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Barrie police, OPP join forces to solve unsolved murders, missing persons

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood and OPP Supt. Jim Smyth address the media during a press conference in Barrie Wednesday where they unveiled Simcoe County Case Files, a new initiative to reinvigorate cold-case investigations with the help of area residents as well as social media through Facebook. Visit fb.me/simcoecountycasefiles to learn more.

IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood and OPP Supt. Jim Smyth address the media during a press conference in Barrie Wednesday where they unveiled Simcoe County Case Files, a new initiative to reinvigorate cold-case investigations with the help of area residents as well as social media through Facebook. Visit fb.me/simcoecountycasefiles to learn more. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

City and provincial police are joining forces in hopes of solving cold-case murders and missing persons investigations.

The two agencies unveiled Simcoe County Case Files on Wednesday, a new focus police say will "reinvigorate" historic investigations with the help of area residents as well as through social media, including Facebook.

A cube van with billboards describing the victims' cases will also be parked around the city and across Simcoe County in the hopes of tweaking people's memories and encouraging them to come forward with information and visit the Facebook page.

Investigations are being profiled in videos and will be posted to a dedicated Simcoe County Case Files Facebook page in the coming weeks.

The pilot project, the first of its kind in Ontario, will highlight three cold cases familiar to Barrie residents.

Cindy Halliday, 17, of Waverley, was last seen hitchhiking near Midhurst on April 20, 1992. She had been visiting a friend in Barrie and her remains were discovered in a wooded area of Springwater Township on June 17, 1992.

Grant Ayerst, 21, and Norman Whalley, 36, both of British Columbia, were last seen leaving a Toronto hotel on Sept. 11, 1991. Their remains have never been recovered. They are considered missing and police say they strongly suspect both met with foul play in Barrie.

April Dobson, 40, was sitting on a porch at a friend’s residence in Barrie when she was shot to death on Oct. 14, 2005.

"The OPP and the Barrie Police Service sympathize with the families of lost loved ones and who are seeking resolution since these tragic events took place," OPP Supt. Jim Smyth said. "What's often lost in these cases is we always remember the person who lost their life, but we need to keep in mind that for every one person there are probably several hundred people who have been deeply affected by these incidents.

"We recognize there may be no way we can bring the victims back to their families, but we can try our very best to find out what happened to them."

Smyth said solving these mysteries may also remove a dangerous offender from society before they can harm someone else.

"(These families) need our help; they need the public's help and they need the media's help," he added. "To help these families find resolution, we urge residents to call the dedicated Simcoe County Case Files hotline."

A new phone number - 1-844-677-5030 - will be manned by investigators and if someone wants to remain anonymous, they can provide information through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

The Facebook page, and associated links, will provide "a great opportunity" to bring information forward, Smyth said.

"Using social media, those persons with knowledge and information can now access the videos from anywhere in the world at any time," he said. "We're encouraging viewers to share the links on their social-media channels with friends and followers, perhaps through dedication or memory pages.

"Every lead is investigated and all available resources are allocated to promising areas of investigation."

Smyth said someone, somewhere, has information about the three investigations that are being highlighted throug Simcoe County Case Files.

"We are confident that people who are from or who have lived in Barrie and surrounding area when these crimes occurred may have information on these cases," he said. "They may have their own reasons why they have not yet come forward.

"Sometimes those reasons are as simple as they just don't think the information they have isn't important enough and they don't want to bother anyone," he added. "They should provide the information and let us assess whether it can be helpful to solve these investigations."

Smyth said some people may be afraid to provide that information.

"I encourage them to reach out to Crime Stoppers or the investigators and discuss their concerns and we can work with them to help protect their identity if needed," he said.

Visit fb.me/simcoecountycasefiles or www.barriepolice.ca to learn more.

imcinroy@postmedia.com