Toronto police will be reviewing how officers handle missing persons cases, the force's chief announced Friday as officers worked to address concerns around deaths and disappearances being investigated around the city's gay village.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the cases are an opportunity for an "open and candid" look at police procedures to ensure best practices are being followed.
"I've asked professional standards to conduct an investigation to look at the gaps and issues — if there are gaps and issues — when it comes to how we do missing person investigations, to find out who received what information what was done with that info who was the info shared with," Saunders said.
The internal review is expected to help determine if police practices and training around missing persons cases need to be changed, Saunders said.
The probe was announced as investigators provided updates on three separate investigations that have links to the city's gay village — the homicide case of 22-year-old Tess Richey, the death of a transgender woman named Alloura Wells and the disappearances of two men, Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman.
Police said the investigations are not related and emphasized that there is no evidence a serial killer is involved.
Richey was reported missing on Nov. 25 and was last seen early that morning outside an empty building near Church and Wellesley Streets — the core of the city's gay village — with a man she and her friend had met after a night out. Her body was found four days later in an outdoor stairwell leading to the basement of the empty building.
Police are searching for the man who was with Richey that night and consider him to be a suspect. In addition to Richey's case being investigated as a homicide, the force's Professional Standard's Unit is also reviewing the conduct of officers who investigated her disappearance.
Richey's death was the latest in a series of police investigations related to the neighbourhood.
Wells, a transgender woman reported missing by her family, was found dead near a tent in a nearby ravine in August, but her body was not identified until November, Det.-Sgt. Dan Sabadics said.
Investigators found nothing at the scene to suggest foul play, Sabadics. An autopsy ruled her cause of death was "undetermined," he added.
Officers also worked Friday to dispel some of the rumours surrounding the case of Esen and Kinsman, who were reported missing from the Church and Wellesley area at separate times earlier this year.
No reason to believe there is a serial killer
Investigators working on the two missing persons cases, nicknamed Project Prism, have no reason to believe the missing men are dead, though police have not ruled the possibility out, Det.-Sgt. Michael Richmond said.
Nor is there reason to believe that the disappearances have anything to do with a serial killer, or predators targeting men through a dating app, Richards added.
Information from a separate investigation into the disappearances of three other men who vanished from the same area between 2010 and 2012 is being shared with Project Prism, Richmond added, noting, however, that there's no reason to believe any of the five disappearances are connected.
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