Montreal

String of Montreal home invasions puts seniors on edge

After a series of home invasions targeting older women occurred this month, Montreal seniors' advocates are urging the community to be wary when strangers approach their homes offering help and company.

Suspect charmed women who live alone into letting him inside their houses, say police

Ruth Pelletier is the former president of the Seniors Action Quebec, who now co-ordinates outreach for seniors in isolation.

After a series of home invasions targeting older women who live alone occurred this month, Quebec seniors are urging the community to be wary when strangers approach their homes offering help and company.

The suspect is said to have gained the victims' trust and access to their homes. Montreal police are still searching for the suspect.

He would then offer them edibles, like chocolate or wine, containing a substance that caused them to lose consciousness, police say.

The women would then wake up hours later, disoriented and confused, to find that valuables had been taken from their homes.

"I find it disgusting how anyone could do this," said Ruth Pelletier, former president of the Seniors Action Quebec, who now co-ordinates outreach for seniors in isolation.

She also lives on her own.

"As a senior, especially a woman living alone, it's discerning, it's very worrisome," Pelletier said.

Michael Udy, the current president of the association, said seniors should never invite strangers into their homes under any circumstances.

"If you live alone, never, ever allow anyone into your house that you don't know," Udy said. "No matter what they say, no matter what they offer."

Udy also urged family members to make sure seniors wouldn't let a stranger inside.

Police say the suspect would use charm and kindness to gain the women's trust, sometimes offering to help them shovel snow. (CBC)

Targeting seniors who live alone

When seniors live alone, they become susceptible to social isolation and this can lead to greater vulnerability, said Udy.

To combat this, Pelletier advises seniors to maintain a social life, to keep in touch with family and to forge relationships with neighbours.

"[So] you're not relying on some stranger to come to the door and you're feeling sorry for them or you want some companionship or you want to talk to someone," Pelletier said.

"That's not the way to go."

Police investigating 'substance' used by suspect

According to police spokesperson Const. Manuel Couture, the man would help the women shovel snow and then suggest going inside to warm up.

"After a half an hour, 45 minutes, you're not as careful as you were before," Couture said. "You think you know this person. But ... you never know the intention."

Every victim was over the age of 65. Some checked themselves into the hospital afterwards because they felt unwell.

Police are investigating what kind of substance could have been in the food, he said. 

Anyone with information connected to these incidents can contact Info-Crime anonymously at 514-393-1133 or online.

To find out more about what to do in situations of senior abuse, visit the Montreal police's webpage. 

With files from CBC's Verity Stevenson

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