Vera Caruk’s nickname was “Baba” which is Ukrainian for “grandmother.”
The 86-year-old Langley City woman was enjoying being a grandparent and great-grandparent after finally retiring at the age of 68.
Caruk had become a single mother of two daughters in 1968 when her husband, Bill Caruk, unexpectedly passed away.
“She was actually mom and dad (to us),” said daughter Nadine Robert, “because that was all we had.”
“She was the foundation of our family,” daughter Launa Gallant said.
Caruk wasn’t inclined to spend a lot of money on herself, balking when her daughters would suggest treating herself by visiting a beauty salon.
“Why don’t I make lunch (for you) instead,” she would say.
On the afternoon of July 14, 2017, Caruk decided to walk rather than drive to carry out some errands.
She had $50 in her wallet. She was walking with a cane. She was mugged and robbed in broad daylight as she walked on 56 Avenue near 201A Street, not far from her condominium.
There was a struggle, and Caruk ended up in hospital with a broken ankle and internal haemorrhaging.
Caruk didn’t have a clear memory of whether she was shoved, or fell when she used her cane to defend herself.
She was in and out of hospital for six weeks before she died, ending up on life support twice before she passed away in her sleep on Aug. 26.
On May 23, the mugger, 37-year-old Tara Elizabeth Whitney, was given three years for the robbery plus probation.
The family said the prosecutor told them Whitney wasn’t charged with causing Caruk’s death because it couldn’t be proven to be directly connected to the mugging.
With a one-year reduction for aboriginal status, and credit for time served, Whitney officially has 10 1/2 months remaining to serve at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge.
However, Caruk’s family has been informed that Whitney will be released sooner, in seven months, on Dec. 22.
Daughter Launa Gallant said the family was only allowed to make limited victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing, and much of what they wanted to say was left out by the prosecutor.
“We were never given the chance to tell the judge what we really felt and what our mom went through,” Gallant said.
Gallant said the family feels cheated and let down by the entire judicial system.
“There aren’t enough Crown Counsel lawyers, there aren’t enough judges, so they just shuffle cases through,” Gallant said.
There aren’t enough coroners, either,” said sister Nadine Robert.
Robert said the family was still waiting for a coroner’s report on the cause of death.
The family has been told that the delay is due to the flood of Fentanyl-related fatal drug overdoses in B.C., Robert said.
“It’s overloaded them.”
When the Langley RCMP investigation began, Vera Caruk was still in hospital, battling back from a bout of pneumonia.
“She was not 100 per cent coherent,” her daughter said.
After Gallant and her sister were interviewed about what their mother told them immediately after the attack, Langley RCMP were able to locate and arrest Whitney, just two days before Caruk passed away.
Gallant said the family decided not to tell Caruk about the arrest. “We thought that it might upset her too much,” Gallant said.
The family was appalled to learn that Whitney was also facing charges for mugging a 76-year-old Surrey woman the previous year.
In that case, the victim survived, despite suffering a broken hip.
Both cases were heard together.
“For God’s sake, she (Whitney) was out on bail awaiting trial for the exact same thing,” Gallant said.
When the judge delivered the sentence, he said something about hoping the family would find some closure.
Launa Gallant was outraged.
“There is no closure here,” she said.
“It (the sentence) is an insult and slap in the face.”
Nadine Robert said the family would have been closer to closure had the sentence been longer.
“It would have made us feel better if she got more,” Robert said.