Toronto police investigators say they’re continuing to probe the circumstances surrounding two recent fatal stabbings in the city’s west end, encouraging residents to be extra cautious of anything suspicious.
“I don’t want to raise any fear or any panic. I just want people to be aware this is something that we’re looking at — the possibility these are connected,” Insp. Hank Idsinga told reporters Monday afternoon during a news conference.
“At this stage of our investigation, it is too early to confirm if these two homicides are connected to one another. However, we cannot exclude that possibility.
“Both victims were stabbed and the incidents occurred in very close proximity to each other.”
Idsinga said the investigations are ongoing and all potential motives are being probed. However, police sources told Global News the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team was notified about the deaths — a routine protocol anytime there’s an investigation that may involve hate-based or terrorism-related crime.
The comments come two days after 58-year-old Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, a volunteer caretaker at IMO Mosque on Rexdale Boulevard near Islington Avenue, was stabbed at the mosque.
Toronto police said the stabbing happened at around 8:40 p.m. on Saturday while Zafis was seated, performing health screening at the front doors. Officers said he was stabbed once by a suspect before they left.
On Tuesday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims released a statement on the mosque’s behalf, saying there have been “sleepless nights for many of us” since the stabbing. The statement urged people not to draw conclusions about the possible motive of the suspect.
“It is more appropriate to allow the police to continue to investigate. At the same time, we urge our congregants to keep our brother in your prayers and to of course continue to be vigilant about any suspicious activity in the area,” the statement said.
“At this point, we are not encouraging mosques in the GTA to shut down or to discourage worshipers as there is insufficient evidence to make such a recommendation at this point.”
Meanwhile, on Sept. 7 just after 7 a.m., police said a jogger discovered the body of 39-year-old Rampreet (Peter) Singh off of the West Humber Trail underneath Highway 27 and near Humber College Boulevard.
Investigators said Singh, who was homeless and lived under the bridge since April off and on, is believed to have been asleep when he was attacked by someone. It wasn’t known if he was targeted.
Idsinga encouraged people, especially near West Humber Trail, to be on guard.
“We’re cognizant enough of what has happened over the last week in that area that we feel it is necessary to bring it to the public’s attention,” he said.
“We are asking the public to please continue to be aware of your surroundings.”
Anyone with information about the stabbings or with any video was asked to call police or Crime Stoppers anonymously.
— With files from Catherine McDonald