The Toronto Police Homicide Cold Case Section was recognized with the Ontario Homicide Investigators Association (OHIA) Lynda Shaw Memorial Award during the Ontario Homicide Workshop in May in Niagara Falls.
The honour recognized the significant work Toronto Police Cold case investigators put into the ongoing Project Never Give Up.
The award recipients were D/Sgt. Stacy Gallant who heads the Unit, S/Sgt. Karen Smythe, Dets. Henri Marsman and Wayne Fowler and D/Const. Andrew Doyle.
They have identified 44 cold cases to date for further forensic testing and received 13 positive results where a DNA profile has been generated.
During Project Never Give Up, the suspect in a 1990 murder was identified.
On November 19, 1990, Surinder Singh Parmar – who entered Canada from India four months earlier on a visitor’s visa – was stabbed multiple times about the abdomen, neck and head. He succumbed to his injuries.
The accused’s fingerprint and palm print in the victim’s blood led to an arrest 25 years later in 2015.
Gallant said Project Never Give Up was focused on identifying evidence that has not been examined forensically for DNA.
“So we looked at close contact murders where there were beatings, strangulations, stabbings and sexual-related offences where you may expect to see some transfer of DNA between the offender and the victim,” he said. “Those types of cases are the ones we focused on because I can be more assured that the DNA that we are going to find is related to the offender.”
He says that DNA testing has become more sophisticated as well as the way evidence is collected – where officers are careful not to contaminate a crime scene by using gloves and masks.
“We also looked at cases where we had submitted requests for DNA in the past. Ten years ago, they weren’t able to do what they can today because there are better capabilities with newer technology. We are utilizing those technologies to try to advance cases.”
The award honours the memory of Western University third-year mechanical engineering student Lynda Shaw who was murdered in 1990.
Ontario Provincial Police investigators determined in 2005 that her killer was Allan Craig McDonald who spent much of his time in and out of jail. The paroled killer, whose victims included a police officer, committed suicide in 1994.
Gallant said the honour is significant.
“It’s difficult to bring cold cases to any conclusion at any point in time because of the age of some of the cases,” he said. “Back in the 1970s, we didn’t package the files the same way as we would today. Sometimes notes are missing and officers that were involved have retired or they have passed on. So building up a case to bring to a prosecution stage can take a lot longer than any of the cases that are currently active cases on the main side of the unit.”
Homicide investigations become cold cases due to the passage of time without any further investigative leads to follow.
“Overall, the initial investigation is a comprehensive task in that every investigative avenue is exhausted,” said Gallant. “The focus of the Cold Case Unit is not to re-investigate cases as they have already been thoroughly investigated by competent homicide investigators. It is to expand on avenues that may not have been available at the time of the initial investigation.”
Cold case investigations are driven through several factors, including advances in DNA testing and advances in fingerprint searching technology.
There are nearly 670 cold cases on file dating as far as 1959.
“There’s a couple methods of solving cases,” he said. “One is by identifying the offender and bringing that person to court and laying a charge against them. There are some cases that we examine and we identify who we believe is responsible for that murder, but that person is now deceased. So we can’t lay a charge and we can’t identify that person because they don’t have their day in court. If that person was alive, they would have been arrested and charged. So the case is resolved.”
The Service’s Project Prism investigative team was recognized at the event with the Major Case Management Award presented to members of the policing community who, through their dedication and service, have exhibited outstanding innovation and achievement in the case management of a homicide investigation in Ontario.
“In presenting this honour, we strive to recognize the many hours of tireless service that all of the involved investigators have to the ‘project Prism’ homicide investigations,” said D/Sgt. Alex Krygsman, of the OHIA Awards Committee.
Project Prism, a task force comprising members of 51 Division and other units, was established in August 2017 to investigate the disappearance of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman.
Esen was reported missing by a friend on April 20, 2017 and Kinsman was reported missing by a neighbour on June 28, 2017.
Their remains were found in large planters at the rear of a property on Mallory Crescent.
Serial killer Bruce McArthur was found guilty of their murders. He pleaded guilty to eight counts of First Degree murder.
Homicide Insp. Hank Idsinga received the award on behalf of the team.
“This award is significant because even though this is a homicide investigators award, the vast majority of people that contributed to Prism are from Divisions across the city, especially 51 Division,” he said. “It is one of those recognitions that wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for team work across the Service from Forensic Identification and Intelligence to divisional personnel. This was a complete team effort.”
D/Sgt. Gary Giroux, who retired last February after 40 years of distinguished service, including 22 years in Homicide, was bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award.