Nova Scotia

Halifax cold cases need renewed police focus, retired investigator says

A retired Halifax police officer is questioning why there are so many unsolved major crimes in the city, including 59 homicides.

Halifax police have 70 major unsolved cases, including 59 homicides

Former Halifax Regional Police investigator Tom Martin is calling on the police department to spend more time and resources trying to solve cold murder cases.

A retired Halifax police investigator is questioning why there are so many unsolved murders in the city and is calling on the police department to put more resources into solving the crimes.

"We don't just throw our hands up and say 'OK that's it, so what, big deal, let's move on,'" Tom Martin told CBC News. "It's too tragic, too barbaric."

The Halifax Regional Police website shows there are 70 major unsolved cases: 59 homicides and 11 missing persons. There are cases dating back to 1955.

Martin spent decades as a police officer and was one of the department's most experienced, handling hundreds of murder cases and other major crimes.

"Taking someone's life is the ultimate crime," he said. "The frustration I feel is that here we are X number of years later in these various cases and they still remain unsolved."

Police management to blame

The department announced in October 2000 it was establishing a cold case squad to investigate 20 murders, but Martin questions just how serious the department is about it.

He said there's as much, if not more, skill, ability and talent in the major crimes division now as there was when he was there, but he said officers need time to do their work.

"Management is not putting the resources in that it should be putting in and the numbers tell the story," he said. "The department has to put the money and the effort into doing this."

Jason MacCullough case solvable

One of the cases Martin investigated that is especially frustrating for him is the slaying of Jason MacCullough. The 19-year-old was killed as he took a shortcut home in north-end Dartmouth on August 28, 1999.

Jason MacCullough, 19, was killed in 1999. His case has not been solved. (CBC)

Martin calls MacCullough a "true victim" because he was not involved with criminals and was "a good kid" who volunteered in his neighbourhood and helped others.

"We were very close when I was there," Martin said about the police task force set up to investigate the murder, but which was later shut down.

He said they had new witnesses and gathered more statements. He believes someone would be arrested and charged if the department would put resources into solving the case. 

Martin said he hears from families of murder victims all the time and refers them to the police department, although often they don't know who to contact and say they haven't heard from police in months or even years.

"It comes back to the department," Martin said. "Management has got to step up."


Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at