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Vigil held at site where body found

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A candlelight vigil Sunday in the windless grip of a winter’s night drew 30 or more teenagers and toddlers to the place where a body was found next to a children’s play structure at a Tuxedo-area housing complex.

It was a sombre expression of grief.

Friends and neighbours say they are fairly certain they know the identity of the woman whose remains were found but authorities have yet to confirm her identity or the cause of her death.

There were more questions than answers in the circle last night.

People stood in silence, remembered their neighbour in whispers and wordlessly planted their candles in the snow in front of a potted pine placed to mark where a

resident of a Manitoba Housing complex on Doncaster Street found the body of a woman in the complex's courtyard just before 10 a.m. Saturday.

Police arrived soon afterward to place a tarp over the body, which was accompanied by a large white purse and several cans of beer.

After police taped off the courtyard as well as some of the units in the ethnically diverse complex, shaken residents of the complex tried to piece together what happened the previous evening.

Residents say at least two parties took place overnight in different parts of the complex, which sits between Doncaster and Edgeland streets, south of Tuxedo Avenue.

Deb LaPlante said she and her neighbours are fairly certain the deceased woman is Nadia Fiddler, 33. She celebrated a birthday last week and lived in one of the complex’s housing units with her boyfriend, a man suffering from Crohn’s disease who did not attend the vigil last night.

Neighbours and friends reported the couple had been drinking steadily recently and seemed to have hit a rocky patch in their relationship.

The Winnipeg Police Service was still not ready to confirm the woman's identity Sunday night, said Const. Jason Michalyshen. It was also uncertain whether the deceased woman succumbed to exposure, foul play or a combination of factors. Police are awaiting the results of an autopsy, although a spokesman said there’s nothing to indicate there was foul play in the death.

While authorities aren’t ready to identify the woman, her family, originally from Garden Hill, attended the vigil, making it fairly certain the woman is Fiddler.

The relatives, two women and a man, quietly walked toward the centre of the complex where the candles lit up the snow, and stood in silence. The man identified himself as the husband of one of the two women and said both were Nadia’s aunts. He did not give their names. They declined comment and after a soft exchange in Oji-Cree, the man quietly lit a braid of sweet grass left near the burning candles and wordlessly sent the scent of sweet vanilla into the air.

"They wanted answers," LaPlante said afterward.

She said she and the woman’s cousin, who also lived at the complex, are heartbroken. Some neighbours reported hearing shouts at about 3 a.m. Saturday. Another described someone banging on the door of their unit at about 4 a.m. Nobody knows for sure if it was Nadia.

Some of her closest friends outside the complex said she may have left the unit she shared with her boyfriend after a fight and gone looking for somewhere else to stay.

"We’ve got to stop kicking ourselves in the ass," said LaPlante, "It’s not our fault."

Fiddler was remembered as a free spirit, fun loving and generous with her money, often giving change to kids to buy treats. She was careful about her appearance and always dressed well.

In the snow, next to the candles and the potted pine, kids and adults left behind children’s stuffed animals, ragged and clearly treasured. It was a fitting tribute to a woman who loved kids but had none of her own, more than one said.

"If she seen a cute kid, she’d say, ‘Come here. Here’s $5 for you. Go buy a treat,' " La Plante said.

"I’m never gonna walk across here again and not think of her."

— with files by Bartley Kives

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