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Two Winnipeg seniors have died after being assaulted during an apparent robbery at their vacation home in Jamaica, their daughter says.

The bodies of Melbourne Flake, 81, and Etta Flake, 70, were discovered in their house in St. Thomas Tuesday morning. A family member identified them after they were found.

“It was just terrible, that’s all I know,” said daughter Debbie Olfert. She says the family found out about the slayings on Tuesday night. Her sister called while she was out and implied Olfert should get home before she shared the news.

“I thought that I was in a dream. I thought that this couldn’t possibly be what I was hearing, that it was a bad, bad joke. That I would be saying, ‘OK, you know what? That’s not funny.’

“But I realized at some point when I had several people starting to call me, and I had another person from Jamaica call me and say ‘I’m sorry Debbie,’ I thought, ‘Oh, OK, this is not a fantasy. This is real.'”

The family has received little information from local authorities, said Olfert, adding Interpol is investigating. She said they have been told some details, including that police believe the pair were killed in a house robbery gone wrong.

There have been no arrests so far.

Dahlia Garrick, a communications officer for  Jamaica’s police service the Jamaica Constabulary Force, said police have launched an investigation into the deaths.

Robbery is a possible motive but police haven’t ruled anything out, she said.

“I can assure you that we from the Jamaica Constabulary Force are committed to a speedy investigation and to ensure that the perpetrators are caught, are brought to justice and that the persons in the community and the family might have some closure as to what happened,” Garrick said.

CBC News has reached out to Interpol and the High Commission of Canada for comment. Jamaican news outlets are also reporting the deaths.

A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told CBC News consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather more information but said further details can’t be released in order to protect the privacy of the people involved.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the Canadian citizens who have been [killed] in Jamaica. Consular services are being provided to the victims’ family,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

From Jamaica to Winnipeg

The Flakes immigrated to Canada 53 years ago from Jamaica in search of work, Olfert said. Melbourne was a carpenter and Etta worked as a nurse. The couple, who retired several years ago, had five children and 14 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The pair, especially Melbourne, still liked to spend time whenever possible in their homeland, she said. Over the past several years, Melbourne had been building the pair a house near the water in St. Thomas and they had just begun to enjoy their new home in the winters.

Olfert described their neighbourhood as being quiet.

“It’s not gated, but it’s a lovely quiet residential neighbourhood. Lovely neighbours, people that take good care of their property, it’s quite picturesque.”

Garrick also said the Flakes lived in a peaceful and calm community that isn’t known for violence.

“[The mood in the area] is one of shock, you know, one of disbelief,” she said.

“This elderly couple is highly respected and loved. So you know, persons are somewhat still coming to terms with what has happened.”

The couple last spoke to Olfert Monday night when they called. She told them she was driving and asked them to call her back. They agreed they would and hung up.

They never did.

“Because it’s so fresh, I don’t believe that it’s truly sunk in,” Olfert said. 

“I still, in the back of my mind, I’d like it to be a dream. I’m hoping at some point someone says ‘Surprise!’ or ‘April Fools!’ or something like that.”

The family is making arrangements to travel to Jamaica, Olfert said.

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