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Sculpture at oval to honour innocent murder victim

The family of Richmond’s Ned Mander, an innocent victim of the Indo-Canadian gang violence that marred the Lower Mainland a decade ago, will be erecting a fitting tribute to him in the highest-profile of surroundings.

A Richmond High grad, the 28-year-old was kidnapped and murdered in October of 2001 after leaving his North Surrey bathroom products store.

After years of painful speculation by the media and public that Mander was somehow linked to gangs or the drug trade, police in 2009 finally cleared his name, bringing to an end a lot of the pain his family was suffering from the unsubstantiated rumours.

Police said he was simply used as a pawn.

“He was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of a bitter rivalry,” RCMP Sgt. Tim Shields said nearly two years ago.

The Mander family, who have lived in Richmond since 1974, recently approached the city, wishing to commission the construction of a metal sculpture of a volleyball player in Mander’s name. Mander was a nationally ranked volleyball player and wore No. 13.

“Ned was an amazing person,” brother Dave Mander wrote this week in an e-mail to The Richmond Review. “He lit up any room he walked into not just with his stature but his laughter.

“I always wanted to create a legacy for my brother, but I couldn’t do it back then because the false accusation of Ned being into drugs constantly hung over the situation. Ned was such a proud Richmond resident and we wanted to give something back to the community he loved so much, but we knew the public might not accept it. Then when the RCMP finally cleared his name and declared him innocent in October 2009, eight years after Ned disappeared, I knew we could finally move forward with a legacy.”

The plan calls for the sculpture to be placed inside the Richmond Olympic Oval.

The sculpture is to be crafted by artist Cory Fuhr, whose Speed Skater sculpture at the oval is arguably the facility’s most popular work of art.

Fuhr said Thursday that he’ll spend the next few months on the sculpture, pounding out each piece in cold steel.

“It’s like building a car,” Fuhr said, adding that the final work should tip the scales at more than 400 pounds.

Fuhr said he’s never worked on a piece quite like this, where there’s such a strong emotional attachment and tragic story linked to the artwork.

He plans to incorporate Ned Mander’s “good facial structure,” and said No. 13 will be incorporated into many locations throughout it.

Working from photographs supplied by the Mander family, Fuhr said the sculpture will show a volleyball player at the jumping point of a serve.

A three-person panel reviewed the proposal and “enthusiastically supported (it) on all criteria,” wrote the city’s public art planner Eric Fiss in a report to council.

The panel recommended its location inside the oval and urged the artist to consider “scaling up the work to improve interest and relationship to the size of the oval and its space.”

Dave Mander said the family plans to unveil the artwork this October, on the 10th anniversary of Ned’s death.

Dave Mander said he and his family are thankful for the support of Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who helped brainstorm the theme.

“Life is still hard for all of us. Ned’s body was never found so there are still so many questions. Without a body, I don’t know that there will ever be true closure. But this art certainly helps the healing.”

In addition to commissioning the artwork, the Mander family will be providing funding for ongoing maintenance, as well as the installation.

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