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Toronto police missing persons unit highlights historical cases in hopes of getting new tips

Toronto police missing persons unit releasing details on old cases
WATCH ABOVE: Toronto police are hoping to solve some of the city’s oldest cold cases. A dedicated team at the new missing persons unit will release new details every week for the next little while. Jamie Mauracher reports.

The Toronto police missing persons unit has begun a multi-week effort of highlighting historical cases in an effort to get new information from the public.

The unit, which is described by police as an oversight unit to assist and support missing persons investigations at each of the service’s divisions, was formed in July.

While the dedicated unit continues to develop, it does so amid an ongoing external review into how the service handles missing persons cases. The review was prompted by the investigation into serial killer Bruce McArthur.

READ MORE: Activists, lawyers named to Toronto missing persons advisory panel

Det. Mary Vruna is one of the investigators in the unit. She said there are approximately 600 missing persons from all parts of Toronto, and some of the cases date back to the 1940s.

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“As part of our review, we’ve decided we want to relaunch and revive certain historical cases to see if we can yield any information in relation to any missing people,” she told Global News on Monday.

Vruna said the unit will put out details of a case, which will be about a missing person or unidentified human remains, on a regular basis in the short term.

John Leonard is seen in an undated photo. (Handout / Toronto Police Service)
John Leonard is seen in an undated photo. (Handout / Toronto Police Service) Handout / Toronto Police Service

The first in a series of cases to be highlighted is the disappearance of John Leonard. He was last seen at around 12:30 p.m. on May 8, 1992 after borrowing a friend’s vehicle.

Police said that vehicle was found at a parking lot at Woodbine Racetrack, located near Highway 427 and Rexdale Boulevard. Investigators said he has not been seen or heard from since he was reported missing.

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At the time, he was 49 and described as being 5’10”, weighing 170 pounds and having a thin build with blond hair and blue eyes. He also a tattoo of a pair of dice on his upper right arm and a tattoo of the word “JOHN” on his right forearm.

Police said it’s not known at this point if Leonard’s disappearance is criminal in nature or not, noting he may have changed his identity and someone may know Leonard.

READ MORE: RCMP launches national website for missing persons and unidentified remains

“Sometimes people don’t want to be found. They actually want to come off the grid and maybe he’s had a change of heart and he can at least come forward to Toronto police and let us know he is alive and well, although he doesn’t want to be in contact with his family members,” Vruna said.

“Or should he sadly be deceased, if anybody has any information on him we’re hoping to yield some information.”

When asked about the chances of finding someone after such a lengthy period of time and getting people to remember details of disappearances, Vruna said investigators are always hopeful.

“You don’t know unless you try,” she said.

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Meanwhile, anyone with information about Leonard’s case, or any other case involving missing persons and unidentified remains, is asked to contact Toronto police at 416-808-7411 or missingpersons@torontopolice.on.ca, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477 or through the organization’s website, or email the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains at canadasmissing-disparuscanada@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

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