Blue Line

Police withheld key evidence from trial over 1989 murder of 10 year old girl: lawyer

August 10, 2023  By The Canadian Press

Aug. 10, 2023, Toronto, Ont. – A defense lawyer for a man convicted of killing a 10-year-old girl in Toronto more than 30 years ago who has been granted a chance for a new appeal said police withheld information about another suspect who made incriminating remarks during an interrogation.

Timothy Rees, who was convicted for the 1989 murder of Darla Thurrott, has been given a chance at a new appeal after the federal justice ministry referred his case back to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, determining there was evidence pointing towards a miscarriage of justice.

Rees’s lawyer, James Lockyer, said less than 12 hours after Thurrott’s murder, the landlord of the building where she lived – who also lived on the premises – made incriminating tape-recorded statements that were not disclosed during the trial.

Lockyer says the recordings include statements by the landlord that are “pedophilic” in nature and refer specifically to Thurrott.

“In addition to that, he also acknowledged that he had encountered the deceased at least twice in the night, when in his trial evidence, he denied having seen her at all in the night,” Lockyer said.

Lockyer added they have additional evidence about the landlord, who has since died, that was “consistent” with the man being a pedophile.

Rees, who is now 60, has been fighting for his innocence after being found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 15 years.

“He was a victim of extraordinary non-disclosure. He has always claimed his innocence and testified to his innocence at his trial,” Lockyer said.

Rees, then 25 years old, had visited Thurrott’s parents the evening before and stayed overnight. He was convicted of the murder in September 1990.

Rees made an appeal to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 1994, but that was dismissed and he was denied a hearing by the Supreme Court of Canada .

He was allowed out of custody on parole in 2016, and submitted an application for criminal conviction review in 2018.

After an extensive review process, Minister of Justice Arif Virani said Wednesday he was referring Rees’s conviction back to the Court of Appeal for Ontario after the “identification of new information.”

“This case is particularly tragic in that it involves the death of a child,” Virani said in a news release.

“However, after a review of Mr. Rees’s case, there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred and that a new appeal from conviction is warranted.”

Innocence Canada, a non-profit organization that advocates for people wrongly convicted of a crime, took on Rees’s case in 2016.

Innocence Canada said in a statement that following a request for access to the original case files to police, members of the Toronto Police Homicide Cold Case Squad found the tape-recording.

“If the missing tape-recording had been disclosed in 1989, it is doubtful that Mr. Rees would ever have been charged, let alone convicted of Darla’s murder,” the statement said.

Lockyer anticipates Rees’s case to be heard “sometime next year,” and said his client was relieved at the chance his name could be cleared.

“It’s a giant step toward clearing his name,” Lockyer said.

Toronto police would not comment on the case as the matter is before the courts, but said: “We are confident that all information relevant to this case will be thoroughly considered in the court process.”

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