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Homicide detectives investigating after stench led to hidden body in North Vancouver

File photo of police tape.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

When the call came in to police, it wasn't for a homicide, or even a scream. For days, residents in this quiet North Vancouver neighbourhood were hit by a rotten smell emanating from a nearby, popular trail.

When Mounties arrived at the scene, they discovered – amidst the bushes and trees that conceal the trail from street view – what appeared to be a human body. Twenty feet off the path, it wasn't easy to spot. What's more, police believe someone tried to hide it, leading investigators to conclude they're dealing with a homicide.

For the first time since Saturday night's discovery, investigators held a news conference Monday to update the case and highlight the difficult road that lies ahead. The body is in such a late stage of decomposition that police haven't determined the gender. They believe they're dealing with an adult instead of a child, but aren't yet certain. They don't know how long the remains were hidden along the trail, nor how many people walked through the crime scene before the grisly find.

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"It's going to require lots of testing to get us to the point where we have any of the questions answered that we're looking into," Sergeant Jennifer Pound, spokeswoman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, told reporters.

As Sgt. Pound spoke, investigators – some wearing white forensic suits – walked in and out of the crime scene. The trail has sat behind yellow police tape since the remains were found.

Scene processing and neighbourhood canvassing is expected to last until mid-week.

Sgt. Pound said North Vancouver RCMP received a call about "an aroma" in the 2000-block of Curling Road at 5:44 p.m. Saturday.

The call came in on the general police switchboard and was not made to 911.

When asked how investigators determined it's a homicide case – since a cause of death hasn't been determined and identification is expected to take "some time" – Sgt. Pound pointed to the fact the remains were purposely hidden.

"I can tell you that it looks as though there was attempts to conceal the body. Just based on that, it met IHIT's threshold to take the file," she said.

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One neighbourhood resident said the trail was frequented by drug users. When asked how police could be sure the person's death wasn't an overdose, Sgt. Pound said investigators can't, at least for now.

"We're treating it as a homicide investigation, but given the evidence that comes in from the testing we get, that could possibly change," she said.

Sgt. Pound added police are looking into the possibility the body is linked to a missing-persons file. She would not disclose whether the body was clothed, saying investigators will keep information on evidence close to the vest.

Marina Murphy, who lives near the trail, said she first noticed the smell Thursday or Friday.

"I thought maybe it was a raccoon, or a skunk," she said while standing on her doorstep.

Ms. Murphy said many neighbourhood residents walk through the trail, though she personally does not because the bushes and trees can leave it rather dark.

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When asked if she could remember seeing or hearing anything suspicious on the trail before the body was found, Ms. Murphy said no.

She said she was not the person who called the RCMP.

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