Legal group calls for review of Jessop investigation by Durham and Toronto police

A legal advocacy group is calling for an independent review of police investigations into the 1984 murder of a young girl, whose likely killer was recently identified years after a wrongful conviction in the case.

Innocence Canada says lessons must be learned from 36-year 'debacle'

Nine-year-old Christine Jessop went missing on Oct. 3, 1984. Earlier this month, police announced they had identified her killer. (Handout)

A legal advocacy group is calling for an independent review of police investigations into the 1984 murder of a young girl, whose likely killer was recently identified years after a wrongful conviction in the case.

Innocence Canada said Tuesday that Durham Regional Police and the Toronto Police Service have to be held accountable now that Calvin Hoover, who died five years ago, was named as the person who investigators believe killed nine-year-old Christine Jessop.

The group, which advocates for the wrongly convicted, said it hoped a thorough review would guide future police probes and underline the importance of rigorously sticking to methodical investigative steps.

"To now stint on a carefully targeted review of police failures would be a mockery of all this expense and the human misery caused by this awful case," said Innocence Canada co-president Kirk Makin.

Christine, of Queensville, Ont., disappeared on Oct. 3, 1984, as she headed to a park after school to meet a friend. Her body was found on New Year's Eve that year in a farm field about 55 kilometres away.

Toronto police revealed earlier this month that DNA evidence indicated Hoover, then 28, had sexually assaulted Christine in 1984 and would have been charged with her murder if he were alive.

In 1985, police arrested and charged Guy Paul Morin, Christine's then-24-year-old neighbour. He was acquitted at his first trial, but convicted of first-degree murder on retrial in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison.

DNA evidence finally exonerated him in 1995, prompting the Ontario government to apologize for his prosecution and pay him $1.25 million in compensation.

Toronto Police identified Calvin Hoover as Jessop’s killer at an Oct. 15 news conference. (The Canadian Press)

Innocence Canada said that Hoover, as a person within the Jessop family's social circle, should have been identified early on as someone deserving police scrutiny.

The failure to examine Hoover's alibi for the day of Christine's abduction led to decades of "indescribable agony" for her family, as well as Morin, and his family, the group said.

Toronto police said they are continuing their investigation into Christine's death, and Ontario's attorney general said it wouldn't launch a review until that process is completed.

"Public Inquiries are usually established when there is no other effective mechanism to examine an issue," said Maher Abdurahman, a spokesman for the attorney general. "For these reasons, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

A public inquiry has already been held into Morin's wrongful conviction in the case.

Judge Fred Kaufman, a former judge of the Quebec Court of Appeal, was commissioner for that inquiry and his report released in 1997 made 119 recommendations.

Review could look at how likely killer was overlooked

Innocence Canada said a new review would not duplicate the Kaufman report.

It said that where the Kaufman report examined Morin's wrongful conviction, a new review would examine how Hoover was overlooked.

"To what extent, if any, was his alibi sought and examined? Was consideration given to obtaining his DNA? If not, why not?" said Makin.

Makin added that the probe his group was now calling for wouldn't involve public hearings, nor would it examine a host of other events and mistakes that were catalogued in the Kaufman report.

Meaghan Gray, a spokeswoman for Toronto police, said that the force understands Innocence Canada's position but noted that the police investigation of the case is ongoing.

"Should an independent third party review of the original TPS investigation be ordered, we will co-operate to the fullest extent the law allows," said Gray.

Durham regional police noted that the Toronto force is the lead on the case but said it does not object to another review.

A lawyer for the Jessop family said they learned from police that Hoover killed himself in 2015.


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.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?