By Pamela Roth
Detectives with the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) have investigated more homicides in Victoria this year than in previous years.
As of September, the unit has recorded six deaths in Victoria so far this year – four of which have been deemed a homicide and two still being treated as a suspicious death.
Last year, the unit recorded one homicide in Esquimalt, a suspicious death in Victoria, and began investigating the disappearance of Dana McKeller, who went missing from his Victoria home on Sept. 2. The 51-year-old’s body was found nine months later at a rural property on Goward Road in Saanich.
Sgt. Brad Fraser with VIIMCU said the number of homicides and suspicious deaths this year are a bit higher compared to the five-year average, but there doesn’t appear to be any trends.
“Fortunately, Victoria doesn’t have any real big gang wars going on, nothing like the Lower Mainland. These deaths, for the most part, are associated,” said Fraser, adding it doesn’t appear any of the victims and their killers were strangers.
“These deaths are the result of just people’s interactions with one another…But there are some historical files where it’s going to be a stranger that is likely responsible for that homicide.”
In 2010, police recorded one homicide in Victoria, and three in 2011 (one was manslaughter). Other years, Victoria and Esquimalt haven’t recorded any homicides at all.
But the numbers could easily be higher. According to Fraser, there have been a few situations where people have been severely injured due to violence, but paramedics have prevented them from becoming another homicide victim. Community involvement in safe streets has also helped keep the murder rate low.
“There’s definitely some community involvement in people looking after one another,” said Fraser, noting police also receive a tremendous amount of support from the community when it comes to homicide investigations.
“You don’t always get that with every type of crime. Murders, it’s different. People say this person lost their life and I want to help.”
The first death this year involved a female and occurred on Jan. 19. Fraser called the case sensitive as the investigation started with an assisted suicide and has yet to be determined whether there was anything criminal.
On Jan. 25, Richard Pilling died after he was assaulted by another elderly patient in the seniors psychiatry unit at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. Nearly a month later, Peter Hunter Thompson was found dead in his James Bay apartment in the 400 block of Michigan Street. Police said there were no signs of forced entry into the 49-year-old’s suite. The cause of death has not been released.
On March 13, Mary Caitlin Walton was found dead in the upper level suite of her Victoria duplex at 830 Queens Avenue. In an apparent suicide attempt, her husband was later found inside his running car in the closed garage of his Colwood home. Police said it appears to be a case of domestic violence. Daniel Blake Penney has been charged with second-degree murder.
The last death occurred on April 9, when the body of Shaun Alexander McGregor was found inside a second-floor suite in Fernwood Manor Apartments, located on 1575 Begbie Street. Investigators have not released the cause of the 34-year-old’s death, who had an extensive criminal record mainly for offences in the Nanaimo area.
Early Tuesday, police responded to the death of an 18-month-old girl in the 1200 block of Vista Heights. The girl’s death is being treated suspicious at this time.
VIIMCU has a total of 21 sworn investigators from the RCMP, Saanich and Victoria police who investigate suspicious deaths and homicides throughout Vancouver Island and the surrounding islands.
In Victoria, the unit is also investigating two historical homicides from 1996 and 1997.