SAM MADON, a marine captain, left Vancouver on June 23, 1985, a day before his 41st birthday, to join his wife, Perviz, and young children, Eddie and Natasha, who were visiting family in Bombay. His plane, Air India Flight 182, exploded off the coast of Ireland in coordinated bombings that killed 331 people in Canada’s worst mass murder. For 18 months, two B.C. men, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, have stood trial in Vancouver for their alleged role in the bombings, a conspiracy by Sikh extremists. The prosecution is expected to conclude closing arguments this month; a verdict should come by spring. Perviz Madon, a North Vancouver family-services worker, has waited 20 years to hear it.
How did you learn of the crash?
They called me to let me know the flight had gone missing. I was leaving to pick up Sam at the airport in Bombay, actually. I flew out that night and had to wait in Fondon
because the Irish authorities were not ready with the bodies. Eater, I identified his bodyI was lucky to have received his body. Some things I don’t remember at all. It’s trauma. The body shuts down; the mind shuts down.
It was such a public death, it must have been tough not to be able to grieve in private.
That has been one of the hardest things to deal with—we haven’t been able to heal. It’s been difficult for the children growing up in the media. Hopefully, by early next year, we’ll lock it all off, throw the key away and not have to talk about it ever again.
How has your family fared?
I was 36 years old, a woman in my prime. I haven’t remarried yet. My children have grown up well. Eddie is an accountant. He recently opened an Indian restaurant. Natasha got a master’s in criminology.
You wonder why she took criminology? Yes, people ask her that. Apparently so many children of this tragedy have gone into criminology, policing or to work as lawyers. Maybe she needed to find justice somehow.
You faithfully attended much of the trial. Why?
I need to be there for my husband’s memory. Those guys sitting there [the accused] need to know who I am.
Don’t you find the courtroom surreal? It’s a fortress, the accused behind bulletproof glass.
Yeah, sometimes you just wish it wasn’t bulletproof. I feel, in this criminal justice system, the accused have more rights. How many times did we hear that their Charter rights have been violated? What about ours?
Which witness affected you the most?
It was the woman who was involved with Mr. Malik and testified against him. She’s in witness protection now. She had everything to lose and nothing to gain. She’s destroyed her life. I’ll never be able to thank her enough.
Did the outrage over these murders cool the climate for Sikh extremism?
A majority of people may have thought it would be a good thing to get an independent state of Khalistan from India, but they did not want to achieve it through terrorism. What did they achieve in the end? Nothing. Nothing! That’s what’s really upsetting. My husband died in vain. After all that, there is no state of Khalistan, nor will there ever be a state of Khalistan. The world is watching us right now. What message is the verdict going to put across?
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