Calgary

Man found dead in tent first Canadian identified with new DNA bank, say police

A man found dead in a tent along the Nose Creek Pathway in Calgary is the first person to be identified using the National Missing Persons DNA program. 

RCMP maintains missing persons database in order to identify remains

Calgary police say a body found in a tent in the city's northeast was successfully identified using a national DNA database. (David Bell/CBC)

A man found dead in a tent along the Nose Creek Pathway in Calgary is the first person to be identified using the National Missing Persons DNA Program

Police said the man was found on Oct. 4, 2017, by a cyclist who stopped to check on a homeless encampment. 

"The medical investigator determined the man had been in the tent between five and six months," police said in a news release. 

"As a result, they were unable to formally identify him through traditional methods such as fingerprinting. They were able to determine the man was 5'4" tall, and somewhere between 25 and 50 years old."

Cellphone data recovered

The only possessions on the man was a cellphone and what police describe as a heavily damaged SIM card. Data from the phone was partially recovered and officers were able to retrieve some email messages that provided the first clues to the man's identity. They were able to determine the man was originally from Eastern Canada and hadn't been reported missing.

"While officers worked on piecing together the potential identity of the deceased, and identifying potential next of kin, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner sent a DNA sample to a private laboratory," according to the news release. 

"Due to the condition of the remains, three different samples were sent for analysis before a suitable DNA profile could be developed. This process took approximately one year."

Sample analyzed

Once the lab had developed a usable DNA profile, it was sent to the national database established by the RCMP in 2018 that contains 500,000 profiles. 

On Oct. 25, there was a match with the same name as the man in the emails, confirming his identity. Police say it was the first time the database has been used successfully in Canada. 

"This was someone's son, someone's brother," said Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta with the Calgary Police Service's missing persons unit in the release.

"Even though his death wasn't criminal in nature, it was extremely important to the investigators that we identified him so that we could let his family know what happened to him."

Calgary police say because the man's death was not suspicious, they will not be releasing his full name, but the 37-year-old was originally from Quebec.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.