Hamilton

Fire that killed Dundas couple was 'deliberately set,' now a homicide, police say

The deaths of two Dundas retirees was a homicide, police say, and the pair were "innocent sleeping victims who would have experienced sheer terror."

Police identified the victims as Carla Rutherford, 64, and Alan Rutherford, 63

"These were innocent sleeping victims who would have experienced sheer terror," says Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The deaths of two Dundas retirees was a homicide, police say, and the pair were "innocent sleeping victims who would have experienced sheer terror."

Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk says the fire that killed Alan and Carla Rutherford was deliberately set in their bedroom as they slept. Now police are looking for suspects, and reaching out to anyone who knew the couple.

"This was an extremely intense fire which began in the bedroom," said Bereziuk at Hamilton Police Service headquarters Friday.

"These were innocent sleeping victims who would have experienced sheer terror. They suffered horrific injuries that led to their death."

Carla and Alan Rutherford both died after a fire at their Dundas home Monday. (Hamilton Police Service)

Police and firefighters were called to the Rutherford home at 8 Greening Ct. around 3:45 a.m. on July 9. They found "heavy flames and smoke going through the roof," Hamilton fire chief Dave Cunliffe said this week.

Alan ultimately escaped after the fire was set, and knocked on a neighbour's door. He was found on the front lawn when firefighters arrived, Cunliffe said. Carla was still trapped in the home.

Firefighters rescued Carla, 64, and she died on the way to the hospital. Alan, 63, was transported to hospital in critical condition. He died later that afternoon.

Police haven't made any arrests, Bereziuk said. They're starting the investigation with "people closest to the victims." The family is cooperating.

The fire was "extremely intense," according to police. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

The Rutherfords were targeted, Bereziuk said, but police don't believe there's a reason for neighbours to be worried. He wouldn't elaborate on details, such as whether there was a forced entry, or if the house had working smoke alarms.

Investigators blocked off the scene of the burned one-storey home for four days to gather evidence.

"The house is very badly damaged and had to be supported so the (Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal) could do their job," he said.

The Rutherfords were both retired from Hamilton Health Sciences, Bereziuk said. That's where they first met. They'd been married for 11 years and together for 20.

The Office of the Fire Marshal of Ontario helped police with their investigation. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

"Carla loved quilting," Bereziuk said. "They were both avid members of the yacht club here in Hamilton. Sailboating was a passion of theirs. Alan loved model planes."

They were "really good people," he added. "That's what adds to the tragedy of this event."

Hamilton Police Service's forensic services branch and major crime unit are investigating.

Police are asking anyone with information to call Crimestoppers or Det. Ben Adams at 905-546-3836.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca