Toronto police say they are considering the possibility that two recent homicides that happened about five kilometres apart in the city’s Rexdale neighbourhood may be connected.
Insp. Hank Idsinga, unit commander of the Toronto police homicide squad, told reporters on Monday that both Rampreet (Peter) Singh, 39, and Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, 58, were fatally stabbed on Sept. 7 and Sept. 12, respectively.
Singh is the city’s 48th homicide victim of the year, while Zafis is the 52nd.
“At this stage in our investigation, it is too early to confirm if these homicides are connected to one another. However, we cannot exclude that possibility,” Idsinga said outside police headquarters.
“We are asking the public to please continue to be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious people or behaviour to police or to CrimeStoppers.”
Idsinga said police have released security camera footage of the suspect in the Zafis homicide and he urged the public to review the video closely again. He said police have received some tips and would like to receive more tips.
WATCH| Toronto police have released video of a suspect in fatal stabbing outside a mosque Saturday night:
The suspect is described as five-foot-six and 130 pounds.
“As we ask for the public’s assistance, I want to assure the community that the Toronto Police Service is working diligently on these cases,” Idsinga said.
Police have increased patrols in the area on foot and on ATVs to provide security, he said. Homicide detectives assigned to the two cases are working out of 23 Division.
He said police are reviewing surveillance camera video and testing forensic evidence in both homicides.
Idsinga said police organized the news conference not to raise fear or panic, but to make members of the public aware of the possibility that the homicides may be connected.
“We feel it is necessary to bring it to the public’s attention,” Idsinga said.
Det. Sgt. Joel Kulmatycki, lead investigator on the Singh homicide, told reporters at the same news conference that the victim was killed by “multiple sharp-force injuries.”
On Monday, Sept. 7, Singh was attacked while he was sleeping under a Highway 27 bridge, south of Humber College Boulevard. He was a homeless man who had been living under the bridge on the West Humber Trail since April, Kulmatycki said.
“By all accounts, he kept to himself. Local residents who would either jog, walk dogs or roller blade would bring him food to eat,” Kulmatycki said.
Shortly after 7 a.m., a jogger on the footpath under the bridge discovered Singh’s body. Emergency crews tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.
In a news release on Sept. 8, police said: “The area of this murder is heavily travelled by pedestrians on foot, on bicycles and roller blades.”
On Saturday, Sept. 12, at about 8:40 p.m., Zafis was attacked while sitting in a chair outside the front doors of the International Muslim Organization (IMO) mosque, at 65 Rexdale Blvd. near Kipling Avenue. He was stabbed once.
Zafis, working as a volunteer caretaker at the mosque, was controlling access ito the place of worship to ensure compliance with public-health regulations.
Officers responded to a call of unknown trouble. When paramedics arrived, they found Zafis without vital signs. Police confirmed he died at the scene.
Idsinga said if the homicides are connected, police will notify the media.