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Features Out of the Cold
Scotland to Sarnia: The unsolved murder of Morag Davies

February 23, 2023  By Stephen Metelsky

“We have viewed the crime scene photos. Those images never leave us. No one deserves to die that way,” said Gail Longmuir Coltart.

The crime pertains to the murder of Morag Davies, who was stabbed to death in her Sarnia home in 1988. Gail is the niece of Morag.

The case is unsolved and Morag’s killer has yet to be identified, but Sarnia police are optimistic a break will occur in the case with either renewed assistance from the public or from the new science of genetic genealogy.

Morag was born in Scotland and emigrated to Canada in the 1970s, opting to settle in the city of Sarnia, Ont. She spent the bulk of her professional career in nursing then transitioned to establish herself as a real estate agent in the 1980s.


In August of 1988 Ms. Davies, then 45, moved to a bungalow on Retlaw Drive. She had been recently divorced and was looking forward to a fresh start – both personally and professionally.

“It was considered to be a quiet neighbourhood,” said Detective Sergeant Mike Kahnert, who manages the homicide unit and cold cases for Sarnia police. However, mere days after Morag moved to the Sarnia suburb, a set of tragic circumstances would occur, unravelling the notion of tranquility in this once serene area of southern Ontario.

On August 23, 1988, a colleague of Ms. Davies came over to her new home for a brief visit sometime between the hours of 10:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Aside from her killer, Morag’s co-worker may have been the last person to see her alive.

Sometime that evening or the next day, something nefarious occurred inside the home on Retlaw Drive. After Morag failed to show up at work for two consecutive days, her colleagues became concerned.

“The best cases are when cooperating witnesses come forward.” – Detective Sergeant Mike Kahnert

On August 25, 1988, at 12:00 p.m., two of Morag’s co-workers decided to check on her. When their repeated knocks went unanswered, their suspicions heightened. Once they entered the home, they found Morag dead in her bedroom. She had been stabbed multiple times.

“There were no signs of forced entry,” said Kahnert. “Which doesn’t negate that it was a stranger.”

The murder weapon and number of times Morag was stabbed have never been divulged by police. It is “hold-back information” only the killer would be privy to. Before the killer left Morag’s home that fateful night, they left valuable evidence behind at the crime scene – their DNA.

There have been many investigators and countless investigative hours invested in this case over the years and Sarnia police are hopeful this case can be solved.

“We believe there are people out there who know things,” said Inspector Leo Murphy, who oversees the criminal investigative division. “The case has always been open.”

“To date, over forty individuals have been identified as persons of interest,” confirmed Kahnert. “There hasn’t been anyone identified in the national DNA databank. A number of people were ruled out over the years through DNA at the time and nothing at this point has led us in the direction to identify an offender.”

Sarnia police are putting “a fresh set of eyes to the investigation” into Morag’s murder. They are actively working with the Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) in Toronto pertaining to advancements in DNA since the 1988 murder.

“We want to try to exhaust all DNA avenues with the CFS before we look at genetic genealogy. That is currently underway with the CFS,” confirmed Murphy.

Police have explored other investigative avenues over the years, including assistance from the RCMP and the FBIs behavioral sciences unit – in an effort to identify who was responsible for Morag’s murder. However, investigators remain optimistic that someone out there has information and answers that can break this case wide open.

“It’s not a 100 per cent DNA case. The best cases are when cooperating witnesses come forward,” said Kahnert, who also questioned the reliability of some witnesses in the case file.

“Were all the witnesses interviewed over the years being fully cooperative? I don’t believe so. Are those people being truthful? That’s the number one question,” added Kahnert. “Somebody out there knows something about what happened to Ms. Davies. The ultimate goal and main priority is to provide answers to the family. They deserve answers.”

Anyone with information about this case can contact the Sarnia Police investigative tip line at 519-344-8861 ext. 5300 or anonymously at Crime Stoppers: 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Stephen Metelsky, M.A., is an author, professor and (ret.) sergeant. Follow him on Twitter @StephenMetelsky.

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