A 61-year-old man has been charged in the cold case killings of two women who were found dead in their Toronto homes within months of each other almost four decades ago, police said Monday.
Police Chief James Ramer said Joseph George Sutherland, of Moosonee, Ontario, was arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree murder in the killings of Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice in 1983.
“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,” Ramer said in a statement. “After 39 years of dogged police work, our investigators have made sure this individual will answer for these heinous crimes.”
Both women had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death, Ramer said. Although their bodies were discovered four months apart, detectives linked the deaths using DNA technology in 2000, and investigators suspected the same man in both cases, he said.
Gilmour, 22, was an aspiring fashion designer and the daughter of David Gilmour, who co-founded Barrick, which was the world’s biggest gold mining company before it was overtaken in 2019 by rival Newmont.
The 45-year-old Tice was a family therapist and a mother of four.
Police Detective-Sgt. Steve Smith said advances in science allowed them to narrow down a suspect family, then a suspect. He said police in 2000 had linked the two murders through the suspect’s DNA left at the scene.
Then recently, he said, “we were able to use investigative genetic genealogy to narrow down a suspect family. And from there we were able to narrow down a suspect.”
Smith noted that the suspect had not been a person of interest in the killings. “If we hadn’t utilized this technology, we never would have came to his name,” Smith said.
Police are looking to see if Sutherland is linked to any other cases.
Sutherland, according to Smith, was a resident of Toronto at the time of the deaths. He declined to provide more information and stated that there is a publication ban on the case.
After 39 years, Erin’s brother Sean McCowan expressed the families’ relief on their behalf, saying, “Erin and Susan are finally getting their day.”
I and we have been waiting for this day for almost a lifetime, McCowan said. “In a way, it’s a relief that someone has been taken into custody. Nevertheless, it also brings back a lot of memories of Erin and her senseless, brutal murder.”
The following court date for Sutherland is Dec. 9.
AFP contributed to this report.