It was 25 years ago Monday – April 5, 1996 – that Vernon’s Gakhal family was gunned down in their Okanagan Avenue home by the estranged husband of one of the daughters. (Morning Star - file photo)

It was 25 years ago Monday – April 5, 1996 – that Vernon’s Gakhal family was gunned down in their Okanagan Avenue home by the estranged husband of one of the daughters. (Morning Star - file photo)

Vernon’s darkest hour reaches 25 years

Monday, April 5, marks 25 years to the day that eight members of a Vernon family were murdered in their Mission Hill home

It was a Good Friday that turned into bloody Friday.

On April 5, 1996 – 25 years ago today – gunman Mark Chahal walked into an Okanagan Avenue home on Vernon’s Mission Hill, killing his estranged wife Rajwar Gakhal and eight members of her family before turning the gun on himself inside a now-defunct Vernon motel across town which now serves as a seniors residence.

Killed were Karnail Gakhal, his wife Darshan, son Jaspal, daughters Balwinder, Kalwinder, Harvinder, Rajwar and Jasbir, and son-in-law Roger Saran.

The family had been preparing for Balwinder’s wedding that weekend.

Ten years after the killings, the Morning Star followed up with family members including Hardev Gakhal, who said then he still expected his brother Karnail to walk through the door.

Roger and Jasbir Saran’s three youngest children were left orphans, with six-year-old Justine Saran struck in both legs by a stray bullet.

“She still has memories of it,” Hardev said of then 16-year-old Justine in 2006. “She knows everything. She was there.”

Rajwar Gakhal was receiving counselling from the Vernon Women’s Transition House prior to her death. She had filed a complaint against Chahal with the Burnaby police a year before the shootings. When she moved to Vernon, she reported the complaint to the local RCMP.

Clair Hayward was an RCMP Staff-Sgt. with the Vernon detachment at the time of the murders. He was spending a quiet Easter holiday at home with family when he got a call about the shootings.

“It’s just not something you forget,” said Hayward.

Indeed, the community didn’t forget, as a candlelight vigil was held for many years to remember the Gakhal family every April 5.

A monument in memory of the victims was erected outside the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, with people annually laying flowers in tribute and in respect.

The killings, at the time, were the second largest in Canadian history behind the death of 14 women at the hands of Marc Lepine at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique in December 1989. Both dropped a spot after Gabriel Wortman killed 22 people in Nova Scotia nearly a year ago, April 18 and 19 before being killed by police.

READ MORE: Vernon terrier, master cleaning up discarded masks

READ MORE: Vernon Vipers slither past West Kelowna

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Local Historymurder

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen will speed up the process for hospitality businesses looking to set up patios during the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Under the most recent restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited, but patio dining is allowed. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen speeds up patio permit approval

Initiative to help hospitality businesses affected by latest COVID-19 restrictions

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

Your old lawnmower is an environmental disaster. (courtesy photo)
The perfect lawn is pretty hard on the planet

According the government of Canada, an older mower running for an hour can produce as much air pollution as a new car driving 550 kilometres.

File photo
Princeton fees and services set to increase by three per cent

Fees and charges provide the municipality with $1.515 million annually

(Stock photo)
Snow levels above normal in Okanagan

Spring temperatures, rainfall will affect risk of flooding

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Sun Peaks is tracking rising COVID-19 cases. (Kamloops This Week Photo)
Sun Peaks sees spike in COVID-19 cases at end of ski season

On April 9, there were 15 positive cases confirmed.

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read