OPP to use mass text messages to find witnesses for murder investigation

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(press release)

OTTAWA, Oct. 26, 2016 /CNW/ – Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is unveiling an innovative new technique to identify potential witnesses for an ongoing homicide investigation.

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Frederick John Hatch

The body of 65-year-old Frederick “John” HATCH was discovered near the Town of Erin, Ontario, on December 17, 2015, and the OPP has been searching for the person(s) responsible ever since. The investigation has determined that Mr. HATCH was last seen alive on December 16, 2015 in the area of West Hunt Club Road and Merivale Road in Nepean.

At a news conference today, police advised that cellphone numbers identified to be in use in the vicinity of West Hunt Club Road and Merivale Road between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. will receive two text messages – one in English and one in French – from the OPP on Thursday, October 27th. The text message will ask recipients to visit a website and voluntarily answer a few simple questions to possibly help the OPP solve this murder.

The OPP obtained the phone numbers through a court process called a Production Order that required the cell phone companies to provide the information. Police did not receive the names or any other contact information for the registered cellphone owners. The respondents will have the option of providing this information when answering a few simple questions.

Anyone who receives the text message is urged to respond. Media outlets have been asked to help ensure the public is aware that the text message is coming from a legitimate source – the OPP. Anyone who receives a text message also has the option to call the OPP dedicated tip line at 1-844-677-5010 to speak directly with a homicide investigator. As with all OPP investigations, the information provided and the names of potential witnesses will be kept confidential, subject to any eventual court processes related to the murder.

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“We believe this new investigative technique – a text message canvass to cellphone owners – will reach witnesses who may not be aware of the murder of Frederick “John” HATCH, but they may help us solve it by volunteering information and potentially remove a dangerous offender from society before they harm someone else.” – Detective Superintendent Dave TRUAX – Director – OPP Criminal Investigation Services

“Building on the accepted practice of the door-to-door witness canvass, texting is an evolution of this investigative technique that is unique, maybe unprecedented. But it’s the most efficient way to contact these people quickly to either eliminate them as witnesses or learn whether they have any useful information.” – Detective Inspector Andy RAFFAY, OPP Criminal Investigation Branch.


OttawaStart Staff

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