London Community News
By Paul Everest/London Community News/Twitter: @PaulEverest1
The living are still waiting for answers and the dead are still waiting for justice.
While the police forces responsible for protecting the London area boast near-perfect clearance rates for murders over the past several years, the London Police Service and the OPP are still investigating 25 unsolved homicide cases dating back to the 1950s.
Although many of these murders happened before some of the officers investigating them were born, police insist the investigations into the cold cases won’t end until they are resolved.
“The OPP treat each one of these cases respectfully and urgently,” said Sgt. Dave Rektor, a spokesman for the OPP’s Western Region headquarters, adding the age of a case does not “devalue” a person’s life.
He said the OPP currently have 14 open cold cases for the London area.
An inspector is assigned to each unsolved case and the hope is someone will approach police with a tip, even if the murder took place decades ago.
“There’s always someone out there with information,” Rektor said.
And to coax people to come forward with a tip or new information, police often offer rewards of thousands of dollars.
But even without tips from the community, Rektor said sometimes just having a fresh set of eyes look at an unresolved case can help.
He points to the case of Linda Shaw, a 21-year-old University of Western Ontario student who was murdered in 1990.
Police announced in 2005 that they had discovered who Shaw’s killer was and that he had died in 1994.
Rektor said finding Shaw’s killer came down to an investigator studying one piece of evidence that had been overlooked.
Det. Sgt. Paul Waight, a member of the London Police Service’s major crime section, agreed that even the oldest cold cases can still be solved, especially when new investigative and forensic techniques are applied.
Between 1997 and 2000, London police and OPP teamed up to review 20 unresolved murders that had taken place in London between 1956 and 1983 through Project Angel, where investigators subjected older evidence to modern techniques such as DNA testing.
The project, Waight said, turned out to be a success.
“There were charges laid as a result of those cases or we cleared the case knowing who the person responsible was but they had died in the meantime.”
For example, DNA was obtained from the exhumed body of a deceased man suspected of murdering Victoria Mayo in 1964 which linked him to the homicide.
As for those cases that are still open, Waight said investigators will periodically review them “as time permits.”
Continuing to investigate cold cases is only one part of the equation, however, and police do their best to keep in contact with the families of victims who never give up seeking justice for a lost loved one.
Rektor said he worked closely with the Shaw family during the OPP’s investigation into her murder and added investigating officers often build relationships with the families of victims.
Some of those relationships, he said, last long after a case is closed.
Police officers understand some people get upset when police aren’t able to solve a case or investigators have to withhold information from family members in the interest of not jeopardizing an investigation.
“Your heart goes out to the family,” Rektor said. “You can’t help but feel their frustration.”
But he added many officers who work on these cases experience similar feelings of anger and sadness.
Rektor said he knows some investigators who lose sleep over unsolved murders and others who really push themselves to crack a case.
“We really want to have a positive effect on the safety and security of the people we’re charged with protecting,” he said. “And when we can’t do that, it makes us hungry to try even harder.”
Waight described the feeling of not being able to provide a grieving family with answers about the murder of a loved one as “heart-wrenching.”
“Being the lead investigator you feel responsible for the case and to finding answers for the family,” he said. “It’s extremely frustrating for the police and the family when those answers aren’t readily available. And you do somewhat take it personally. You sort of reflect and ask yourself whether you’ve done everything you could. Often, you have, but it’s still frustrating.
“It’s something you kind of have to come to terms with.”
One of the London Police Service’s most recent unsolved homicides involves the murder of 29-year-old Jonathan Zak, who was found dead of a gunshot wound in Northeast Park on May 31.
His mother, Jean Zak, said she last heard from police about two weeks ago when they returned to her the wallet Jonathan was carrying the night he was killed.
At that time, Jean said, police told her the investigation into Jonathan’s murder was the service’s “No. 1 priority.”
While she wishes police would update her daily, she said she understands they can’t do that, especially if they are uncovering new information about the murder that can’t be disclosed to the public while the investigation continues.
“I presume anything they are finding out they probably won’t tell me anyway,” Jean said.
Waight confirmed he can’t divulge any new details about Jonathan’s case, even though he said he wishes he could.
“I’d just like to pass on that there are people out there who have information about this murder and we’re urging them to come forward to do the right thing and share that information with us so that the family of Jonathan Zak can have some sort of closure,” he said.
The unresolved murder cases the London Police Service are investigating include:
-Susan Cadieux was five years old and playing with her siblings near her house when she disappeared on the evening of Jan. 7, 1956. Her body was found the next day about one kilometre away as a result of a search.
-Margaret Sheeler was 20 years old when she left her Bridle Path home at 8 p.m., Dec. 27, 1963. Her body was found in a field near Kipps Lane on Jan. 23, 1964.
-Jackie Dunleavy, 16, left her part-time job at the Stanley Street Variety at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 9, 1968. She was found dead near the gates of the London Hunt and Country Club an hour-and-a-half later.
-Helga Beer, 31, was last seen leaving a friend’s apartment in downtown London with an unidentified man on Aug. 6, 1968. She was found dead in her vehicle the next day.
-Patricia Boivin, 22, left her apartment on King Street where she lived with two young sons after talking on the phone with an acquaintance at about midnight on April 23, 1969. The next afternoon, her body was found in her apartment.
-Ivan Wheeler, 27, was found dead in his taxi in the area of Cheapside Street and Highbury Avenue on Feb. 17, 1977. Wheeler had been shot in the back of the head with a .22-calibre firearm.
-Samuel Lottery went missing on Jan. 20, 1996. In May, 1997, a citizen walking his dog south of the Blackfriars Bridge discovered a human bone. Searchers found more bones and DNA testing identified them as the remains of Lottery.
-Isaiah Perri was 17 days old in 1998 when he was injured in a shaken-baby incident resulting in serious injury. He was put in a foster home requiring specialized care as he was disabled. On Oct. 12, 2002, Isaiah died. Medical experts determined that his death was a result of the injuries sustained four years earlier.
-Lisa Leckie, 26, was found dead in her apartment at 390 Southdale Rd E. on March 24, 2009.
-Anthony Manning, 39, was found dead in an apartment at 499 Cleveland Ave. on May 8, 2009. Two men were arrested at the scene but were later released.
-Jonathan Zak, age 29, was found murdered in Northeast Park off of Victoria Drive on the morning of May, 31, 2012. Police said he had sustained a gunshot wound to the chest.
The OPP have four cold cases for London listed on its website at http://www.opp.ca/ecms/index.php?id=434:
-Frankie Jensen Jr., age nine, murdered in 1968
-Sonya Cywink, age 31, murdered in 1994
-Vecchio Salavotore, age 35, murdered in 1998
-William (Bill) Gordon McMillan, age 38, murdered in 2002
The murder of Donna Jean Awcock, who was killed in London in 1983 at the age of 17, is another cold case under the OPP’s jurisdiction but it is not referenced on the OPP’s website.
The OPP was not able to provide details about the other London-area cold cases before press time.
Anyone with information about any of these cases is asked to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or (705) 329-6111, the London Police Service at 519-661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Information can also be sent in online anonymously to www.londoncrimestoppers.com.