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Toronto’s gay village is worried about safety following a string of disappearances

Toronto police will be investigating their own handling of the disappearance of Tess Richey, whose mother found her body

The death of a young woman who went missing from Toronto’s gay village last weekend has left the community shaken and accusing police of inaction on a string of unsolved disappearances dating back to 2010.

Tess Richey, who went missing last Saturday, and had been last seen in the Village, was found dead outside an isolated building four days later, just a few doors from where she was last seen. Police have determined the cause of death was a neck compression, and it’s now being investigated as a homicide.


But it wasn’t the police who found Richey, but her own mother, according to her since-deleted Facebook post. She had flown in from North Bay to search for Richey. Now the force’s professional standards unit will be looking into how its own officers handled the case, after they initially said the death was a result of a “misadventure.”


“Not one cop searched the area where she was last seen and had they immediately checked after given the address she may have been still alive, there may have still been a chance,” wrote Richey’s mother Christine Hermeston in the now deleted post. Hermeston did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News.

A lot of my friends have video-called or had me stay on the phones with them even walking up the street this week, because they’re too nervous to travel alone at night.

It’s believed she Richey “in the company of an unknown male” between 2 and 5 a.m. ahead of her disappearance, police said in a statement released on Sunday.

News of Richey’s death has also ramped up anxiety within the community about other missing persons cases in the area. There have been eight disappearances since this spring that remained unsolved which is alarming, say locals, many of whom suspect that they are linked, although there’s been no evidence to suggest this. Those who speculate that there is a connection point to similarities between the profiles of those who’ve gone missing and the timing of their disappearances.



A map of missing persons cases from the Church and Wellesley intersection, at the heart of Toronto’s gay village, dating back to 2010, has been circulating online. Richey is featured on it, along with 10 others.

“I thought it would be helpful for people to have something they can literally see instead of just concerned gossip,” Dani Rose, a community member who made the map, told VICE News. “Just to put all the information in one place so people can work off of it.”

For months, friends and family desperately searched for Alloura Wells, who vanished in July. In November, police confirmed that the person found dead in a midtown Toronto ravine in August was the missing 27-year-old.

Wells’ father had reported her missing on November 5, but felt the case wasn’t taken seriously because his daughter was homeless, Daily Xtra reported.

The Church and Wellesley community has been on edge since Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen, both known in the area, disappeared in June and April, setting off speculation that their cases could be connected to three unsolved disappearances that happened between 2010 and 2012. Kinsman and Esen’s cases prompted police to set up a dedicated task force to work on the cases full time. Both men were well-known in the Church and Wellesley area and were active on dating apps, according to police.


So far, cops haven’t acknowledged a link between the cases of Kinsman and Esen, and three other men—all brown-skinned in their 40s or early 50s who were known to frequent Church Street bars and clubs — although the possibility is still being considered.

In response to increasing fears from residents about walking alone, a neighbourhood group has taken safety into their own hands — the Church and Wellesley Neighbourhood’ Association is looking for volunteers to launch a walk-safe program that would let people who are alone in the area call for someone to accompany them or have someone stay on the phone with them as they’re walking.

“A lot of my friends have video-called or had me stay on the phones with them even walking up the street this week, because they’re too nervous to travel alone at night,” said Rose, who hasn’t left home in two days. “So it’s a great idea to have a protection measure in place.”

Police should “take this as seriously as the rest of us are,” she said. “We just want to know we aren’t on our own here really. That these bodies are being taken as seriously as say a missing little girl would be.”