, the city's building approvals manager, warns it's too early to start spending those extra dollars.

"We're hoping that becomes a trend, but for the balance of the year we don't see too many major projects coming down the pipeline," he said.

The general direction is positive, but there are some projects that are skewing the numbers a little, he added.

More than half of the $135 million worth of construction approved so far this year was in April.

Last month, the city approved $76 million worth of construction projects, largely due to a permit for $40 million for the replacement of Aberdeen Centre and the construction of the two towers at Perla, a 216-unit project at Buswell and Saba.

"That was probably one of the most active months on record," Bortolussi said.

Will construction continue the year at the same pace?

"I think right now it's premature," he said. "Hopefully it's a trend, but right now, it's a blip."

But there are some projects of note on the horizon.

The Onni Group is expected to apply for more permits for the next stages of the Imperial Landing project on the former B.C. Packers site. The same company is also forging ahead on a large residential tower at Westminster and Cooney.

There is also the construction of the new Richmond Secondary School, which has begun site preparations.

City treasurer Jim Bruce said any surplus from the construction budget is contingent upon the city meeting its budget in all other areas.

And unfortunately, the city has far less breathing room these days than it did in the past.

"We build very very little into the base budget for that kind of stuff," treasurer Jim Bruce said.

In the late 1990s, the city's average surplus was about $2 million. Last year, that surplus was $200,000.

"We used to have a fair amount of breathing room," Bruce said. "And to keep our tax rates down, we keep reducing our breathing room."

But this year is the beginning of a turnaround. A portion of the tax increases in future years is to begin restoring the city's reserves. This money helps the city finance its own projects and, in so doing, save the interest.

"From my perspective, it should happen faster," said Bruce. "But from a political perspective, it's got to happen slower, at a pace the public can accept.

The forgotten house

Chris Bryan, Staff Reporter

Nestled among brambles and trees at the foot of Shell Road, one of the oldest homes in Richmond is slowly sinking into the soil.

The Thomas Kidd House, located at 12051 Shell Rd., was built sometime between Kidd's arrival in Richmond in 1874, and the 1890s. There's a chance the house will be restored in the next few years, but even Kidd's granddaughter isn't sure whether it's worth it.

"I can't believe it's gone to wreck like that," said Audrey Wylie, 82, who toured the site Wednesday-her first visit in more than 20 years. "I wonder how long it's looked this bad."

Thomas Kidd holds a prominent place in Richmond's young history. He was a councillor, reeve (mayor) and MLA in the 1880s and '90s. Much of the early history of Richmond was chronicled in his 1927 book, History of Lulu Island.

His daughter, Gertie, married Sam Gilmore shortly after the First World War, and Kidd gave them a plot of land, a barn, and the six-bedroom house.

"I was born and raised in that," said Wylie, daughter of Gertie and Sam, who now lives in Tsawwassen.

Wylie remembers the house well, its grand kitchen with the massive range, the parlour, the fir floors. She remembers how it was often so cold in the winter in their upstairs bedrooms, her father finally cut a hole through the floor to let the heat from the pot-bellied stove through. The kids often peered down through the hole, and this is how she learned the truth about Santa Claus, watching her parents stuff presents under the tree one Christmas.

The house had a telephone mounted on the wall next to the kitchen. The wires were strung pole-to-pole through the adjacent field, through the front door, and along the hallway to the kitchen.

Wylie recalls a massive storm in her childhood, thunder pounding away, and lightning. One bolt hit the wires in the field, and zipped its way into the house.

"It turned the wallpaper into confetti bits along the wall and blew the phone off," Wylie said. "You can imagine the shaking the poor house did. I remember that, let me tell you."

Wylie said they lived in the house until about 1930 when her parents built a new house on Shell Road, just a few hundred metres away. She lived in that house until about 12 years ago and now her cousin, Bill McKinney, lives there.

After 1930, Kidd House was used as a bunkhouse for farm labourers.

Although she has fond memories of the house, Wylie wonders if it may be too late. Since the 1960s, the house has been frequently rented. More recently, it was left vacant, fell into disrepair and vandalized. The windows are gone, the floor is caving in in many places, and the frame has tilted.

