Ex-cop baffled by severed feet mystery in B.C.
Published Thursday, September 1, 2011 8:30PM EDT
Another foot has washed up in British Columbia -- the 11th found along the coastline in the last four years. But while B.C. officials say they don't consider any of the discoveries to be the result of foul play, a Toronto-based forensics expert is not so sure.
Forensics consultant and former Toronto Police detective Mark Mendelson says with this many feet being found in such a short period of time, he's suspicious something is up.
"I don't know whether you can look at this as just a coincidence," he told CTV's Canada AM Thursday.
Mendelson says one or two feet washing up on shore is weird enough; but this many feet, this often, is pretty fishy.
"You have to ask yourself: why is this only happening on the West Coast? Why aren't these body parts floating up in Nova Scotia, or St. John's, or off the coast of New Jersey? Something is very, very strange here," he said.
In the past four years, 11 shoe-clad feet have washed up on beaches near Vancouver, along the southern Georgia Strait and off Washington State.
Four of the feet have been identified as belonging to three individuals who had been reported missing, but the identity of the rest remain a mystery.
The latest foot was found floating Tuesday in the water along False Creek in downtown Vancouver by a young boy. The shoe and foot were attached to lower leg bones. The B.C. Coroners Service says an autopsy confirmed the foot is human, but further tests are needed to determine whether it's a man or woman's foot.
In previous cases, police have said it appeared the feet separated naturally from bodies that were likely in the water for some time. Each time, they have said that foul play wasn't suspected.
But Mendelson says at this point, "You have to think dirty," and consider foul play.
He says it's true that a lot of people go missing in both Canada and the U.S. who are never reported missing. But if all these feet belong to people who were suicide victims or died in float plane crashes or drownings, why are only feet showing up?
"Where are all the rest of the body parts?" Mendelson wondered.
He says in his almost 30 years with the Toronto Police Service and in his 15 years in homicide, he's done lots of investigations of bodies that turned up floating in waterways.
"Body parts do eventually make their way to the surface. So why are we only getting feet? Why are they only in running shoes? I'm not sure I buy the theory that it's because the shoe floats," he said.
Mendelson says forensic anthropologists will likely begin this investigation by looking at the break point of the leg, to see if there are striations or cut lines that show whether the leg was cut off with a saw or other implement.
They can also do tests on the bones to determine the approximate age of the victim. And they can talk to the shoe manufacturer about the brand of shoe that was found to determine when it was available for sale.
They'll also run DNA tests on the foot, but that may not reveal much, Mendelson said. DNA results do not reveal identify on their own; they have to be matched with other DNA to be useful.
"If you can't attach it to a human being, it's just a piece of paper with letters and numbers," he said.