In 2004, I was in my last semester at Bramalea Secondary School, a large high school situated on Bramalea and Balmoral Rds. in my hometown of Brampton.
I was about to graduate. I was working on getting into university to become a journalist. I was very excited about my future.
None of us were prepared for what happened, just two weeks shy of Christmas that year.
It was Friday, Dec. 10.
If memory serves correctly, one of the teachers in our school wasn’t well, and a bunch of faculty members put some money together and decided to get something for them.
One of the teachers, Ms. Aysegul Candir, who also went by Ashley – she was known for organizing social events for the staff – volunteered to go on her lunch break to purchase some flowers.
She had just arrived back at the school. She had parked her car and was stepping out of her vehicle, flowers in hand, when someone opened fire, shooting her once in the head and once in the hip.
She was rushed to hospital, but unfortunately, she didn’t survive.
Ms. Aysegul had been married to her husband, Erhun Candir, for about 18 years.
The two were originally from Turkey.
At the time of the shooting, Erhun had been retired. I can’t find much about what he did for a living prior to that.
From 1980 to 1986, Ms. Aysegul was a teacher in her homeland.
I’m not sure when the two had moved to Canada, or even if they had moved here together. Peel Police had said that the two had lived in Canada for about 30 years, at the time of the shooting.
At some point after moving to Canada, she attended York University in Toronto, where she graduated on the Dean’s Honour List, with a Bachelor of Arts in History.
In September 2000, she joined the staff at Lincoln Alexander Secondary School, a high school in Mississauga’s Malton neighbourhood.
She stayed there until she joined the faculty at Bramalea Secondary School in 2002, where she worked as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher.
Ms. Aysegul and Erhun lived in a bungalow together in Bolton.
In the weeks prior to the shooting, Erhun had apparently been vacationing in their homeland of Turkey.
About a week before the shooting, on Thursday, Dec. 2, while Erhun was still away, Ms. Aysegul decided to leave him.
She had apparently left him a goodbye letter, which he found when he returned home on Monday, Dec. 6, four days before the shooting.
Later in court, it would be revealed that she had secretly moved to a high-security condominium in Woodbridge.
She had asked the school not to list her new address in their records, for fear that her husband would track her down.
The day of the murder
On the morning of the shooting, Erhun had apparently gone to run some errands.
His lawyer, Michael Moon, said that prior to the shooting, Erhun had gone to two different stores to return two items he had previously purchased.
After that, police alleged that he waited in the school parking lot for Ms. Aysegul to return from her flower-buying excursion.
He shot at her multiple times.
Witnesses say they saw him calmly and casually walk back to his vehicle, which was later revealed to be a minivan he had rented on that day. He got in and drove away normally. He didn’t rush. He didn’t speed off.
He was arrested at the couple’s Bolton home 90 minutes later.
Erhun had apparently left the murder scene and went to do some groceries, before coming home to police.
Police found his gloves in his coat-pocket, which had gunpowder residue.
There was also gunpowder residue on the steering wheel of the minivan he had rented and was driving around that day.
The murder weapon was never recovered, however, they found 25 of the same calibre bullets hidden in his basement. There had been evidence that some of those bullets had been inserted into a gun, and then later removed. It’s important to note that the bullets found were not the same brand as the bullets used in the murder.
Rumours swirl around the school
After the shooting, the school went into an hours-long lockdown.
At the time of the shooting, I was on a free period, which was transitioning into lunch. I was outside on the other side of the school. I wasn’t caught up in the lockdown inside.
“It was a conflict between two adults, the students were never in any danger,” Peel Police Detective Stephen Rowe said shortly after the shooting.
To be honest, I was really surprised to hear him say that. Rumours were swirling around the school that one student’s vehicle had been seized as evidence, because it had bullet holes in it.
(I never found out which student it was, and whether or not it was true.)
Initial reports had indicated that the shooter may have been a young Indian man. I mean, this is a high school in Brampton. It was quite possible that there was a student who fit that description who was in the vicinity of the shooting.
Witnesses would later say that the shooter was Erhun.
Rumours had also spread that Erhun had illegally trespassed into the school in the days leading up to the shooting. Students were saying that they had seen him hiding out in the back hallway, where Ms. Aysegul’s classroom was.
I remember that hallway like it was yesterday. The school has changed a lot since then but when I was there, it was the most quiet wing in the school.
There was the ESL classroom, which was next to the music room (which was pretty busy).
Down the hallway were the tech classrooms. Once classroom was for computer programming, there was another room for shop class, another room for carpentry and plastics, and at the end of the hallway by the back door, was a classroom for videography and digital editing. I remember because I spent a lot of time in that hallway. I was one of the few girls who took those tech classes, and I spent a lot of my years in choir and school band.
