Toronto police have yet to identify the remains of a young girl found in a Rosedale dumpster, but investigators are now sifting through cases of missing children and reviewing tips to try to discover her identity.
Police hope to have definitive information to release within the next several days, according to Insp. Hank Idsinga, head of the homicide unit. There’s no word on the cause of the girl’s death.
“We’re going full steam ahead,” Idsinga told reporters on Wednesday outside police headquarters on College Street near Yonge Street.
“We’ve been doing a lot of digging through missing persons occurrences. Our forensic folks went through the residence where that dumpster was with a fine tooth comb. We’re getting lots of tips. We could always use more tips.”
An expert says the investigation is complex because of the victim’s age and the location and state of her remains.
The girl’s remains were found in a dumpster outside an unoccupied home under construction on Dale Avenue near Castle Frank Road, north of Bloor Street East, on Monday, May 2 at about 4:45 p.m.
Police said the remains were wrapped in a crochet blanket inside a plastic bag, and that bag was wrapped in a colourful blanket. Police have shared images of both blankets hoping someone will recognize the materials and be able to identify the girl.
According to the results of a May 4 post-mortem examination, the girl was young, possibly between four and seven.
Investigators believe the remains were left in the area between April 28 at 12 p.m. and May 2 at 4:45 p.m. The girl, however, may have died as early as last summer or last fall or earlier, police have said.
Police have described the girl as being Black and of African or mixed African descent. She was three feet and six inches tall, with a thin build. Her black curly hair was sectioned in four short ponytails, two of which were braided and tied with black and blue elastics. She had all her teeth.
Idsinga said it will take time for police to review missing persons cases and officers are looking at a number involving young children in the Greater Toronto Area.
“To make that definitive match is going to take quite a bit of work as you can imagine. But I’ll appeal again if anyone has any information whatsoever,” he said.
“An awful lot of these occurrences can be familial abductions for instance,” Idsinga said.
“They could be anything from outstanding immigration warrants on families and they disappear from the shelter systems. … The people have made enough of an impact where their absence is noted and somebody has reported them missing.”
Police say they will have to rely on dental records
Making the link between a missing persons case and the remains found in the dumpster requires much work because the girl, given her age, has left few records, he added.
“It’s not as if she’s going to have fingerprints on file. We are going to be relying on things such as dental records,” he said.
Toronto’s Office of Forensic Pathology, meanwhile, is trying to piece together a timeline and to determine contributing factors to the death, he said.
Michael Arntfield, a professor of criminology at Western University, told CBC Toronto on Wednesday that the investigation is “multi-pronged.”
Police will have to conduct a medical investigation to identify the remains using biometrics, a criminal investigation to process the secondary crime scene, the dumpster, and an archival investigation to look into records that may help investigators determine whether the child was reported missing or met with foul play or something else, he said.
That means reviewing provincial and national cases of children reported missing and child welfare records.
Investigation to hinge on identification, prof says
Arntfield noted that police don’t yet know the primary crime scene, where the girl died, and whether the death was a homicide. As well, given she died as much as a year ago, there would be advanced decomposition.
“The investigation will hinge on identification and that will obviously determine whether we’re dealing with a child that was neglected and indignities offered to the remains or whether this is a child who was kidnapped and murdered by a parent. In this case, they’re going to release information I would think more frequently,” he said.
He said the child is not a newborn and therefore there should be some records.
“The birth will presumably been registered. They’ll be teachers, doctors, dentists who will notice this child missing.”
Police are urging anyone to contact them with information or surveillance video of the area, including dashboard camera video, or if they recognize the blankets or the girl’s description. You can call police at 416-808-5300 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477).