Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders admits more could have been done in relation to a number of recent missing person cases following the deaths of two women, and the ongoing search for two men who disappeared from the city’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, that has left the community on edge.
“I do think there are things we could have done better,” Saunders said during a press conference Friday morning in which three high-profile missing persons cases were updated.
“Whenever we see there are things that need to be improved upon, we take these opportunities to do just that. And in this particular instance, I think there are opportunities for us to learn and grow to develop.”
Saunders said a police professional standards review will be conducted to examine processes and procedures after an Ontario mother located the body of her missing 22-year-old daughter last month instead of police.
“It boils down to why I have asked for an investigation. I want to know what exactly we knew, when we knew it and what we did with it,” Saunders said.
Investigation into death of Tess Richey
Homicide investigators are seeking to identify a male suspect following the death of missing 22-year-old Tess Richey in Toronto last week.
Police said the woman was located by the victim’s mother and a friend on Wednesday, Nov. 29 in a stairwell outside an abandoned building near Church and Wellesley streets, four days after she disappeared.
“I’ve spoken to Tess’ family. I’ve met her mother and her sister. Trust me, I get how upset she is and how she feels,” Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson said.
“It was her friend who came down with her from North Bay, due to their concerns, that came down to assist the police in the search. I only became involved in this case on Dec. 1. But I do know officers were in the area, and were checking the area. I do know officers had spoken to people that had met Tess that night and were directed there by the family.”
A post-mortem exam several days later revealed she died from “neck compression” after police initially said her death was believed to be an accident.
“In this case, her death wasn’t determined to be a homicide until Dec. 1 when I spoke to the pathologist, so that’s when the homicide investigation commences,” Gibson said.
Police said Richey was in the company of an unknown male when her friend departed the area of Wellesley Street and Dundonald Street between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The male suspect is described as white, approximately 5’7” to 6’ tall, with a slim build and light-coloured short hair.
Human remains identified as missing Toronto woman Alloura Wells
In November, Toronto police identified human remains found in August as that of missing Toronto woman Alloura Wells.
Wells, 27, was reported missing on Nov. 6 after she was last seen in the downtown area in July.
The remains were discovered on Aug. 5 near Rosedale Valley Road, but were only confirmed to be that of Wells by the Centre for Forensic Sciences following the assistance of a family member.
Police said autopsy results on her cause of death has been classified as undetermined.
“Continuing into December, we are conducting interviews with those who last saw Alloura in what we anticipate to be mid-July and although not a suspect, we would like to speak with her boyfriend, as he may have been the last person to see Alloura alive,” Det. Sgt. Dan Sabadics said.
Last month, Wells’ father spoke to Global News about the disappearance and accused police of not taking the case seriously, noting that Wells was transgender, homeless and a sex worker.
At that time, Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said police do their best to solve missing persons cases, and that the superintendent at 51 Division has taken a “personal interest” in Wells’ disappearance.
VIDEO: Father of Toronto transgender woman missing for months says police didn’t take him seriously
Case of missing men baffle police
Police issued a warning this week cautioning community members about the use of online dating apps following the disappearance of two men from the area this year.
Police have one investigation looking into Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman, and a separate project probing the disappearance of three other men who went missing from the same Church and Wellesley area between 2010 and 2012.
Investigators said on Friday they don’t believe the recent missing persons cases are connected.
“There is no evidence at this point in time, which in any way establishes the disappearances of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman are linked to the disappearance of the males from the Project Houston investigation,” Det. Sgt. Michael Richmond said.
“There is also no evidence to support that the disappearance of Selim Esen or Andrew Kinsman are linked. It simply makes sense to have the same dedicated team investigate these occurrences in parallel.”
Police also said there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that established any of these males as victims of foul play, although they said that cannot be ruled out.
“There is no evidence that a serial killer is responsible for the disappearance of any of the missing males,” Richmond said.
“There is no evidence that social media or dating applications played a role in the disappearance of the missing males, although all five of the males whose disappearance is being investigated were active on social media.”
VIDEO: Toronto’s LGBTQ community turns to police for answers over missing men
—With files from Kerri Breen, Jessica Patton and The Canadian Press