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Coroner examining remains found near Orangeville

OPP cruisers and police tape cordon off a crime scene several hundred metres west of near Mountainview Rd and Beechgrove Sideroads, where human remains were found in a wooded area southeast of Orangeville, Sept. 5, 2010.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail

While Orangeville residents lit candles in a silent vigil for Sonia Varaschin, the Coroner's office began the process of determining if human remains discovered in a wooded area outside of town Sunday are those of the 42-year-old nurse who vanished a week ago.

A local woman spotted the remains before 9 a.m. while walking her dog along Beechgrove Sideroad, a narrow dirt road about 13 kilometres east of town.

Foul play is suspected in Ms. Varaschin's case – both her home and her car, found abandoned in a laneway near Orangeville's town hall, were spattered with blood – but investigators would not say if there is any connection between her case and Sunday's grisly discovery. They were tight-lipped about the find.

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"The identity and sex of the person will not be released at this time, pending the positive identification of the body," Constable Jonathan Beckett of the Ontario Provincial Police said from the scene. "We have been in contact with the Varaschin family regarding the discovery."

He said the body would be examined at the Coroner's office in Toronto, but that the results likely wouldn't be released until Monday "at the earliest."

At Ms. Varaschin's father's home in nearby Bolton, family declined to speak with reporters.

"You tell me how you would be feeling in this situation. The police haven't told us anything more than you know. You know as much as we do," said her brother, Viv Varaschin.

Police blocked off a section of Beechgrove, a country road that cuts through farmland, marshes and woods southeast of the town of 27,000. About 300 metres from the roadblock, an area of trees off the road was marked with yellow police tape. A helicopter buzzed overhead as forensics officers collected evidence from the bush.

Alfaz Zaban, who owns the land where the body was found, said he didn't notice anything was amiss until parents of his children's friends arrived to pick them up from a sleepover at his house and noticed the road was blocked off.

"This is a peaceful area, it's quiet. We were surprised and sickened," he said.

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Mr. Zaban said his land is hemmed in by conservation areas and that he rarely ever ventures into the heavy bush near the road where the remains were found.

Ms. Varaschin was reported missing Monday by her family when she failed to show up for work at a Mississauga pharmaceutical company.

On Friday, police told the public to be on the lookout for Ms. Varaschin's blood-soaked bedding in rural or wooded areas. They said a beige-coloured fitted sheet and comforter were missing from her house.

More than 2,000 people have joined a Facebook group dedicated to the missing woman. On Sunday, the group was used to encourage people to light candles in their windows to show support for Ms. Varaschin's family.

Investigators say they have no suspects in the case, but that the culprit was likely someone who knew Ms. Varaschin and was familiar with the area around her house. On Friday, they asked people to be on the lookout for someone whose clothes were smeared with blood or who showed a dramatic change of attitude Monday.

"The culprit left the scene covered in blood," said OPP Detective-Inspector Mark Pritchard. "The offender would have had a significant change in his behaviour. There would have been a change in the person's demeanour."

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He said the removal of a bed sheet suggests the culprit was disposing of evidence. He or she is believed to have left Ms. Varaschin's house in her car and then returned to Orangeville with it later.

Ms. Varaschin had previously worked at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, and volunteered her time during the summer at a camp for people with epilepsy.

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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