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Daughter of Vancouver homicide victim left with questions after her father’s alleged killer dies

Charged with murdering Paul Tonks and another man, Joe Holland found dead at North Fraser Pretrial
Tausha Tonks (centre) with her father Paul Tonks (right) and her son Jacob Downie atop Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on July 13, 2019. (Tausha Tonks photo)

As if it wasn’t terrible enough for Tausha Tonks that her father was murdered in cold blood in 2020, now the alleged killer is also dead.

And just as the Chilliwack resident was processing that reality this week, she found out that the only other person in the room during the double homicide is also dead.

It was just after midnight on July 7, 2020 when 68-year-old Paul Tonks and 72-year-old Dennis Wragg were found dead inside a home in East Vancouver near Commercial Drive and East 11th Avenue.

The two had been drinking with friends, Peter Neville, also in his 70s, and 43-year-old Joseph Holland.

Holland allegedly shot and killed Tonks and Wragg. Neville escaped.

The double homicide led police across the Lower Mainland to Tonks’ van, which Holland allegedly took after the killing and dumped in the Ryder Lake area of Chilliwack.

Holland became the subject of a broad manhunt and was arrested a day later, July 8, 2020, at a campground in Harrison Hot Springs by the RCMP’s Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team (ERT) with assistance from Chilliwack and Agassiz RCMP, and the Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) ERT.

READ MORE: Vancouver double homicide leads to arrest in Harrison Hot Springs Wednesday

He was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Now Tonks may never know the motive for the shooting spree after Holland was found dead in custody at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre on Nov. 17.

Tonks was driving to a hockey tournament with her son when she got the call from victims services. Her response?

“I was angry,” she told The Progress.

Tausha Tonks (centre) with her father Paul Tonks (seated) and her daughter Aisha Aitchison, her son Jacob Downie (toque) and her son Kruz Mckay. (Tausha Tonks photo)
Tausha Tonks (centre) with her father Paul Tonks (seated) and her daughter Aisha Aitchison, her son Jacob Downie (toque) and her son Kruz Mckay. (Tausha Tonks photo)

“On one hand I’m relieved for my siblings and our family not having to go through a trial. But there are so many unanswered questions. Who died first? I heard a glass was thrown, and that Joe got into a fight with Dennis. All just things we have heard.”

Tonks was not told how Holland died, other than that it was not determined to be foul play, but she is left wondering if it was suicide or a result of a serious health problem.

B.C. Corrections and the B.C. Coroners Services are investigating.

Holland was supposed to go to trial in October, but he fired his defence lawyer, which forced a delay. He had a court appearance on Nov. 17, the same day he died.

Then on Nov. 23, Tonks said she got word that Neville had died three weeks prior. She had never talked to him about what happened the day of the killings, but she had plans to one day sit down with him to find out.

“I feel terrible for him. He just watched his two best friends killed. I can’t even imagine what he is feeling.”

Holland had spent 863 days in custody before he died.

Tonks really wants to see the RCMP file on the incident, since she can no longer speak to the only person who witnessed the homicides, and no trial will ever happen.

In the meantime, she’s just waiting to retrieve her father’s belongings, his van, his golf clubs, his fishing gear.

She said her father was a good man who lived a transient lifestyle, mostly in his van. He had five children, 10 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

The family had been reconnecting in the months leading up to the homicides, with Paul coming to see Tausha’s son’s hockey games. They all went to Disneyland together 10 months before he died.

“My dad was amazing,” she said.

Now that all four men in the house that day, including the alleged killer, are dead, Tonks said she is getting no information from the RCMP about the homicides or about how Holland or Neville died.

“We are still in the dark. It’s just frustrating. Let us know what happened.”

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Undated photo of Paul Tonks who was killed in a double murder in East Vancouver in July 2020. His alleged killer was found dead at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre on Nov. 17, 2022. (Tausha Tonks submitted)
Paul Tonks and granddaughter Aisha Aitchison, and grandson Kruz Mckay at Disneyland in September 2019. (Tausha Tonks photo)
Tausha Tonks (centre) with her father Paul Tonks (seated) and her daughter Aisha Aitchison, her son Jacob Downie (toque) and her son Kruz Mckay. (Tausha Tonks photo)