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Neighbours identify West Van homicide victim as former doctor

The victim is said to be Francis Amir Este, whose family has had a complicated legal history

A man who died following an attack at an apartment complex in West Vancouver on Tuesday is being reported by neighbours to be Francis Amir Este, a former doctor who cared for his elderly mother who lives in the building.

Este had been a urologist working in Coquitlam, but had temporarily put his credentials to practice medicine on hold, according to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.

According to neighbours, Este frequented Dundarave’s The Crescent complex to care for his mother and take her to medical appointments.

“He had always been very nice and polite and talked to everybody here,” said Birgit Cook, who lives a few floors above Este’s mother.

“We often met at the lift and at the meetings in the lobby, and we would be chatting away for hours,” she said.

Cook said Este had given up his work a few years ago to care for his mother and was often seen helping her around the building and its pool area.

Este's mother, Mina Esteghamat-Ardakani, is listed on property documents as co-owner of an apartment in the building. Francis Este is listed on the property as the executor of the estate of Craig Wilson Blackburn, the other co-owner of the property. According to public real estate documents, the two-bedroom corner suite had been for sale on and off since 2019 and was sold just two weeks ago, on March 6, for $1.5 million.

Mother screamed that stabbing happened in parkade

On Tuesday afternoon, emergency services were called to the Dundarave apartment complex following reports a man was suffering serious injuries.

Despite life-saving efforts, the man died at the scene, the result of an “altercation with an unknown male suspect,” police said. The incident is believed to have been a stabbing that took place in the parking garage of the complex.

Roddy MacKenzie, who lives in the complex, said his wife entered the lobby of building Tuesday afternoon to hear Esteghamat-Ardakani screaming as she came out of the elevator, saying her son had been stabbed and to call 911.

MacKenzie said his wife had seen a man walking up the driveway from the parkade, dressed in black and with an athletic build, moments before she had entered the building.

He said the couple had often spoken with Este, a middle-aged man, who had been spending time with his mother to help her with chores and take her to appointments.

“He was such a devoted son to his mother,” said MacKenzie.

“He was very, very dutiful. He was here a lot.”

Family had complex legal history

Este, his mother, sister and wider family have a complicated legal history which has at times in recent years put them in the news.

As one B.C. Supreme Court judge wrote in one of the many legal decisions involving the family, “The level of conflict and antagonism, or worse, in this family is high.”

In July 2015, a West Vancouver mansion at 2668 Bellevue Ave. where Francis Este’s sister Rosa Donna Este was living was destroyed by a suspicious fire. She had been home at the time but managed to escape.

In December 2020 and again in the spring of 2021, the District of West Vancouver ordered Donna Este to demolish the remains of the waterfront mansion that had sat vacant and burned out for five years, following complaints from residents it was unsightly and a potential danger. But the municipality refused to grant a permit to rebuild on the property because Este’s mother, Esteghamat-Ardakani, a co-owner of the property, had informed the district she opposed the move.

Donna Este then challenged the municipality’s decision not to grant the permit both to the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal. In both cases, the courts dismissed her appeals.

Francis Amir Este, his mother and his sister were also involved in numerous civil lawsuits about family assets, including multiple properties in West Vancouver, that spanned several years and several appeals.

In one long-simmering series of lawsuits, Donna Este sued her brother and mother, alleging they held millions of dollars’ worth of property in a trust for her in a scheme cooked up to avoid a claim by her former husband to the assets during a divorce.

Both the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal subsequently dismissed her claim to the property, saying she couldn’t rely on evidence of her own illegal conduct in order to reclaim those assets.

According to court documents, Donna Este also filed a defamation lawsuit against her brother and mother at one point, alleging they wrote letters about her to the College of Dental Surgeons when she was a dentist and the Real Estate Council of B.C. when she worked for a real estate brokerage, conspiring in a “campaign of character assassination.”

Property records list Francis Este as an “interest holder” in several other properties, including an apartment at a nearby building 2120 Argyle Ave. as well as the Bellevue Avenue property where the mansion burned in 2015.

In 2020, Francis Este also filed a legal suit against the strata corporation of the building at 2120 Argyle Ave. over a dispute about his installation of hardwood flooring. In that case, the Civil Resolution Tribunal ordered Este to re-install the flooring in compliance with the strata’s bylaws.

Since Wednesday, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has not released any further information about the investigation into the homicide and no arrests have been made.

Editor's note: An original version of this story referred to Francis Este as a co-owner of an apartment at 305 - 2135 Argyle Ave. Francis Este was the executor of an estate of the property co-owner.

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