Shock and disbelief gripped residents of one of Canada’s wealthiest neighbourhoods on Thursday as Toronto police revealed that the remains of a young girl had been discovered in a construction dumpster outside a home in the area.
Investigators said they haven’t been able to determine the girl’s cause of death, nor do they know just when she might have died, but they think her remains were placed in the dumpster sometime between last Thursday and Monday.
As police asked the public for help identifying the child, those who lived in the ritzy Rosedale neighbourhood, located north of the city’s downtown, said they were processing news of the discovery.
“It’s kind of crazy to think about, that that would happen,” said Mikkel Shiffman, who has lived in the house across the street from the discovery with his parents since he was four.
“It makes you feel that stuff like this happens a lot closer than you think.”
Officers responded to a call about remains found in a construction-disposal dumpster on Monday afternoon. The property where the remains were found is unoccupied and under construction, police said.
An autopsy completed on Wednesday identified the remains as those of a girl between the age of four and seven, investigators said. The girl may have died as early as the summer of 2021 or even before then, police said.
“Our first priority is to figure out who this little girl is,” Insp. Hank Idsinga told reporters. “We will get to the bottom of it no matter what it takes.”
On Thursday afternoon, yellow police tape could be seen stretched across the driveway of the home where the construction dumpster had stood. A police car was parked near the home, on a residential street.
At the end of a stone path beside the home’s driveway, a pot of pink flowers had been placed with a card that read “little one, we pray heaven has dried your tears.”
Steven Koshchuk, who lives around the corner from where the incident took place, said the news was jarring.
“I was extraordinarily shocked, not because of the neighbourhood or the demographics or whatever, just that someone would abuse and mistreat a child in that way and abandon them,” he said.
Terry Kirk, who has lived in the neighbourhood for about nine years, said it was difficult to think of “the circumstances around a child being treated that way.”
“It’s not something that’s part of everyday life that’s for sure,” she said.
Police said the remains of the girl had been found wrapped in a crochet blanket inside a plastic bag, and that bag was wrapped in a colourful blanket. Police shared images of both blankets in the hopes that someone will recognize them and help identify the child.
Jason Conover, who lives around the corner from where the remains were found, said he felt for whoever made the discovery.
“To find a child abandoned must have been awful for the person who did,” he said.
The girl was described as Black, of African or mixed African descent, and three feet, six inches tall with a thin build. Police said her hair was sectioned in four short ponytails, two of which were braided and secured with black and blue elastic bands.
“Kids don’t just die,” Idsinga, of Toronto police, said. “If anyone has any information whatsoever, please call us immediately.”
The Toronto police missing person’s unit and the homicide squad were working closely together on the case, police said. While some missing persons reports had come close to matching the profile of the girl whose remains were found, none were so far a definite match, Idsinga said.
Police would be looking at a charge of indignity to human remains in relation to the case but that could change rapidly as more information emerges, Idsinga said.
“We are investigating this death at its highest level,” he said. “We have the investigative assets in place to deal with wherever the evidence takes us.”
—Adena Ali, The Canadian Press