MIKE ZETTEL/Niagara This Week
Police on both sides of the Niagara River are appealing to the public to help them uncover the identity of a woman whose dismembered partial remains were found floating in the lower Niagara River last week.
At a news conference Tuesday in St. Catharines, Niagara Regional Police Insp. Jim McCaffery said any information from the public could prove valuable. Investigators want members of the public to check on female relatives they may not have seen for some time, or to check on co-workers who have not been at work or to check on a possible “unexplained absence” of a neighbour.
“No tip is too small for us to follow up on,” McCaffery said. “Someone in the community knows who this person is. As stated earlier, the identity of the individual is critical to this investigation.”
He said that investigators looked into about 50 missing persons cases from across the country.
“We’ve been able to eliminate the vast majority,” McCaffery said. “There are a couple we still need to clear.”
The same can be said for the investigation in the United States.
“There’s a good possibility this person may have entered the water from the U.S.,” Capt, Steven Nigrelli of the New York State Police said.
Nigrelli added that American investigators have also been looking into missing persons cases in the hopes of finding a match.
“Our scope started in Western New York and it will expand to New York State,” Nigrelli said, adding that if necessary the focus will expand to the Great Lakes states.
Examination of the remains has led police to believe they belong to a woman between the ages of 31 and 55, McCaffery said. Further testing will be done to help determine the woman’s height and weight, he added.
“She has a pierced navel,” McCaffery said, adding that there was no body jewelry found on the victim.
“It has been determined it is an old piercing that has closed off,” he said. “We can also advise the deceased has had two caesarean sections and a tubal ligation procedure.”
The investigation was launched Aug. 29, after a British tourist spotted the torso floating in the river near the base of the falls. Police were called and within 15 minutes the body, a torso with no limbs or a head, was retrieved. By this time it was two kilometres downstream near the Rainbow Bridge.
The body was sent to Hamilton General Hospital for an autopsy, where it was confirmed the woman was a victim of a homicide.
On Tuesday, McCaffery said the condition of the remains was not brought about by the swirling waters of the Niagara River or the rocks beneath the falls.
“We’re prepared to say this was a dismemberment,” McCaffery said.
As with a new conference held last Friday, police had very little information to release Tuesday. Both McCaffery and Nigrelli stressed the importance of identifying the victim.
“We need the public to start reaching out,” McCaffery said.
On Friday police said it’s believed the body had been in the water anywhere from four to 10 days — though they stressed this was based on preliminary data.
It has also been confirmed the incident is not related to the Peel Regional Police investigation involving the murder of Guang Hua Liu, of Scarborough, whose body parts were found along waterways in Mississauga and Scarborough.
A search for additional remains by Niagara Parks Police and the NRP in the area from Knights Bridge Park in Chippawa to the whirlpool came up empty. The search ended Saturday.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the NRP major crime unit at 905-688-4111, ext. 4200. Information can also be left on the major crime tip-line at extension 4468.
Anonymous tips can be left with Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), sending a secure web message by going online to www.crimestoppersofniagara.com or through mobile texting by sending a message to CRIMES (274637) with the text reading; NIAGARA and then the message. Crime Stoppers guarantees that you will remain anonymous through any of the methods offered to provide tips. You may also be eligible to receive a cash reward of up to $2,000 if the information leads to an arrest.