The RCMP have released a composite sketch of a suspect believed to have committed six sexual assaults at the University of British Columbia, hoping someone will recognize the man under the hoodie who has terrorized the campus and prompted an unprecedented police response.
“We want everyone that has any information to help us identify this suspect,” Sergeant Peter Thiessen told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, pointing at the sketch as he spoke.
“This is the man that we need to get into custody.”
The RCMP’s major crimes section took over the investigation on Oct. 21, after the third sex assault in as many weeks. Investigators then linked two earlier assaults – one in April, the other in May – to the same suspect. The sixth attack occurred on Oct. 27.
As a result of the attacks, the RCMP has put more officers on campus than at any other time in the university’s 105-year history – from patrol and bicycle officers, to members of the emergency response team, to police dog handlers.
Sgt. Thiessen said Mounties are “as frustrated as anybody else is that this individual has not been identified.” He said investigators are doing everything they can, and have more than one person of interest. Sgt. Thiessen did not go into further detail.
He added investigators have received more than 20 leads from the public since a tip line was created a week ago. He said the tips are of varying reliability but are being pursued.
The suspect is described as Caucasian with a slightly darker or olive skin tone, possibly tanned. He is believed to be in his mid-to-late 20s or 30s, and has a thin build. He stands somewhere between 5 feet 8 and 6 feet 2 tall and has short dark hair. He has a broad forehead and a long, round chin and face with a straight nose.
Sgt. Thiessen urged UBC students to continue to use every precaution to ensure their safety when walking alone through campus.
He closed the 13-minute news conference by saying someone out there knows who the suspect is.
“Somebody knows that their next-door neighbour, their friend, whomever, looks very close, if not identical to this. Those are the people we want to hear from. We’ll then follow up and make the determination whether it was a viable tip or not,” he said.
UBC, in a written statement, said it welcomed the release of the sketch.
“This is an important development,” Louise Cowin, vice-president, students, wrote in the statement. “These attacks have become our top priority, and we hope this RCMP drawing will lead to a break in the case.”
The statement said efforts were being made to immediately distribute the sketch as broadly as possible across campus, via the university’s Stay Safe website, e-mail, and throughout residences and other campus buildings.
University president Stephen Toope has said the size and isolation of the 400-hectare campus has complicated efforts to track the suspect down. A working group report on security is expected in a month and could lead to the installation of more surveillance cameras.