25 years after shocking murder of B.C. teen, a Disney+ miniseries resurfaces the tragedy

A new true crime drama delves into the murder of a B.C. teenager more than 25 years ago.

Under The Bridge explores the real-life events surrounding the disappearance and death of 14-year-old Reena Virk.

Virk was swarmed and beaten under a bridge in Saanich, B.C., by a group of teenagers on Nov. 14, 1997. 

Two of the attackers, Kelly Ellard, who was 15 at the time, and Warren Glowatski, 17, were convicted of beating and drowning her in Gorge waterway. Six other girls were convicted of assault.

Based on the 2005 book of the same name by late author Rebecca Godfrey, Under The Bridge will premiere on April 17 on Hulu and stream on Disney+ Canada starting May 8.

A screengrab of a woman in a police officer's uniform.
Lily Gladstone stars as a police officer in the new Hulu series Under the Bridge. The show premieres on April 17 on Hulu. (Hulu/YouTube)

‘This affects real people’

Former Vancouver Sun reporter Neal Hall, who covered the case as it was unfolding, says Virk’s death was a “cruel and senseless crime.”

“[This] poor girl [was] seeking acceptance by this group of girls…and she didn’t fit in, she was an outsider and they just beat her and ended up killing her,” he said in an interview with CBC’s Early Edition last month. 

Hall says he looks forward to seeing how the story is adapted for the screen.

The Early Edition6:30Reporting on the facts behind Reena Virk’s murder

Former Vancouver Sun reporter Neal Hall recalls how he covered Reena Virk’s murder as a new Hulu series puts the case in the spotlight.

“I saw a little preview of it and I think they will stay true to the story,” Hall said.

However, the Vancouver-based author and journalist says it’s important to consider the implications of dramatizing a real-life tragedy.

“[Virk’s family] they will have all the bad memories brought back,” he said, adding the miniseries will also impact the perpetrators.

Convicted of second-degree murder, Glowatski was granted full parole in 2010. 

Ellard was also convicted of second-degree murder. She was first granted day parole in November 2017, which the parole board has been extending in six-month increments. Ellard, who now goes by a different name, had two children while incarcerated.

Image of a memorial under the a bridge.
Reena Virk was beaten and drowned near the Craigflower Bridge in Saanich, B.C. (Megan Thomas/CBC News)

“[Ellard] herself now has kids to bring up and I guess she might be worried about her children getting affected by it,” Hall said. 

“This affects real people, there are always real people involved, real detectives involved … and I hope they handle it sensitively.”

CBC News attempted to speak with Virk’s father, Manjit Virk, but was unable to make contact. Her mother, Suman Virk, died in 2018

Retired staff sergeant Chris Horsley, who acted as a media liaison officer for the Saanich Police Department during the original investigation, expressed concern about the accuracy of the series. He says while some details seem accurate — judging by the trailer — he worries about the overall representation of the facts.

“They were very, very detailed about the types of uniforms, types of cars, even the type of sidearm we wore at the time,” Horsley said in an interview with CBC’s On The Island last month.

“I didn’t have any personal contact with the [production team] but I am aware the Saanich Police Department did hear [from them inquiring] about the type of uniforms, type of cars used at the time, but not questions about the actual investigation.”

Disney+ Canada declined CBC’s request for an interview with the show’s creators. CBC News also reached out to the streaming service for comment on concerns over accuracy and research, but didn’t hear back before deadline. 

On The Island10:38Retired Saanich police officer shares concerns with fictional miniseries on Reena Virk’s murder

Under the Bridge is a new Hulu series about the murder of Reena Virk, based on the book of the same name. Retired Saanich Police staff sergeant Chris Horsley says he has concerns about whether a series about Virk’s death can be considered entertainment.

Book’s author a central character in the miniseries

Godfrey’s award-winning Under The Bridge was highly acclaimed for its incisive account of Virk’s death and portraits of those responsible for killing her.

In a 2007 interview with CBC’s Gregor Craigie, the author talked about spending time with the teenagers who had been charged with Virk’s murder.

An actress poses for press photograph during a film festival.
Riley Keough stars as author Rebecca Godfrey in the new Hulu miniseries Under The Bridge. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“As I got to know them, I learned more about their backgrounds and their lives, and I was surprised that they had a lot of trauma and sort of damage that they’d endured,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey, who is originally from Victoria, died in October 2022, a few weeks before production began on the series. She is credited as an executive producer and is one of the two central characters in the show.

Riley Keough stars as Godfrey alongside Oscar nominee Lily Gladstone, who plays a local police officer.

According to Hulu’s synopsis, the series will take viewers “into the hidden world of the young girls accused of the murder — revealing startling truths about the unlikely killer.”


Posted in CBC