The victim of what police are calling a targeted killing in London, Ont. had been investigated by Canadian officials for alleged war crimes but insisted he was innocent, documents obtained by Global News show.
The documents show that after arriving in Canada in 2002, Bill Horrace was investigated over allegations he was “a person who committed war crimes or crimes against humanity.”
But as recently as five months ago he called the allegations “completely false.”
And the London Police Service said on Tuesday his past in Liberia was not a priority of the investigation into his killing early Sunday morning.
“I can confirm that the Bill Horrace, 44 years of age of Toronto, is believed to be the same Bill Horrace who was allegedly a member of the National Patriotic Front in Liberia,” said Det. Supt. Chris Newton.
“I will say at this time though, the alleged activities from his past are not at the top of our investigative priority list.”
Police confirmed the victim’s middle name was Chambers. Federal Court files show a Liberian national named Bill Chambers Horrace arrived in Canada in 2002 and made a refugee claim that was rejected.
In 2008, the government intervened in his case, alleging he was excluded from refugee protection on security grounds.
The allegation was withdrawn “due to lack of evidence,” according to a court document filed by his lawyer.
He then applied for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds in 2009, but the following year he became the subject of media scrutiny.
A Maclean’s story published in March 2010 under the headline “Safe haven for an alleged killer” said Horrace had been accused of “horrific war crimes” and was living in Toronto.
“An article published by Maclean’s magazine in March 2010 contains serious allegations that the applicant maintains are completely false,” according to the man’s most recent court appeal.
It went on to say the Canada Border Service Agency had interviewed him in February 2012 about the allegations in the magazine article but had taken no further action.
A decision handed down by the Federal Court in 2015 said the allegations were still being investigated.
But in a court appeal filed in Toronto on Jan. 20, Horrace said the government had “not presented any evidence to indicate the allegations have any factual basis.”
“Mr. Horrace strenuously denied the allegations that he was involved in the atrocities that occurred in Liberia,” his lawyer Meghan Wilson said in a statement.
“He fully cooperated with Canadian authorities throughout a decade-long security investigation. This investigation never yielded evidence that would justify legal action being taken against him.”
Police said four suspects arrived at a home in London in two vehicles at 4:40 am and forced their way inside. A “physical altercation occurred which culminated with the victim being shot by one of the suspects.”
After responding to a 9-1-1 call, police found the victim with a gunshot wound. Paramedics took him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The suspects involved fled before police got to the scene.
Police believe it was a targeted killing.
Property records show the home is owned by a woman who uses the surname Horrace.
The killing led to allegations the victim had a past in the armed conflict that engulfed Liberia, but police seemed to play down any connections between the murder and the allegations about Horrace’s past in Liberia.
“We are following a number of leads actively but his previous alleged activity is not something we’re actively investigating at this time,” Det. Supt. Newton said.