MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police are linking several body parts found in east Toronto to a woman’s head, foot and two hands discovered in a river west of the city — and investigators believe they’re closing in on her identity.
“I think we’re pretty close to finding out who the victim is,” Peel Regional Police Sgt. Pete Brandwood said Monday.
Investigators said two calves, a thigh and an arm that were found Saturday and Sunday in West Highland Creek in east-end Toronto are likely connected to the gruesome discovery earlier in the week in Hewick Meadows Park, which is about 45 kilometres away.
On Wednesday, a group of hikers found a right foot with yellow painted toenails in the park.
The next day, police found a woman’s head and then the marine unit found a pair of hands on Friday.
All the body parts have been sent for forensic testing, but police believe they all belong to the same person.
“Investigators are convinced that there are obvious similarities,” said Brandwood.
In the meantime, investigators are poring over missing persons reports from both Toronto and Peel region to try to determine the identity.
“We’ve pretty much isolated and narrowed down who it can possibly be, so I don’t think there’s any immediate scare to any family members who all of a sudden haven’t seen their mother or daughter — we know it’s a female — so mother, daughter or sister in a short period of time,” he said.
They’ve also been in touch with relatives of people who they think the victim could be.
“We’re trying to soften the blow when eventually we do unfortunately have to tell the victim’s family that all this is in relation to their daughter or mother or sister,” he said.
Two dozen police officers returned Monday to the shoreline of the Credit River, which runs through the Mississauga park, in search of additional severed human remains.
Since the first discovery Wednesday, the officers have been combing the area with cadaver dogs and a marine unit.
Some areas of the river have dams or other structures that would prevent body parts from flowing further, so police said they would finish their search of the park in Mississauga by the end of the day Monday.
Const. Erin Cooper said the horrific nature of the case and the physical demands of the search have taken a toll on the officers.
“It’s a relatively extraordinary case as far as it’s not something that we would deal with everyday. It’s a gruesome discovery for any officer. But it’s not only the emotional tolls…on the officers — it’s the physical ones,” she said.
“They’ve been working fairly long days, in what I said before, fairly rough terrain, going through walking paths. Walking through deep brush and that kind of thing.”
In east Toronto, yellow police tape could be seen cordoning off a large section of the wooded area surrounding West Highland Creek. Toronto police are conducting a similar search there.
Brandwood said the case can’t be technically classified as a homicide until there is a cause of death.
“I think it’s fair to say there’s some criminality involved here,” he said.
Investigators estimate the remains were in the parks for several weeks before they were found.
The size of the remains suggest they are not from a child, police said.