Police search teams plan on spending the next few days scouring waterways and wooded areas of a park east of Toronto after the grisly discovery of a severed head, foot and two hands earlier this week.
“We said from the start that this was going to be a lengthy search,” said Const. George Tudos with Peel Regional Police, the force responsible for the area that includes Mississauga. “This is a large scale search that we’re conducting. It could take anywhere from a few days with just this specific area we’re looking at now.”
A team of 30 to 50 officers expanded their search area Saturday to try to find more human remains.
The investigation began on Wednesday when hikers found a right foot in Hewick Meadows Park. A severed head was discovered a day later.
Then on Friday, two hands were found in the Credit River, which flows through the park and eventually into Lake Ontario.
Police have said they believe the body parts belong to one person, but have yet to make a positive identification.
All they know so far is that the victim was likely a female because the foot severed at the ankle had bright yellow painted toes.
Decomposition caused by the water or the period of time they had been in the river has prevented investigators from thus far determining the woman’s age or ethnicity.
“The body parts have possibly travelled or if not, have been in the water for some time,” he said. “It does make it difficult to determine race, colour or any other markings.”
The remains have been handed over to the Ontario Coroner, which is also investigating another case of remains found in east Toronto.
Toronto police Const. Wendy Drummond says officers were notified around 1 p.m. Saturday by a resident.
He told them he had found what appeared to be remains in a ravine area but it is unclear at this point whether they are human or animal.
“Because of Peel (Police’s) ongoing investigation, we have notified them. We are liaising with them in the event that the two investigations become connected,” she said.
Several local media outlets reported that a bag containing what appeared to be remains was discovered Sunday near the site in east Toronto where Saturday’s remains were found.
Meanwhile, Peel police say their first priority continues to be finding out who the victim in their investigation is.
They have been using a dive team and cadaver dogs from the Ontario Provincial Police to aid in their search along the river banks, in the water and in the wooded areas.
“The area we’re searching is pretty dense,” said Const. Tudos. “It is rough terrain.”
The police teams were to stay in the park until dark and resume their efforts Sunday.
Meanwhile, Const. Tudos says police are combing through open missing person cases in the region and nearby to see if they can find a match. Investigators are also asking the public to come forward with any information.
Parts of the park will remain cordoned off to the public until further notice. In summer months, the park is well used for running, cycling, fishing and kayaking.
Donna Presley walks her two dogs through the park at least once a week. The discovery has shaken her.
“It’s very upsetting,” said 62-year-old Ms. Presley, who has lived in the neighbourhood for more than two decades.
“I think I’m going to think twice before I come down here again. It’s pretty scary to think it’s in your backyard more or less.”
She says she already avoids going to the park in the evenings because it is not very well-lit and can be quite isolated.
“I know times have changed but to think it’s (happening) in an area like this, in your neighbourhood,” said Ms. Presley. “It’s very, very sad.”
Jenny Tao, who lives down the street, says she’s not going to let the discovery ruin her use of the park.
“This is not people who live here (who) did this,” said 45-year-old Ms. Tao, who was walking by with her son.
“If some people want to drop off something here, what can we do?”
In 2004, the body of missing nine-year-old Cecilia Zhang was found in the same park after she had disappeared for months.
Min Chen, a Chinese exchange student, was eventually convicted of first-degree murder in her death.