15-year-old sex assault suspect denied bail
Published Monday, October 22, 2012 7:40AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 22, 2012 6:32PM EDT
A 15-year-old has been denied bail after being charged in connection with more than a dozen sexual assaults near the Annex neighbourhood.
Police announced on Monday that the suspect was arrested on Saturday night, following another attack.
The teen – who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act – was charged with 14 counts of sexual assault and two counts of criminal harassment. He appeared in a Toronto court on Monday morning.
All the charges are in connection with a string of 16 attacks reported in the Bloor Street West and Christie Street area between August and October of this year, in which an assailant approached women from behind and sexually assaulted them before fleeing.
During a press conference at Toronto Police headquarters Monday morning, Staff Inspector Mary Lee Metcalfe began her remarks with a tribute to the residents of the community that dealt with the ongoing assaults.
"Despite a very difficult experience, this community has continued to express its confidence and support for police initiatives to ... conclude these assaults by arrest," she said, praising the courage of claimants and witnesses, as well as the work of others. "From the beginning, it has been a joint and collaborative effort."
In his own remarks, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair singled out the work of certain members of his force for special acknowledgement.
"We had women in our organization who put themselves in harm's way... knowing that if they were successful in their mission, they could be also the victim of an assault," Blair said.
When pressed for details of whatever undercover investigation led to the weekend arrest, Blair was reluctant to reveal details of his force's "investigative technique."
According to a police source, an arrest was made after a female officer acting as a decoy was attacked near Roxton Road and Bloor Street, said CTV Toronto’s Tamara Cherry.
Police allege that, in the majority of the attacks, the female victims describe being approached from behind and sexually assaulted by an assailant who then fled.
Prior to Saturday’s arrest, the latest assaults occurred in three separate incidents over the Thanksgiving long weekend.
The attacks left many women fearing for their personal safety. In September, hundreds of community members rallied against the attacks in a neighbourhood park.
The suspect’s uncle, who was at court Monday, told reporters that his nephew attended the rally and is innocent.
“We were there. He was there. All of us were there,” said the uncle. “They have absolutely the wrong suspect.”
On Monday, area residents told CTV Toronto they were relieved to hear about the arrest but surprised by the age of the suspect.
“A sense of relief that he’s caught, but not a sense of relief that he’s 15,” said Bianca Kar. “I think that’s actually more worrisome the fact that he was 15 than, I mean, what we kind of imagined, some older guy.”
Officers said all the victims have been notified of the arrest, with the last one contacted early Monday morning.
Police say they believe there may be more victims and are asking anyone with information about the attacks to contact police at 416−808−7474.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Tamara Cherry and Austin Delaney