A dated photo when Vlora Shabani visited Bill Brill in the United States. Courtesy Milaim Grabovci

A dated photo when Vlora Shabani visited Bill Brill in the United States. Courtesy Milaim Grabovci

Local man reunites with child victim of the Kosovo War

Brian Honeybourn was reunited with a victim of war twenty years after the initial investigation.

Last month, The Langley Times published an article about a local retired police officer, Brian Honeybourn, who recounted the time he spent overseas as a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) war crimes investigator during the Kosovo War in 1999.

READ MORE: Retired police officer recounts war crime investigations

Within days of publishing, the story made its way across seas to an online media site in Kosovo.

Honeybourn never suspected he’d speak again with a young girl named Vlora Shabani, whose case he investigated twenty years ago in Kosovo.

“I’ve been the subject of so much media even before the internet came along, and this is a real tear-jerker. It really is.”

As originally reported, Honeybourn met 12-year-old Vlora during his investigations.

Vlora, along with many family members, was the victim of a brutal shooting during the Kosovo War.

Honeybourn explained how Serbian forces lined up Vlora and her family at their home in Vlastica, and shot them one-by-one.

When the trigger was pulled on Vlora, the bullet hit her palm and cheek and slid away from her face—leaving only an indent and damaging her finger.

Honeybourn said “God must have been there…Some people have a hard time believing that, but I’ve got pictures of this girl.”

After shooting the family, the intruders set the house ablaze and Vlora’s two-year-old brother was burned alive.

And twenty years later, Honeybourn was informed that Vlora is alive and well, has a family of her own, and received treatment for her scar and damaged finger shortly after the shooting.

“This is just wonderful. I am so very, very pleased,” said Honeybourn upon hearing the news.

The good news came from Milaim Grabovci—a man who lived ten miles from the village of Vlastica where the massacre took place.

In 1999, Grabovci met Vlora after hearing about the massacre committed near his town.

Shortly after, Grabovci had to flee from Kosovo to Macedonia as a refugee after Serbians came looking for him.

While staying in a refugee camp, Grabovci met a Washington Post journalist, who published Vlora’s story.

After the photo of Vlora ran on the front page of the Washington Post, an American man named Bill Brill reached out to help.

Brill passed away in 2010, but his close friend Martha Rasin, shared his role in Vlora’s life.

According to Rasin, the Washington Post article compelled Brill to travel to Kosovo to meet Vlora shortly after the shooting.Brill then paid for Vlora to travel to the United States to receive surgery on her bullet scar and damaged finger.

He also created a trust fund for Vlora, which was later used to build a home.

“Bill was a great philanthropist,” said Grabovci.

“He helped a lot of people in need. Vlora was not the only person he helped. There were other kids from Kosovo who he helped, taking them to the United States for medical help.”

Grabovci recalls when Vlora met Brill for the first time.

“Vlora was so happy that after all she suffered, someone showed up to help her. She was so happy she could have surgery on her cheek.”

After seeing her family members shot in front of her, Vlora heard her baby brother crying as he was burned alive in the house fire.

Grabovci said Vlora lived with many nightmares after the war.

Despite the atrocities Vlora faced, she continued life with an uncle, brother, and grandmother in the village.

But Grabovci shared good news with The Langley Times.

After the war, Vlora finished school and now has a husband and three children of her own.

And Honeybourn has also held onto a piece of Vlora’s childhood many years later.

While excavating Vlora’s childhood home after it burned, Honeybourn had found two marbles fused together by the fire, and an old-fashioned house key

“There wasn’t a lot to find and I didn’t know who they belonged to so I brought them back to Canada. But they rightfully belong to Vlora and her family,” explained Honeybourn.

After reuniting over email with Vlora, Honeybourn shipped his artifacts back to their home in Kosovo.

“She was touched and happy at the same time because she will have something that will give her connection to her home and her family,” added Grabovci.

Grabovci explained after the war ended, the investigation into the shooting carried on until 2010, despite witnesses who gave written statements naming a suspect. Grabovci said for “unknown reasons the suspect was never arrested.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Vlora Shabani in Kosovo after a bullet hit her left cheek. Courtesy Brian Honeybourn

Vlora Shabani in Kosovo after a bullet hit her left cheek. Courtesy Brian Honeybourn

A recent photo of Vlora, her husband, and three children. Courtesy Milaim Grabovci

A recent photo of Vlora, her husband, and three children. Courtesy Milaim Grabovci

Just Posted

Chris Veale, seen here at Brookswood Secondary School on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, has been coaching girls basketball for more than 20 years (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Coach Chris Veale backs his players

When the gym closed, this dedicated basketball coach found another way

Tabor Village took to social media on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020 to share what it meant to them to have Langley Lodge staff visit and provide support. As of Tuesday (Dec. 1), the outbreak at Tabor had resulted in a total of 147 cases and 19 deaths since Nov. 4. (Tabor Village/Facebook)
Langley Lodge shows ‘solidarity’ by visiting staff of B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak

As of Tuesday, Abbotsford facility recorded 147 cases and 19 deaths since Nov. 4

Brian Lott, of the Rotary Club of Langley Central, emceed the prize draw on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Langley woman wins $73,615 in first ever Langley Rotary Mega Draw

After months of ticket sales, the draw was livestreamed from the Rotary Interpretive Centre Thursday

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Black Press Media files)
‘No smoke, no fire’ defense says in conflict case that could kick three off Langley Township council

Lawyers argued there’s no evidence of any conflict or vote-for-money deal

Kanata Soranaka became a Belmont bulldog this school year, and has used technology and innovation to continue to bring music to students despite the COVID-19 pandemic. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Langley teacher finds new ways to keep the music playing during COVID

Kanata Soranaka and her music cart a common sight around Belmont Elementary

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon following a reported police incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Federal offender escapes, gets shot at and is taken back into custody in Abbotsford

Several branches of law enforcement find escapee a short distance from where he fled

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Lefeuvre Road, near Myrtle Avenue, was blocked to traffic on Thursday (Dec. 3) after an abandoned pickup truck was found on fire. Police are investigating to determine if there are any links to a killing an hour earlier in Surrey. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Torched truck found in Abbotsford an hour after killing in Surrey

Police still investigating to determine if incidents are linked

Surrey Pretrial centre in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Pretrial hit with human rights complaint over mattress

The inmate who lodged the complaint said he needed a second mattress to help him manage his arthritis

Most Read