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Police continue search after finding hands in Ontario river

A police search dog searches the banks of the Credit River in Hewick Meadows Park in Mississauga, Ont., after police discovered a female head on Aug. 16, 2012.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press

Police using cadaver dogs will expand their search for more body parts this weekend after finding a severed human head, foot and two hands this week.

Although the Centre of Forensic Scientists has yet to confirm that the parts were from the same body, Sergeant Pete Brandwood of Peel Regional Police said a "common-sense conclusion is that they are from the same victim."

He said, however, it may take a lot more time before police can determine who the victim is.

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The body parts have priority at the Centre of Forensic Sciences, Sgt. Brandwood said, but it may still take time to get results. "This is not CSI and things don't happen within an hour period, so we have to wait on them," he said.

"It's quite possible that what we've retrieved out of the river may not give us enough to identify somebody."

Sgt. Brandwood said though it's clear foul play was involved, "we can't rule this a homicide until we have a cause of death."

It's yet to be determined whether the victim died in the park or nearby, or whether body parts were just discarded there.

Police found two hands – one right, one left – on Friday. The first was discovered in the Credit River, near where the foot was found two days earlier. The other hand was found a "considerable distance" downstream in Mississauga, police said.

Hikers made the first gruesome discovery on Wednesday morning when they found a foot near the bank of the Credit, which runs through Hewick Meadows Park. Officers said the foot appears to belong to a female because the toenails were painted yellow.

The police marine unit found the head the next day near the riverbank.

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"What happens now is, we've discovered the body parts are some distance apart, which means our search parameters start to expand," Sgt. Brandwood said. "[We'll] ask for more resources and ... it takes a little more time when it comes to combing the areas we need to diligently search."

Roughly 50 police officers and other searchers scoured the water, parklands and surrounding rocky hills on Friday.

Sgt. Brandwood said officers are looking through everything they find, including items of clothing, and then trying to work out whether they could be connected to the case.

Police said they'll be contacting other police forces throughout the Greater Toronto Area about missing-persons cases to see if there are any links.

Officers thought they'd discovered more body parts on Friday afternoon, sending the coroner and a police boat to a secluded area close to the park. The remains were determined to be those of an animal.

Shortly before the search stopped for the night on Friday, curious onlookers walking and cycling on Eglinton Avenue West stopped at the busy bridge overlooking the park and river.

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Karen Thorndyke, her son and her husband were among about a dozen people snapping pictures and watching as officers packed up and walked search dogs back to cruisers. A command centre, traffic services van, several cruisers and unmarked cars sat on the gravel driveway close to the water.

Ms. Thorndyke said she and her family sometimes walk and run through the park but on Friday night they just wanted to see what was going on for themselves.

"I just heard it today," said Ms. Thorndyke, who lives nearby in Streetsville. "It's scary. You hear about these things, but not right in your backyard."

"It doesn't matter who it is, I feel really sorry because it's somebody," she said.

Christine Low, 22, stopped at the bridge with a coworker after finishing her retail job for the day.

"Honestly, I feel very scared," said Ms. Low, who has lived nearby her whole life. "I haven't heard of anything like this around here until now."

She and her friend Eleanor Chou said they drive by the park every day. On Wednesday, when the foot was found and a smaller police presence was in the area, they didn't think anything major was happening. But as the week progressed and more body parts were found they realized something something was really amiss.

"It could be anybody," Ms. Low said, adding the incident has left her feeling unsettled.

"I just moved here a few years ago … I feel like it's not safe," Ms. Chou said.

With a report from the Canadian Press

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