Cold Case Files: Ontario family recalls moments after daughter’s death 29 years ago
The death of 21-year-old Margaret McWilliam has remained a mystery to her family and Toronto police for almost 30 years.
Margaret moved to Scarborough in 1987 and was working at a retirement residence while attending classes at Ryerson University.
She grew up in Deep River, Ont. and had dreams to cycle across the continent.
“She liked the outdoors,” Margaret’s mother Charlotte McWilliam told Global News. “She wasn’t the greatest athlete but she liked to cycle and swim.”
Margaret and her mother had planned a trip to go on a walking tour of England and in preparation for the trip, Margaret decided to take up running.
“Margaret thought she had to get into shape and she had told us she had discovered this really pleasant place near where she lived in Scarborough,” said Charlotte.
“There was a stream and it was woodsy and it was lovely … it was Warden Woods park. That’s where she went. She would see the wildflowers and she would never realize that there were dangers lurking very close at hand.”
On Aug., 28, 1987, Margaret didn’t show up to work and her colleagues called the police.
“This was rather alarming because Margaret was very consciences and she would never not turn up for work without letting them know that something happened,” Charlotte said. “They were all quite aware of this.”
Margaret’s parents immediately made the trip from Deep River to Scarborough to join in the search.
As they approached her home, they saw police cars lining the streets leading up to Warden Woods park.
“We just had this terrible feeling that something had happened,” Charlotte said.
Shortly after their arrival, police found Margaret’s body. She had been strangled to death in the brush of Warden Woods park.
“I just immediately said, ‘Is she alive?’ and the answer was no,” her father Ivan McWilliam said.
“We just collapsed.”
“It was just this sick feeling in my stomach and life was gone,” her father added. “It was like someone had taken your life away from you.”
In 2000, advancements in DNA testing gave some new insights into who Margaret’s killer was.
“We first introduced DNA testing here in the 1980s and at that time a rather large amount of DNA was required to conduct a DNA test. We would need a blood stain typically the size of a loonie to generate a DNA profile,” said Tony Tessarolo, director of the Centre for Forensic Sciences.
“We are at the point now where we can generate a DNA profile from essentially any size blood stain that you can see.”
Using those new advancements, investigators were able to lift a DNA profile from skin cells left on Margaret’s sweater. But they have still not identified a suspect and are holding out hope the public can help.
“We are looking for someone who knows who is responsible and that person may not even know they know,” Gallant said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the police homicide unit at 416-808-7400, email@example.com or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.
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