[Hpn] Toronto: Another homeless man murdered - cops suggest Buddy System

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Thu, 07 Sep 2000 23:51:34 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Toronto Star - September 7, 2000


     Victim discovered in sleeping bag on Osgoode Hall lawn

     Peter Small
     Toronto Star Staff Reporter

Police are warning the homeless to be on guard for their lives after a man
was found slain on the manicured grounds of Osgoode Hall.

Investigators think there may be a link to two other attacks, one fatal, on
homeless people since spring, homicide Detective Reg Pitts told reporters
outside ornate iron gates at the west entrance to the Ontario Court of

``Enter into a buddy system. Protect yourselves,'' Pitts warned members of
the public, particularly the homeless.

On May 22, John Albert Currie, a 49-year-old resident of the Seaton House
hostel, died after being assaulted at Dundas St. W. and University Ave. On
April 25, a 40-year-old drifter was attacked with an axe while he slept on
a bench in Nathan Phillips Square, losing a finger and sustaining several
skull fractures.

The latest victim, Stanley Fontaine, 39, was found dead in a brown sleeping
bag about 7 a.m. by a woman walking her dog near the Toronto landmark.
Fontaine had recently returned from Winnipeg and was living on the streets,
police said.

An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Pitts would say little about this death, except that there was trauma to
the body and it is ``most definitely a murder,'' committed on the scene no
more than a few hours before the body was found.

``I don't have any information that there is someone specifically targeting
homeless people,'' Pitts said. ``What we do have is three serious attacks,
two of which are fatalities and a possibility that there is a link.''

Pitts said police would begin stepping up patrols in the area last night as
well as in other places the homeless frequent, seeking witnesses and
issuing warnings for them to protect themselves.

``The homeless are easy targets. They're out there and they're
defenceless,'' he said. Police are visiting social service agencies,
shelters and street patrols to ask staff to convey the warning and help
identify the victim.

Judges and lawyers on their way through Osgoode Hall's west gates had to
detour around yellow police tape blocking a large section of the shaded
grounds shared mainly by Ontario's appeal court and the Law Society of
Upper Canada.

``It's eerie,'' said a 28-year-old bar exam student who didn't want her
name used. ``On the grounds of the Law Society, too - it's shocking.''

Although most gates are normally locked at night, the two distinctive cow
gates are not, said Vince Alexander, team leader of Osgoode Hall's building
services. ``There are three or four regulars that we have seen,'' he said,
but he added they usually sleep near another courthouse to the north.

Among those looking on was Carmen, 37, a homeless woman who said she was
sworn at and kicked by a violent drunk not far from the homicide scene at
about 11 the night before. ``He was looking for trouble, serious trouble,''
said Carmen, who would not give her last name. A police officer soon took
her aside to get a statement.

The police warning didn't seem to faze homeless people at nearby Nathan
Phillips Square.

A man lying in a sleeping bag in a nearby alcove, who identified himself as
Thomas, 29, said he wasn't afraid.

``I'm with everybody here,'' he explained, glancing at several young men
and a woman near him.

A 53-year-old man, who said he has been sleeping at Nathan Phillips Square
for two years, said the warning worried him, but wasn't surprising in light
of other attacks.

He already sleeps with one eye open, he said, so the recent slaying ``just
means I'll have to be a little more careful, that's all.''

Kira Heineck, co-ordinator for the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee,
agreed many attacks on homeless people aren't publicized.

She said she appreciated the police warning, but added that the homeless
need more protection and more emergency shelters immediately.


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