Driving certificate

Woman pleads guilty in drunk driving crash that killed eight-year-old child

Two months before her trial began, a Strathroy woman pleaded guilty on Friday to the driving death of an eight-year-old girl from Virginia who was visiting family in London in the summer of 2020.

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Two months before her trial began, a Strathroy woman pleaded guilty on Friday to the driving death of an eight-year-old girl from Virginia who was visiting family in London in the summer of 2020.

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Alicia Van Bree, 35, pleaded guilty to impaired driving and operation of a motor vehicle which caused the death of Nihal Toor.

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She also pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle causing bodily harm to another passenger in the vehicle with the girl.

Nihal was living in Virginia and visiting his grandparents in London with his mother and three older sisters in July 2020.

After a visit to a friend’s farm near Strathroy on July 17, the family were on their way home to London when at around 10 p.m. Van Bree’s vehicle hit theirs at Egremont Road and Hickory Drive.

The child was taken to hospital where she later died, police said.

Nihal Toor
Nihal Toor

Van Bree’s trial was scheduled to begin Nov. 14, and on Friday she appeared before Zoom for a hearing on a pretrial motion on the admissibility of certain evidence.

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After that hearing, her attorney, Ron Ellis, informed the court that she would plead guilty immediately.

“It is important for the proper administration of justice and for the defendant’s right to a fair trial that we sometimes have to have a preliminary application to predetermine the admissibility of evidence,” he told the court.

“Mrs. Van Bree accepted responsibility on a personal level throughout this, but took my advice in ensuring that we have pre-determined by Your Honor’s ruling that the evidence against her was admissible. Now, in the Respecting Your Honor’s ruling, Mrs. Van Bree has asked me, as expected, to continue to accept responsibility for entering her pleas.

Appeared by Zoom, a somber Van Bree showed little emotion during the guilty plea hearing.

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Van Bree is due in court again on November 18, where pre-sentencing submissions and other facts of the case will be heard.

Those facts will include video taken of the accident and a reconstruction report, Assistant Crown Attorney George Christakos told Superior Court Judge Maria Carroccia.

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The basic facts of the case were heard at Friday’s pretrial motion hearing.

“Based on the facts that I have heard, which are admitted by the defendant, and on the basis of . . . a certificate that demonstrates the defendant’s blood alcohol level at the time, there will be a guilty verdict,” Carroccia said.

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The Nov. 18 hearing will include victim impact statements, the court said. A whole day was set aside for these statements.

Born in Canada and the youngest of four daughters, Nihal was just before her ninth birthday when she was killed.

His family was called Nihal, the youngest brother of six, the glue that held them together with his energy, love and support.

“She was the music in that house and now I’m deaf,” her mother Baljinder Toor, who was driving the car on the day of the collision, told London Free Press journalist Jane Sims in a January 2021 interview.

His father, Sukhwinder Singh, is an adviser in the Asia and Pacific department of the International Monetary Fund, and Nihal has lived in Tanzania and India.

But Nihal’s country of birth was her favourite, her family said, and every summer the girls and Baljinder would visit Bajinder’s parents in London.

“She gave us hope, she kept us young, she kept us grounded, she kept us entertained,” Singh said in the same interview.

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