2017 Arthur Ellis Award, Best Nonfiction Book — Winner
A sinister plot by a young woman left her mother dead and her father riddled with bullets.
From the outside looking in, Jennifer Pan seemed like a model daughter living a perfect life. The ideal child, the one her immigrant parents saw, was studying to become a pharmacist at the University of Toronto. But there was a dark, deceptive side to the angelic young woman.
In reality, Jennifer spent her days in the arms of her high school sweetheart, Daniel. In an attempt to lead the life she dreamed of, she would do almost anything: lie about her whereabouts, forge school documents, and invent fake jobs and a fictitious apartment. For many years she led this double life. But when her father discovered her web of lies, his ultimatum was severe. And so, too, was her revenge: a plan that culminated in cold-blooded murder. And it almost worked, except for one bad shot.
The story of Jennifer Pan is one of all-consuming love and devious betrayal that led to a cold-hearted plan hatched by a group of youths who thought they could pull off the perfect crime.
About the author
Jeremy Grimaldi is a journalist who has travelled through forty countries and worked in both Canada and the UK. He is currently the Crime and Justice for YorkRegion.com. While working as a court reporter, he covered the Jennifer Pan story for ten months. He lives in Toronto.
- Winner, Arthur Ellis Award, Best Nonfiction Book
Excerpt: A Daughter's Deadly Deception: The Jennifer Pan Story (by (author) Jeremy Grimaldi)
It has to be a nightmare.
“Where’s the fucking money?” the voice asks.
The hushed tones of the intruder are followed by a silent, visceral threat — the cold metal of a handgun against his cheek. As the father of two lifts his gaze, quivering with fear, the man speaks again: “Where’s the fucking money? I said.”
What is happening? The man is in his own bed, in his own home, sleeping soundly after a long day of work. He attempts to shake off the grogginess of his deep slumber, to understand exactly what’s transpiring. The intruder standing over him doesn’t have time for his attempts at comprehension; he has his orders, now he needs to execute. Today is payday. He grabs fifty-seven-year-old Hann Pan roughly by the scruff of the neck. If Hann had time to put on his glasses, he would be able see into his assailant’s eyes, though they’re largely hidden beneath a baseball cap that is pulled down low on his forehead. The man leads him downstairs, the gun pressed firmly to the back of his head. As they descend the semicircular staircase, the scale of the threat to Hann and his family is revealed one horrifying step at a time. Downstairs, another masked man, also wearing a flat-brimmed baseball cap, stands over Hann’s wife, Bich-Ha, a gun to her neck.
Bich’s feet are still soaking in a bucket of water after her weekly line-dancing class. She timidly looks up and asks her husband, in Cantonese, her voice cracking with fright, “How did they get in?”
“I don’t know,” he answers. “I was sleeping.”
Impatient, one of the men shouts, “Shut up! You talk too much.” He turns to Hann and repeats, this time slower, his voice seething with rage: “Where’s the fucking money?”
Hann, believing the men only want to rob him, not hurt his wife or him, obliges. The problem is that since the Pans were robbed years ago when they lived in Scarborough — a rough area he moved his family out of to avoid this sort of confrontation — they no longer keep large amounts of money at home. “I have $60 in my pants upstairs, but my possessions are worth plenty,” he tells his tormentor.
“Liar! I need the fucking money, nothing else.”
Hann suddenly feels a searing pain in the back of his head. He falls to the floor. A gush of blood cascades over the living room couch.
As he and his wife are led into the basement of their middle-class suburban home, true fear begins to rise to the surface of Hann’s mind. Still, he can’t imagine the scale of violence and horror that is about to descend upon his home and family this unseasonably warm November night.
It’s different for Hann’s wife. She senses the imminent danger. She blurts out a panicked plea: “You can hurt us, but please don’t hurt my daughter.” Her mind is racing, frantic, wondering why they’re being taken downstairs. She begins to plead with the intruders, whimpering and begging them to take pity on her humble family.
In the basement, the couple is ordered to sit on the couch, the same place where their daughter Jennifer lounged, watching her weekly sitcoms, just hours earlier. The men throw blankets over the couple’s heads, blankets that keep the family members warm in the often-frigid basement. Hann remains calm, resigned to his fate; his wife is hysterical. The assailant readies himself, aims, and fires. One bullet rips through Hann’s face, fracturing the bone near the inside corner of his right eye, grazing his carotid artery. A second bullet hits him in the right shoulder, exiting out the back of the top of his shoulder.
The men turn their attention to his screaming wife. The initial blast from the firearm pierces the base of her neck. A second shot tears through her upper-right shoulder. And a final bullet, this time fired at closer range, enters and swiftly exits her skull: a fatal shot.
Daughter Jennifer, who is later discovered by the police tied to the upstairs banister, recounts the sound of “four or five pops” and then an unknown number of footfalls before the intruders leave the house.
When Hann slowly regains consciousness and opens his eyes, he is gripped with terror as he comes to realize that the last eight minutes of his life have not been a gruesome nightmare but instead a terrifying reality. As the details of the break-in race through his mind, he looks beside him, where the love of his life lies, bloodied; her body has slumped to the floor. He crawls to her, wincing in pain, blood dripping from wounds in his shoulder and head. He shakes her, calls out her name, once, twice, three times — no response. The life has already left his wife of thirty years. He begins to howl in agony, a pain both physical and emotional. As he lurches upstairs, his desperate screams and moans are clearly audible to the 911 operators fielding his daughter Jennifer’s panicked call for assistance. Hann reaches the main floor and staggers to the front door. Outside, he collapses in front of a neighbour who is on his way to an early shift at work.
“Dad?” his daughter Jennifer yells down to him. “I’m calling 911 … I’m okay.”
But her father doesn’t hear her. He is racked by pain in his own world of dread.
Jeremy Grimaldi has taken his place as one of Canada's premier true crime authors.
Kidnapping, Murder, and Mayhem
The book is pure story: chronological, downhill, fast.
Globe and Mail
A hair-raising and revealing account of this harrowing case.
A psychological thriller that is not so much a whodunit as a how-done-it and why-done-it.
South China Morning Post