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York student wounded her killer
Cuts on face or hands may identify attacker
Police are searching for the killer of 19-year-old exchange student Lin Tao.
TORONTO STAR PHOTO
Toronto police forensics officers examine a backpack where Lin Tao was killed on Feb. 10, 2002, near Keele St. and Finch Ave.
Lin Tao managed to fight her attacker for just a few brief minutes before he cut her throat, leaving her to die in a parking lot adjacent to a busy north Toronto road.
During that struggle, Tao's attacker was also cut and police hope those wounds will help them find the man who killed the 19-year-old York University student Sunday night. They asked the public yesterday to report anyone who may have received a recent unexplained injury.
Homicide Detective Chris Buck denounced the killing at a press conference, saying the slaying "of a young, defenceless woman is an act of a coward." Investigators said they could not determine a motive for the murder or reveal whether there was a connection between the attacker and Tao.
A one-block perimeter in the area of Keele St. and Finch Ave. W. was cordoned off with yellow police tape yesterday as investigators searched the plaza and parking lot near where Tao was killed. At one end of the barricaded area, forensic experts moved through a closed Tim Hortons coffee shop, looking for fingerprints. The store's manager said police were told the suspect might have been in the shop prior to the attack.
Buck wouldn't comment on reports that Tao was followed through the area before she was killed in the apartment parking lot on Keele St. but did say the teenager was on her way home just after 8 p.m. when she was stabbed. It was reported just after the attack on Sunday night that Tao was robbed, but the 19-year-old's purse was left at the scene near a small pool of blood. Police would not comment yesterday on whether the bag's contents were stolen.
When asked if the killing was a random attack, Buck responded: "At this point I can't describe it as anything. We haven't determined what the motive is."
Homicide detectives said part of their investigation would include talking to detectives probing two separate attacks that involved a suspect with a knife who approached women from behind.
On Dec. 27, a woman was attacked leaving a bus in the Don Mills Rd. and Finch Ave. E. area, but she was able to escape the knife-wielding man. Police believe the same man attacked another woman Feb. 1 as she left a bus near Don Mills Rd. and Lawrence Ave. E. Again, the woman was able to escape.
Buck said police would see if there's a connection between those attacks and the homicide.
Tao lived with her boyfriend near the area where she was attacked. She had come alone to Toronto with a student visa in 1999 from her home in China. Police said yesterday afternoon they were still trying to reach her parents and relatives who did not yet know of the murder.
Her boyfriend was described by detectives as distraught. Like Tao, he is in Canada on a student visa with no relatives here.
Tao was enrolled in York University's English Language Institute until her program ended in December. University spokesperson Cim Nunn said Tao was not presently registered at the school.
Detectives released a vague description of the suspect identifying him as having a slender build and about 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 7 inches tall. Sunday night, he was wearing dark clothing and his coat or sweater had an attached hood.
It's the fact that he was cut, likely on his hands or face, that police hope will help people in the area identify him.
After the attack he ran north on Keele St., and police believe he lives in the area.
Anyone with information is asked to call the detectives directly. Buck can be reached at 416-808-7406 and Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux at 416-808-7387.
Residents and local employees were shaken by the news and looked for a TV image of Tao to see if they knew the 19-year-old.
"It's so awful, that poor girl," said Ehsan Alideeb, the manager of the china and gift shop on Keele St., just outside the area cordoned off by police. "I've been in this location for 10 years and we've never had anything like this happen."
The killing made 18-year-old student Eda Flores cautious.
"I normally walk by there without even thinking about it," she said yesterday. "Now I may call my parents to pick me up at the bus stop."
Tao was to turn 20 tomorrow.
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