Hamilton police said the woman killed in an alleged east Hamilton homicide last week was a sex worker from Toronto.
Police identified the victim as Jiali Zhang, a 40-year-old Chinese national living who had been living in Toronto and working as an escort. According to police, Zhang arrived in Canada from Hong Kong in 2007 and that at the time of her death Zhang’s status in Canada was under review.
A coroner said Zhang, who was killed in an East Hamilton apartment building on Nov. 12, died of blunt force trauma.
The news that the victim was a sex worker is beginning to trickle out among those connected with the industry in Hamilton and the GTA.
Valerie Scott, the legal coordinator at Sex Professionals of Canada, said she began hearing rumours that a sex worker was killed in Hamilton two days ago, but she was hoping it was a rumour.
Scott said she didn't know Zhang and hasn't heard of any escort services acknowledging an employee had been killed.
Scott said Zhang, who was based in Toronto according to police, was likely on an "out call" when she visited Hamilton. Within the sex industry, out calls are known to be risky, as they give the potentially dangerous clients "home field advantage."
"When you're going to an out call you have no idea what you're getting into," Scott told CBC Hamilton.
Sex workers do screen their clients, she said, but "you can only screen so much."
Scott said sex workers who work with a service often have drivers, who remain outside the client's home in case something goes wrong. Solo sex workers may have a safe call — someone who knows where they are an can respond to an emergency — though it's not clear if Zhang did or didn't.
Scott, who has launched several legal challenges against Canada's laws against bawdy-houses, said Zhang's death could have been prevented if she wasn't forced to work in secret.
"We're put in an impossible situation," she said.
In Hamilton, there are numerous groups to support sex workers. Lenore Lukasik-Foss, director of Hamilton's Sexual Assault Centre, said those who work in the region are aware of its "bad history" of sex workers getting killed.
She said the potential for violence is "definitely on the radar" of sex workers, and that the news will likely cause some panic amongst in the industry here.
Man charged with first-degree murder
Police said shortly after 11 p.m. on Nov. 12 they received a 9-1-1 call from the parking lot of Eastgate Square from a male who reported that he had just killed a woman in his apartment.
Police found Zhang's body inside the man's Riverdale Drive apartment, just half a block from the parking lot where he was arrested.
Dalibor Klaric, 35, of Stoney Creek has been charged with first-degree murder.
Investigators are asking for anyone with information about the incident to call Det. Benoit Thibodeau of the homicide unit at 905-546-3926 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477