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Woman sentenced to 12 years in prison for Vancouver courtroom stabbing

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A woman who used a filleting knife and hammer in an attempt to kill her online nemesis inside a Vancouver courtroom will spend 12 years in prison, a judge ruled Thursday.

Catherine Shen, 56, appeared emotionless as she learned her fate. Shen was convicted of attempted murder for her 2021 attack on Jing (Becky) Lu, which happened while the two appeared before a judge in a defamation lawsuit.

“Miss Shen took several steps to attack Miss Lu, from arming herself with a knife and a hammer, to drinking alcohol as a disinhibitor, to taking a suitcase full of clothing and personal items, to dressing all in red to disguise blood stains,” Judge Kathryn Denhoff told the court.

“The attempted murder of Miss Lu by Miss Shen was not spontaneous, she had this plan for weeks,” the judge continued.

Shen and Lu had been in a heated online feud for more than a decade, their dispute stemming from a Chinese website meant to connect new immigrants. That feud sparked a legal fight that brought them both to the courtroom where the attack occurred.

Shen used a filleting knife and hammer to attack Lu, with evidence showing she struck more than 10 downward blows with each weapon.

Shen was found guilty of attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and possession of weapon.

Defence lawyers were seeking a sentence of six years, citing Shen’s mental health issues and mild alcoholism as factors contributing to the attack.

"There was no dispute that mental health issues were present and in a significant way, the issue was what role or not did they play,” Shen's lawyer Scott Wright told reporters Thursday.

Crown prosecutors were asking for between 15 and 18 years, despite Shen having no prior criminal record – describing the attack as targeted, brutal and deliberate.

Denhoff, when handing down the sentence, noted Shen did not show remorse for her actions, and continues to portray herself as the victim of Lu’s online actions.

With credit for time served, Shen's sentence equates to eight more years behind bars. She cannot possess weapons for 10 years and must provide a sample of her DNA to the authorities.

The judge also banned her from directly or indirectly contacting Lu and her family in person or online.

DEFENCE PROVIDES BACKGROUND OF ATTACKER

Shen’s defence lawyers said Shen immigrated to Canada with her then-eight-year-old son and now-ex-husband in 2005.

She holds an engineering degree that she obtained in China.

Four years after coming to Canada, her husband divorced her for issues related to her interactions with Lu.

The defence claimed that in the years following the divorce, Shen began “spiraling” as her mental health started deteriorating significantly and she began drinking more frequently.

Shen began working as a cook and her ex-husband allowed her to live with him and their son during that time. Her family has visited her in prison, the court heard. 

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