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Remains of missing Brampton woman found in field, police confirm

Peel Police Inspector George Koekkoek is reflected in a TV monitor while announcing that the remains of Poonam LITT, who had gone missing in 2009, were discovered in Caledon, during a news conference in Brampton, April 12, 2012.

J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail/j.p. moczulski The Globe and Mail

When Poonam Litt vanished on Feb. 5, 2009, her in-laws told police she had left for work with nothing more than the clothes on her back and a mobile phone, and was never seen again.

Almost immediately, there were questions: Why had the 27-year-old Punjabi woman left behind so many personal effects, including bank cards and her work key? Was there any link between her disappearance and the fact that, just two days earlier, her husband said, she had told him she was pregnant with their second child?

One part of the mystery was solved on Thursday when police announced that a Caledon farmer had found her skeleton in a field. But investigators said they still don't know exactly how she got there, although they believe her death to be suspicious.

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At the time she disappeared, Ms. Litt was living with her husband, Manjinder Litt, and his extended family on a suburban street in northeast Brampton. She was a receptionist at a nearby dental clinic.

Mr. Litt, a trucker, was in India with his mother at the time of the disappearance. He offered a $25,000 reward for information about her whereabouts in an appeal alongside police.

Just two days before his wife vanished, he said, she had told him over the phone that she was expecting their second child. The couple had a two-year-old daughter.

More than a year later, police searched the home and pointed the finger at members of her husband's family. In uncharacteristically blunt terms, they told the media that someone in the house knew more than they were saying.

What's more, they had been tipped off that a minivan was seen leaving the home in the early morning hours of the day Ms. Litt went missing.

But on Thursday, investigators were circumspect when asked about these allegations.

"We're working on that information, as well as anything gathered since then," said Inspector George Koekkoek, head of Peel Regional Police's homicide bureau, who refused to comment on the minivan or Ms. Litt's reported pregnancy. He offered condolences to her family, saying they were devastated by the news.

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He did, however, say police had developed leads that suggested Ms. Litt may have been murdered and that people overseas know more about what happened.

"This tragic event reached many in the South Asian community," Inspector Koekkoek said. "We are of the opinion that there are people locally and abroad who may have received information or have personal knowledge of events that led to Mrs. Litt's death and we ask that they come forward to assist in our inquiries."

Her remains were found near Willoughby Road between Charleston and Escarpment Side Roads in late February. Media reports at the time said a female human skull had been recovered. It took several weeks for a forensic anthropologist to confirm the remains were hers.

Police initially searched the area in February but had to interrupt operations because of the snow. Officers are now canvassing the location again, said Detective Inspector Chris Gilpin of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Caledon residents should know that "the OPP is confident that there is no current threat to public safety," she added, a remark that underlined the police's suspicion that Ms. Litt was not the victim of random violence.

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About the Authors
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

National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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