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Arrest made in random assault of Whitby woman while on a walk

Durham Police make arrest in Whitby assault investigation
WATCH ABOVE: A 21-year-old man has been arrested and is facing multiple charges including attempted murder after a woman was assaulted while on a late night walk. Frazer Snowdon reports.

Durham police say a 21-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a horrific assault of a 50-year-old woman while she was out for a walk in July.

The man was arrested Thursday night, with the help of Ottawa police.

“With the assistance of the media and other community members, we received numerous tips,” says Chief Paul Martin.

The investigation spanned more than two weeks, with several divisions of the department helping with the case. Police say there were many members working around the clock to find their suspect.

“Officers were volunteering to work on this, without being paid,” says the lead detective, Gill Lock. “We had civilians, front-line workers, our auxillary.”

Read more: Woman found critically injured in Whitby may have been assaulted by stranger: police

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Police said officers found a woman near a creek southeast of the intersection of Taunton Road East and Anderson Street just before 10:30 a.m. on July 29.

Investigators said she was suffering from multiple, serious injuries “consistent with an assault.” She was flown to a Toronto trauma centre.

Officers identified her as a woman who was reported missing after going for a walk around 9 p.m. in the area. Investigators, along with the K-9 team and other resources, searched overnight for her.

She remains in hospital in critical condition.

Read more: Woman in life-threatening condition after possibly being assaulted on late-night walk in Whitby

Police said they were able to identify a suspect after multiple tips from the public. Anthony Doiron-Francis was arrested in Ottawa on Thursday.

He was charged with attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated assault.

He is currently being held for a bail hearing.

Durham regional police Chief Paul Martin said there is no indication mental health played a role in the attack, but cautioned the investigation remains in its early stages.

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“The suspect was not known to the victim and this was a random assault,” he said.

The victim’s family was also in attendance at the conference on Friday. They can’t be identified due to a publication ban on the victim, but say they are grateful for everyone’s support.

“We’re pleased with the work that’s been done in catching this horrible person,” said her sister.

The woman’s father was emotional when speaking with reporters.

Durham police release video showing person of interest after Whitby assault
Durham police release video showing person of interest after Whitby assault

“She’s alive, that’s all I’m going to say, thankfully,” he said.

A GoFundMe account set up to help the woman has raised more than $100,000 since late July.

The family said the woman “sustained multiple life-threatening injuries that will require medical procedures, treatments and therapy to assist with healing during this difficult and long recovery.”

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Anyone with new information about this active investigation is asked to contact Detective Gill Lock of the Major Crimes Unit at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 5418 or anonymous information can be sent to Durham Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

With files from The Canadian Press