Once the rumours that he had been in the school started to go around, it really freaked me out. A few days before the shooting, I remember seeing a stranger hovering around one of the corners of this quiet hallway. I suddenly thought maybe this was him. The person I bumped into fit his description perfectly.
The school had security cameras, so if those rumours were true, I’m sure they were used in court. But I don’t actually know for sure.
I do know that in court, they said he had come to the school four days in a row, in the days leading up to the shooting.
Remember, he came home from Turkey on the Monday prior to the shooting.
He came to the school to speak to her on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (the day of the shooting).
There were emails and phone calls, where he had been begging her to come to dinner with him. It indicated he felt that his wife had “robbed” him. Prosecutors would argue he was desperate and despondent.
Education Director Jim Grieve said, “It’s especially traumatic that such a disturbing incident of what seems to have been domestic violence should spill over into the lives of the students Mrs. Candir was so devoted to.”
Personally, it really shook me because there was an element of domestic violence, which I went through in my home as a child. This was a teacher I saw everyday. This happened in the parking lot of my school. Outside. While I was outside.
This tragedy isn’t about me but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the incident shook me, and many other students like me.
“The staff at Bramalea are a family, and the death of Aysegul Candir is truly like the loss of a close family member,” John Chasty, our principal at the time, said in a statement.
The case was largely circumstantial.
In one article, I had read that Erhun, who was arrested only 90 minutes after the murder, had been told he was being charged with attempted murder.
A few months after the arrest, Erhun was actually granted bail.
It would’ve allowed him to be on house-arrest until his trial.
There was public outcry, and in April of 2005, a judge revoked the bail.
His trial wouldn’t start until 2007.
His defence had been interesting.
When you look at his actions leading up to the murder, and his actions after the murder – by all accounts, he seemed completely calm. He ran some errands. He did some shopping. He seemed completely normal. Unremorseful. For us, for the public – it’s chilling.
And yet these are the facts that were used in his defence.
Moon, his lawyer, had argued that someone who had planned to murder his wife, wouldn’t decide to do it between running errands.
He also pointed to the fact that witnesses said they saw a young Indian man near the shooting.
He suggested that the guns and gangs that had plagued Toronto, were now spilling into the suburban streets of Brampton.
In his closing arguments, Moon said, “We know that gangs and drugs and violence are in our city, but we do not want to believe that it is as bad as Toronto.”
“We feel better if we tell ourselves it can’t happen here. But on December 10, 2004, it did happen. The disease reached out from Toronto and infected a school yard in Brampton.” He said that this story was a way to tell residents that “the shooting had nothing to do with gangs or drugs or robbery (…) It is better to tell them it’s just a conflict between husband and wife. Go back to your normal lives. Everything is fine. I submit to you, that was a false promise.”
One of the most interesting accusations that the defence team posited was that Erhun was an innocent victim of police.
They alleged that he was framed.
That Brampton was so obsessed with hiding the fact that guns and gangs from Toronto were spilling into our city, that they had decided to peg this murder on the husband, instead of the gangster or gangsters who were really responsible.
I find that laughable because I don’t think there was any evidence of a robbery. She was shot and the shooter left. To me, the guns and gangs story doesn’t make sense.
Regardless, they accused the police of “tunnel vision,” pointing to the fact that Erhun had been arrested a mere 90 minutes after the murder — not enough time for them to interview all witnesses.
Suffice it to say, none of it worked.
On Friday, March 30, 2007, a jury comprised of seven women and five men, found Erhun guilty of first-degree murder, after delibrating for 17 hours, spread across 3 days. The trial had lasted 8 weeks.
The verdict carries a mandatory life sentence, however, in Canada, because of our laws, he is eligible to apply for parole after 25 years.
Almost immediately, the defence team filed appeals.
His appeals were turned down.
Where is he now?
Unfortunately, I can’t find much on Erhun.
When I Googled him, most of what I found referred to his trial and his appeals.
Based on his sentence, he can’t apply for parole until he’s 88. That’s about 10 years from now.
I can’t find his exact birthday anywhere. Based on my math, he had to have been 60 or 61 during the murder.
There were police reports that say he was 62 at the time of his arrest. But his defence lawyer spoke about him as if he was 63 during the trial.
If he was 62 at the time of his arrest, he would be 78 or 79 now.
I was hoping to find the original press releases on the Peel Police website, but I think they’ve been archived. I have doubts they had the online media releases that they do now back in 2004. It was probably never on their website to begin with.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any follow-up stories that I can find after his appeals.
At the end of the day, this isn’t about Erhun.
I want to remember the teacher that everyone loved, Ms. Aysegul Candir.
It won’t bring her back, but I think justice was served. I believe the right man is behind bars.
May she rest in peace.