10 January 2024

Over $26,000 raised to support family of Canberra zoo stabbing victim Tshewang Choden

| Albert McKnight
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Tshewang Choden died at the National Zoo & Aquarium in an alleged stabbing late last year. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

A fundraiser launched by Canberra’s Bhutanese community to support the family of Tshewang Choden, who was killed at the city’s zoo late last year, has raised over $26,000.

The 29-year-old from Bhutan was allegedly stabbed to death by her co-worker, Jude Luckshan Wijesinghe, in a kitchen area at the National Zoo & Aquarium on 18 December 2023.

In the aftermath, the Australia Bhutanese Association of Canberra (ABAC) launched a traditional Bhutanese semso or consolation drive in order to support her family, describing Ms Choden “a young vibrant and beloved member of our community”.

Last week, the association wrote on its Facebook page that the semso drive had finished after running for about two weeks.

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“We are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support and generosity you displayed during this campaign,” the association said.

“Through your collective efforts, we were able to provide substantial assistance to the grieving family during this difficult time.

“Your contributions have made a significant difference in alleviating their financial burdens and providing them with some measure of comfort.”

ABAC said a total of $26,050.06 had been transferred to the family’s bank account.

Around 6000 Bhutanese people live in the ACT and the community has rallied in the past to provide support after an untimely death and to enable family members to repatriate the deceased.

The semso tradition provides community financial support to those in need and is deeply embedded in Bhutanese culture.

Police had been called to the zoo at 12:50 pm on 18 December over reports of a disturbance, as witnesses had heard loud screams coming from a commercial kitchen area.

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The officers arrived to find Ms Choden dead in a storeroom at the back of the kitchen. It is believed she died after suffering stab wounds.

Mr Wijesinghe was taken into custody with alleged self-inflicted injuries and was transported to the Canberra Hospital under police guard.

The 29-year-old from Oaks Estate has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder and has been remanded in custody.

His matter will be heard in court again on 4 April.

While the zoo was closed for a time, it has since reopened to the public.

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