"I think we'd better save it just by pictures-of what it used to be," she said. "It would take a dreadful amount of money to keep up, I would think."

But Jeff Wolrige, a part-owner of the property, said he's currently restoring a house near the foot of Finn Road, and Kidd House could be next.

"Eventually I'm hoping that we'll be able to start fixing that one, too," Wolrige said. "The roof is not bad. The essential elements are there. I'm in the construction business, so it doesn't scare me."

Wolrige said he didn't have any fixed idea of when he would be tackling the project.

The Richmond Heritage Commission has looked at Kidd House a few times, and even included it on the cover of the 1989 edition of the heritage inventory. The house was mentioned that year, but not officially noted, said Graham Turnbull, a commission member.

"It's amazing it's survived with the neglect it gets," he said.

He said even if it isn't restored, the house should be included in the inventory, which is a catalogue of heritage sites in the city, while it is still standing.

But he's skeptical whether it will be returned to original condition in the near future.

"If you were really earnest about saving it, it would be almost better to rebuild it."

Reunited after five decades

Chris Bryan, Staff Reporter

Kalman Bar-On says his experience in Canada has touched him on several levels.

The geography and the people are absolutely beautiful, says the 72-year-old resident of Israel.

"The other level is difficult to describe," he says. "It's a file that's opened after 56 years. The responses are not ready-made."

Bar-On arrived in Richmond last weekend after a five decade search to find his workmate at the Nazi concentration camp Ausch-witz: Richmond's Leo Lowy.

Both men have twin sisters and had the double-edged distinction of being among Dr. Josef Mengele's twins, singled out for experimentation by the man known as the "Angel of Death."

Mengele insisted his twins receive preferential treatment, to be adequate guinea pigs for his often horrific experiments. But this may have kept them both alive. Lowy, for one, lost his parents and three sisters as a result of the camps.

Lowy and Bar-On worked together for several months in the guard shack outside Birkenau (five kilometres from Auschwitz), cleaning boots, floors and dishes, and suffering vicious punishments if the work was anything less than perfect.

Somehow, both men survived the horrors of Mengele and the camps. But after 1945, they were separated.

Little did Lowy know, Bar-On had spent most of his life trying to find him again. He had contacted a number of places, including the German Embassy in Israel and the Auschwitz directory.

They once lived close together. Bar-On was in Seattle when he worked for the Israeli airline El Al, often making weekend visits to Vancouver. But Lowy's name would be unfamiliar.

Upon arrival in Canada, shortly after the war, immigration changed his name. Leopold Lvi became Leo Lowy.

But last year, on Oct. 31, at 6:30 p.m. (he remembers this well) Bar-On was seated in front of his television to watch a documentary titled Leo's Journey: The Story of the Mengele Twins. His sister had recommended it. He thought, "yet another documentary," but watched it anyway.

One minute and twenty six seconds into the story, he saw a picture of Leo as a child.

He called out "that's my Lippa!" and almost fell out of his chair. By contacting an Israeli twin who was also featured in the film, he was put in touch with Lowy.

The experience of being reunited has been an emotional one for both men.

"It's an inner upheaval," Bar-On said.

"It's a phenomenal experience because I didn't know he was alive and he didn't know I was alive," said Lowy, 74, who is from Berehovo, formerly in Czechoslovakia, now in the Ukraine.

"I never thought this day would come."

Lowy's son Richard directed the documentary chronicling his father's return to Auschwitz. Richard said he thought the experience brought closure to that horrible chapter of his father's life, but realized he was wrong.

"Kalman comes and brings the rest of dad's story with him," he said.

Bar-On speaks fluent German, and was able to understand more about what was going on around him, in some ways, than Lowy was. In the case of the experiments, this could have been more traumatizing, hearing Mengele say "What are we going to do today? Remove a leg? Give injections?"

Richard says Bar-On is a unique Holocaust survivor because he has been so committed to remembering what happened.

"He says the Nazis have won two wars. They won the war of killing 6 million Jews...and also a war of fear forcing people to avoid their story and lose their faith in life," he said. "He chooses to remember while many chose not to forget, but just not to relive."

In his next documentary Richard hopes to tell the story of the two men from their own perspectives.

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