Enhanced forensic technology has led to an arrest in a cold case murder.
On November 19, 1990, Surinder Singh Parmar was murdered in the Penny Gas Bar washroom at 1039 Danforth Rd.
The gas station attendant, 38, was fatally stabbed. The motive appeared to be robbery. The deceased, who had just completed his doctorate in history and was a principal at a school in India, was visiting Canada. He entered the country on June 11, 1990 and had planned to return home on January 3, 1991.
He was residing with a relative at the time of his death.
Last August, the Homicide Squad Cold Case section launched Project Never Give Up, aimed at identifying evidence that had not been forensically examined for DNA on specific type cases. Fingerprints obtained in these investigations were also resubmitted for ex-examination because DNA and fingerprint technology have advanced considerably in recent years.
Unsolved homicides are transferred to the Cold Case section three years after the initial investigation.
“When we examine a cold case, we are not re-investigating the case,” Homicide Staff Inspector Greg McLane told the media, at a news conference at police headquarters on November 10 to announce the arrest. “These cases, as in all homicide cases, receive a full and comprehensive investigation by the Homicide Squad during the initial investigation. It was because the case was extensively investigated, documented and evidence preserved during the initial investigation that allowed us, years later, to move the investigation forward.”
Parmar’s case was chosen to be examined because of the nature of the murder. It was a close-contact stabbing in which the offender may have left DNA behind.
“What we are doing is looking at ways to see if advancements in technology can shed light on the person or persons responsible. There have been many advances in DNA and fingerprint technology over the years since these crimes were committed,” McLane said. “We have to methodically go through the cases and look at the evidence that was collected at the time and determine if, with new testing or examinations, anything is likely to be gleaned from a re-exam.”
On November 9, Rupert Richards, 61, known to police, was arrested without incident at his west-end apartment and charged with First-Degree Murder. He was not a suspect in Parmar’s murder prior to the unearthing of forensic evidence.
Detective Sergeant Stacy Gallant said the public can play a key role in pointing out suspects in these cold cases to Homicide detectives who can investigate and seek a warrant for their DNA.
McLane said not every case has evidence that can be re-examined.
“In some cases, there is no evidence that can be tested at all and, in others, we may find that the sample has degraded due to the passage of time and the collection method at the time,” he said. “Back before DNA, we didn’t preserve things the same way as we do now because we didn’t know, then, what we know now. One case at a time, we move forward and try to make those responsible accountable, no matter how long it takes.”
Gallant and Detective Henri Marsman were assigned Parmar’s file.
“It appears that a very violent struggle took place in the confines of the small bathroom,” said Gallant, who is in charge of the Cold Case section. “…The body was discovered by a customer who had stopped for gas and, not finding the attendant in the kiosk, checked the washroom that was located about 30 metres from the kiosk where one would normally pay for gas.”
Parmar, who was exploring Canada as a country to live with his family and took a job at the gas station to pass time, left behind a widow and two children who were in India. They travelled to Canada for the funeral and settled in Ontario.
“His children, 25 years later, are grown up and hardworking members of the community,” said Gallant. “They continued to wonder about what had happened to their father. They were shocked when we called them to provide an update on the investigation after all these years.”
McLane also revealed the cold case website is being updated.
“This is to take advantage of new technology and to be compatible with the plethora of devices available in today’s marketplace,” he added.
He said the website will be released to the public “in the near future” to assist police in attracting new information on cold case investigations.
Anyone with information in an unsolved cold case murder can contact Homicide at 416-808-7400; Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637). Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.