News / Toronto

Police respond to 'lax response' charge over body of transgender woman found in ravine

After police were slammed for a tardy response following the discovery of a body at Rosedale Ravine, the force says the body's condition prevented it from publicizing the case.

Alloura Wells, who was last seen in July. Police are conducting DNA tests to determine if it is her body that was discovered in Rosedale

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Alloura Wells, who was last seen in July. Police are conducting DNA tests to determine if it is her body that was discovered in Rosedale

After the woman who found a body at Rosedale Ravine complained of a lax police response, authorities argue they were unable to go public because of the body’s condition.

Rebecca Price, who made the grim find in August, questioned why police never highlighted the discovery publicly when it became apparent the body was that of a transgender woman. She also criticized LGBTQ advocacy group The 519 for its failure to alert the wider community.

DNA tests are ongoing to see if the body is a match to Alloura Wells, a homeless transgender woman who has not been seen since July and was known to stay in the area.

Police said by email they were made aware of the body on Aug. 8 and said it was “not readily apparent when the body was found” that it was a transgender woman. Police said this was determined a few days later.

“When the body was located in Rosedale Valley, there was no identification and, based on the state of the body, there were no details that the police could release to the public or anyone else for potential identification,” said a spokesperson.

“Because of this, officers have been working since August to identify the body or establish enough detail that could be released to the public for the purpose of soliciting input.”

Price said that when officers told her in the days after the find that it was a transgender woman, she informed The 519, who said they would make their own inquiries. Police said The 519 failed to contact them.

“I do not know when The 519 was made aware of the information, but to my knowledge they did not reach out to investigators,” the police spokesperson said.

In an emailed statement from executive director Maura Lawless, The 519 confirmed it had been contacted about the body by a member of the public. It said it tried to verify the information but to no avail.

"We are always very careful about how we share information publicly as we want to ensure that we do not contribute to rumours or panic. This was especially true in August when the community was feeling extremely anxious about a cluster of missing persons cases," The 519 said. The organization said it is reviewing its internal policies to improve how it handles such cases.

Wells’ family and friends were infuriated when her father went to file a missing person report on Nov. 5 but left feeling police weren’t taking him seriously. Police later publicized the case on their website and apologized to the family.

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