Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/6/2012 (2802 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Many had long suspected the disappearances and deaths of a number of aboriginal women in Winnipeg was the work of a serial killer. But it was the voice of a 36-year-old woman that focused police attention on one suspect and led to a breakthrough arrest.
Now a drifter with an extensive criminal background is accused of being just that — a serial killer in Winnipeg.
Shawn Cameron Lamb, 52, has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Tanya Nepinak, Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith, police announced Monday morning.
Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill said a woman came forward Thursday, saying she had been the victim of a serious sexual assault. She provided investigators with enough evidence to lead them to Lamb, who was living on Sutherland Avenue.
Insp. Rick Guyader said Lamb knew Nepinak and was a person of interest in her disappearance and the cases of missing women Sinclair and Blacksmith. But investigators didn't question Lamb until the woman came forward last week.
"Sometimes you get a break in the case, and that's what happened here," McCaskill said during a news conference.
McCaskill defended the Winnipeg Police Service investigation of the women's disappearances, saying until Lamb's arrest last week, there was no evidence to suggest a serial killer was at work.
"We never said there was no serial killer, we said we had no evidence to suggest there is one," he said. "Now we have that evidence.
"I don't think we dropped the ball on this," McCaskill said, adding the case will be subject to close scrutiny and there will likely be instances where a different decision should have been made.
"I don't know of any errors in this investigation at all," McCaskill said. "The most important thing at the end of the day is that we do the best we possibly can and get that evidence before the courts."
Guyader said Lamb had lived in the West End, close to where the bodies of Sinclair and Blacksmith were found.
Sources said the reason Lamb was on police radar initially was because he was the one who reported finding Sinclair's body.
A source said after his arrest for the sexual assault, the case broke wide open when Lamb told investigators about the body on Simcoe Street.
Links were made to the Sinclair case, because both bodies were reportedly wrapped in plastic and dumped in a similar area, sources told the Free Press.
Guyader and McCaskill would not say what evidence linked Lamb to the trio of cases but the man was charged with three counts of second-degree murder even though Nepinak's body has yet to be found.
Lamb is being held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.
The body of Sinclair, 25, was found in March in a Dumpster in a back lane near Notre Dame Avenue and Toronto Street. Sinclair had been missing for three months at the time, and court records indicate she was killed almost immediately after disappearing.
Blacksmith, 18, had last been seen Jan. 11 in the West End. Court records indicate she was killed the very next day. Her body was discovered Thursday night on Simcoe Street, reportedly near a Dumpster and wrapped in plastic.
Nepinak, a 31-year-old mother of two, was last seen around Sherbrook Street and Ellice Avenue on Sept 13. Court records indicate that is the day police believe she died. The search for her body is ongoing.
Guyader said a team of 24 investigators — 10 from the Winnipeg Police Service and 14 from the RCMP — are part of the ongoing investigation into the case, which includes looking into whether Lamb is connected to other unsolved homicides and missing-women cases.
McCaskill said it's irrelevant how the murdered women made a living.
"They are victims and they should never have been," McCaskill said.
He said Lamb, who is originally from Sarnia, Ont., has travelled extensively across the country and investigators will be in contact with other police agencies to see if he is connected with any unsolved homicides in other communities.
A man who identified himself as Lamb's stepbrother from Ontario spoke briefly with the Free Press on Monday afternoon.
He said someone at his work asked him what his brother's middle name is, and when he answered "Cameron," he immediately told him he'd better check the news.
"It was all over the Internet," said the man, who refused to give his name. "He's an idiot. I'm glad he is where he is.
"I feel sorry for those women. I'm a compassionate person. I cried when I heard... Why wouldn't I?"
Police said it's believed Lamb has lived here full time since last year, but has had contact with police in the city dating back to 1999. It's unknown if he lived here full time for all of that period, though.
Guyader said the bodies of Blacksmith and Sinclair are too badly decomposed to determine a cause of death or to know if they had been sexually assaulted. However, he said forensic work is being done to try to answer those questions.
McCaskill said there is no evidence at this point to suggest Lamb had an accomplice.
— with files from Mike McIntyre
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.