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West Vancouver man with gang ties found dead

Trail workers find body near Cypress Bowl Road; police say death suspicious

THE body found on Hollyburn Ridge this week has been identified as Vahid Mahanian, a West Vancouver man with gang ties who disappeared last month.

Mahanian, 35, was last seen June 27, when he had lunch with two friends in Vancouver. His family reported him missing three days later.

Mahanian's remains were found Tuesday evening by volunteers doing trail maintenance in a forested area about a kilometre past the second lookout on Cypress Bowl Road. Investigators have not classified the death as a homicide, but have deemed it "suspicious."

Although an autopsy was performed Thursday, police have still not determined the cause, nor have they nailed down time, place or other details of Mahanian's death, said West Vancouver Const. Jeff Palmer, who spoke to media near the scene this afternoon. "All that is still under investigation," he said.

Officers and a forensics team were finishing their search of the area nearby as he spoke.

The West Vancouver police, who are probing the incident alongside a

Vancouver homicide unit, put out a plea Thursday for witnesses. They asked anyone who had seen anything unusual on that part of Hollyburn between the time of Mahanian's disappearance and the day his body was discovered to get in contact with them.

"We're looking for anyone who noticed anything that was perhaps a little odd," said Palmer. "Anything could be helpful."

Mahanian's car, a blue 1994 Pontiac Trans Am, remains unaccounted for, he added. Anyone with information as to the vehicle's whereabouts is also asked to come forward.

Mahanian made headlines four years ago, when he was injured in a gangland shootout in Richmond's Dover Park. Two other men, gangsters Niki Tajali and Sahand Askari, were also hurt in that incident. Tajali was later shot again in a targeted hit in Calgary, and Askari narrowly escaped unhurt from yet another attempted shooting in Coquitlam last year.

Although Mahanian served four years in jail for his role in a 1997 home invasion in North Vancouver, his mother has since insisted he had turned his life around. Police have not characterized Mahanian as a gangster, and have said he was not under investigation at the time of his disappearance.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the WVPD at 604-925-7300.

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