Update in Church St. Cases

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 2:36 p.m. December 8, 2017

Investigators updated the media on four separate cases linked to the Church St. Gay Village noting there is no evidence to link the cases but appealing to the public for more information.

A man at a podlum in front of video cameras on tripods and people taking still photos
Chief Mark Saunders speaks to reporters about missing persons and a murder investigation centred around the Church and Wellesley Sts. area

Detective Sergeant Michael Richmond said 51 Division has launched two investigations regarding the disappearances of men that frequented the  Church and Wellesley Sts. area, Projects Houston and Prism but have not linked any of the cases.

“There is also no conclusive evidence to establish that any of these males were the victims of foul play, although this can’t be ruled out,” Richmond added. “There is no evidence that a serial killer is responsible for the disappearance of any of the missing males or that social media or dating applications played a role in the disappearance of the missing males although all five of the males who disappeared  were active on social media.”

Selim Esen of no fixed address was reported missing by a friend on April 20, 2017. He’s described as a white male of Middle Eastern origin, about 5’10” and weighing around 165 lbs. with medium light dark brown hair and a beard.

Richmond said Esen consistently frequented the Church & Wellesley Sts. area and Kensington Market and often had a small plastic suitcase on wheels similar to a carry-on bag.

“He was last definitively seen on March 20, 2017 even though there have been reports that he was also observed by a member of the community as late as April 14,” Richmond said. “He was known to be active on social media.”

Andrew Kinsman, 50, was reported missing by a neighbour on June 28, 2017. He’s described as male white, 6’2” to 6’4”, 220 lbs., medium to stocky build with brown hair and a full beard. He has a vertical surgical scar on knees, two tattoos, an armed band with text on his right bicep and an expletive word on the right side of his chest.

Kinsman, who was known to be active on social media, was last seen in the area of his residence on Winchester St. on June 26.

Richmond said that a task force – Project Prism – was established last August to investigate the disappearance of the two men. The task force comprises members of 51 Division and other units.

He said members of the community wishing to provide information to the task force can do so by calling (416) 808-2021.

With respect to the Esen investigation, Richmond said there have been two judicial authorizations issued.

“Ten witness interviews have been done and 46 actions or tasks have been assigned, 42 of which have been completed,” he said.

In the Kinsman investigation, 26 judicial authorizations have been issued.

Richmond said 52 witness interviews have been done, 242 assigned actions or tasks have been assigned and 183 have been completed.

“The progress of the Project Prism investigation is reviewed every 60 days,” said Richmond. “Regular communications regarding its progress and status have been released to the community.”

He said there is no evidence to link the disappearance of three men to that of Esen and Kinsman.

A man at a podium and viewed in eyepiece of video camera
Detective Sergeant Michael Richmond updates the media on investigations into missing people in the Church and Wellesley Sts. area

Homicide Detective Sergeant Graham updated the media on the murder investigation of Tess Richey, 22, who was found dead near Church and Dundonald Sts. She was in the area on Saturday, Nov. 25, visiting the Crews & Tango bar (508 Church St.) with a friend until around 1.45 a.m.

They spent some time interacting with a variety of people in the area of a hot dog cart located at Church & Wellesley Sts. which was very busy with pedestrians at the time.

“It appears that at this time, an unknown male suspect joined Tess and her friend and interacted with them,” D/Sgt. Graham Gibson said. “Tess, her friend and the suspect then made their way northbound on Church St. to Dundonald St. where they sent some time talking to a male and female. After some time, the group went their separate ways. Tess’s friend left to go home and the male and female also departed.”

At around 4 a.m., Richey and the suspect walked away and went slightly northbound on Church St. to the area of #582 and into the alley area to the north of that address.

“After this, Tess isn’t seen again on any video surveillance or by witnesses,” Gibson said. “The suspect left the area of the stairwell and was last seen walking northbound on Church St. “

Richey’s family reported her missing to Toronto Police hours later and an investigation was initiated.

Her body was discovered on November 29 in an outdoor stairwell attached to 582 Church St., which is under renovation.

On December 1, the Homicide Unit was notified following the post mortem that revealed her death was due to neck compression.

Officers from 51 Division have been canvassing the area for video evidence while seeking potential witnesses.

Gibson thanked businesses and citizens in the area who have assisted investigators by turning over surveillance video for review.

“The witnesses, family and Tess’ associates have all been extremely co-operative in the investigation,” he said. “If officers missed you in their canvas and you have information or video that may assist the investigation, I am asking you to call me or attend 51 Division to speak with the Homicide investigators.”

On the night of her homicide, Richey was wearing a black top, black tights and black boots and was carrying a green jacket and pink purse. Her hair was loose and appeared dark and wavy.

The suspect is a male with light skin, approximately 5’7” to 6’ with a slim build and dark coloured short hair. He was wearing a dark jacket with light pants.

The Centre of Forensic Sciences is assisting the Homicide Squad in the evaluation and examination of evidence in this investigation which is ongoing.

An investigator also updated the media on the disappearance of Alloura Wells, a member of the transgender community, who was found dead in the Rosedale ravine.

On August 5, a body was discovered in a ravine by citizens in the Rosedale Valley Rd. area.

Detective Sergeant Dan Sabadics said a thorough at-scene investigation was conducted by 53 Division investigators and the Coroner.

“There was no indication of foul play,” he said. “The body was badly decomposed and estimated to have been deceased for nearly three to four weeks, fully dressed in women’s clothing, blond wig and a purse.”

On November 23, the deceased was identified as Alloura Wells. 

Police are still looking to speak with a man believed to be the last person to see Wells alive sometime in early July. He was identified as Augustinus Balesdent, in his late 20s or early 30s.

“As he’s transient and still believed to be in the city, we are appealing for him to contact police at 53 Division,” said Sabadics. “This is an active investigation and we still need to speak with anyone who may have seen Alloura last.”

Anyone with information about the events leading up to the death of Wells is asked to come forward, whether anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (222tips.com) or 53 Division at (416)-808-5304 or Danielle Bottineau at (416)-808-7268.

Chief Mark Saunders said the investigations are ongoing and he has asked the Service’s Professional Standards Unit to probe the handling of missing persons’ cases to ensure investigators are doing all they can to solve the important investigations.

“We are going to look at the gaps and issues, if there are any, of how we do missing persons investigations, who received what information, what is done with what and who it was shared with,” he said. “At the end of the day, are there opportunities for us as an organization to review our present procedures or training to see what we can do to enhance any gaps or issues that we may have in the future.”

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