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DNA breakthrough leads to arrest in 1983 Canadian double murder

The Independent logo The Independent 11/29/2022 Bevan Hurley
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A 61-year-old Canadian man has been charged with the cold case murders of two women who were found dead in their homes within months of each other in 1983, authorities say.

Joseph George Sutherland, of Moosonee, Ontario, was arrested on Thursday and charged with the first-degree murders of Erin Gilmour, 22, and 45-year-old Susan Tice, Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said in a press release on Monday.

The women, who were both sexually assaulted and stabbed to death, did not know each other. Their deaths were linked to the same suspect in 2000 using DNA recovered from the crime scenes.

In 2019, investigators sent genetic samples to a lab in Texas and the suspect’s DNA was checked against samples uploaded to the Family Tree DNA commercial DNA testing company, according to the Associated Press.

As detectives began closing in on Mr Sutherland as a suspect, they served him with a warrant to obtain a DNA sample, Sergeant Steve Smith said at a news conference on Monday, the AP reported.

Joseph George Sutherland, 61, has been charged with the murders of two women in Toronto in 1983 (Toronto Police Service) © Provided by The Independent Joseph George Sutherland, 61, has been charged with the murders of two women in Toronto in 1983 (Toronto Police Service)

He had not previously been a suspect in the case, and cold case investigators are now looking into whether he may be responsible for other unsolved homicides, Sgt Smith told the press conference.

Toronto Police said Gilmour was an aspiring fashion designer while Tice was a mother of four and social worker and worked with disadvantaged children.

Sean McGowan, the brother of cold case murder victim Erin Gilmour, speaks at a press conference on Monday (AP) © Provided by The Independent Sean McGowan, the brother of cold case murder victim Erin Gilmour, speaks at a press conference on Monday (AP) Susan Tice, 45, was a mother of four and a social worker who was murdered in her Toronto home in 1983 (Toronto Police) © Provided by The Independent Susan Tice, 45, was a mother of four and a social worker who was murdered in her Toronto home in 1983 (Toronto Police)

“This is a day that I and we’ve been waiting almost an entire lifetime for,” Erin Gilmour’s brother Sean McCowan told a news conference, the AP reported. “It finally puts a name and a face to someone who for all of us had been a ghost.”

Chief Ramer said in a statement: “As pleased as we are to announce this arrest, it will never bring Erin or Susan back, and on behalf of the Toronto Police Service, I want to again express my condolences to their families.”

Mr Sutherland is due to appear in court on 9 December.

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