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Thread: Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

  1. #1

    canada Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

    An 18-year-old cold case may have been solved after police brought first-degree murder charges over the death of Melonie Biddersingh, whose remains were found in a burning suitcase in 1994.
    Melonie, 17, was only identified this morning after police arrested her biological father Evertone Biddersingh, 56, and stepmother Elaine Biddersingh, 50, on March 5 in Welland, Ontario.

    On September 1, 1994, police on patrol discovered a body in a burning suitcase left in an industrial area north of Toronto. The victim's body was curled in the fetal position and her fingerprints, handprints and footprints were burned off.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

    I remember seeing her on doenetwork, etc...
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  3. #3

    Default Re: Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

    What a sad story Terrible. I also do remember the sketch from doenetwork.

    According to the Globe and Mail, Melonie was born in Jamaica in 1977 and moved to Toronto with her two brothers Dwayne and Cleon in 1990. It was hoped that the children would have a better life with their father and stepmother.

    The couple also had three younger children living with them at an apartment in a block in the Parkdale area.
    In 1992, Melonie's brother Dwayne, 15, had jumped from a balcony in an apparent suicide, though Toronto police said they would now be revisiting this investigation.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

    Suitcase murder: Dad, stepmom charged in 1994 slaying of 17-year-old Toronto girl

    She hadn’t seen her for years, yet Opal Austin believed her daughter was happy and working in America.

    That’s what Austin, who was living in Jamaica, says she was told by her ex-husband, who was in Canada with their daughter, Melonie Biddersingh.

    Now, Austin knows the horrifying truth.

    In 1994, Melonie Biddersingh was found dead in a suitcase doused with gas and lit on fire.

    Toronto police recently charged her father and stepmother with first-degree murder.

    Everton Biddersingh, 56, and Elaine Biddersingh, 50, were arrested in Welland, Ont., on March 5 and appeared in court the next day. They are in custody until their next court appearance.

    “I was asking where my daughter is,” Austin told a Jamaican news agency Wednesday. “He (Everton) said she’s in America.”

    Raquel Ellis, Melonie’s sister, said she thought Toronto police were going to deliver good news when officers called. “We thought it was them finding Melonie,” she said.

    A simple phone call to police last November was the key that unlocked a murder mystery going back almost two decades.

    “It started with a phone call from a person with a conscience,” Toronto police Det. Sgt. Steve Ryan told a news conference Wednesday.

    “It goes to show the power of a phone call. It’s a difficult case.”

    The call, from a person Ryan would not name, helped police identify 17-year-old Melonie whose charred remains were found in a suitcase behind a Vaughan industrial plaza on Sept. 1, 1994.

    On Wednesday, police released a 1990 photo of Biddersingh holding an unidentified child in Kingston, Jamaica, where she was born.

    Ryan, who heads the cold-case squad, said police know the cause of death but are not releasing it.

    A police source said the teen was beaten, starved and kept in a closet. At death, she may have weighed as little as 50 pounds.

    Her charred body was found when York police came across a mysterious fire. Gasoline or some other fuel had apparently been poured over the suitcase and set ablaze only minutes before an officer on patrol spotted the flames and thick, black smoke shortly after 3 a.m.

    Vaughan firefighters quickly extinguished the blazing heap.

    Biddersingh’s body, curled in the fetal position, was found in the once forest-green suitcase. Her fingerprints, handprints and footprints were burned off. Little was left of what investigators surmised was once curly black hair.

    A forensic anthropologist detailed numerous injuries believed to be the result of a fall from a height or a car accident.

    The teen had suffered fractures in the lower back, including a number of vertebrae and ribs, the pelvic area, the left knee and right ankle.

    She would have been immobile and likely in constant pain, the forensics exam found.

    The young woman was not treated for her injuries, York police concluded. Her fractures were believed to have taken place three weeks to six months before her death.

    Melonie had never been reported missing in the years since she had been killed.

    Ryan said a phone call in November prompted police to contact the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police liaison office in Kingston.

    With their help, police identified the victim’s biological mother as Opal Austin, who lives in Kingston. Toronto police flew there to interview her and obtain a DNA sample. A match was made last month, identifying her daughter as the homicide victim.

    “She was of the belief that her daughter was a young adult, a productive member of society” Ryan said. “She thought she was alive.”

    Melonie Biddersingh was born in Jamaica in 1977 and came to Toronto with brothers Dwayne and Cleon to live in Parkdale with her biological father and stepmother.

    Dwayne was 15 when he died in 1992 in a fall from their 22nd-floor balcony. His death was ruled a suicide but police are taking another look at the case.

    Officers were executing a search warrant and conducting forensic testing Wednesday on Close Ave., where the couple lived at the time of Melonie’s death. “My information was that her life in Toronto wasn’t pleasant,” Ryan said.

    She was kept in seclusion in the apartment shared by the couple and six children, Ryan said.

    None of the children went to school here. The youngest was an infant at the time. They are now “productive” adults, Ryan said.

    O’Neil Biddersingh, who identified himself as the oldest son of Everton and Elaine Biddersingh, said he vaguely remembers life in Parkdale. Asked what his parents told him about Melonie, he said: “Um, they actually said she ran away or something like that.”

    O’Neil and his sister are distraught. “We just don’t want to talk about this, it’s our right,” she said, declining to give her name.

    “It’s just a horrible time right now. One minute my parents are here, then they’re in jail for murder.”

    The parents lived in Parkdale until about 1996 and returned briefly to Jamaica. They then came back to Canada.

    Police did not release details of the lifestyles or livelihoods of the accused couple in Welland.

    David Houser, who lives in the other half of the duplex the Biddersinghs rented on Ontario Rd. in Welland, said he watched undercover officers police lead the couple away in handcuffs.

    He said the Biddersinghs moved into the place last fall and lived with their two sons.

    “I was probably one of Everton’s only friends,” Houser said. “He was friendly and they were very religious. This is pretty nuts. I can’t really believe what the police are saying about them.”

    He said Elaine often sang choir music with girlfriends at their home. Everton spoke a lot of Jesus, his bike and his native Jamaica.

    “He would tell me about the simple life in Jamaica, but he really loved the cold in Canada — I mean, who loves the cold? He always seemed so happy about everything, even bad weather,” Houser said.

    Everton would cycle everywhere in Welland and would call on Houser, a cyclist himself, to help him with bike repairs. The Biddersinghs lived simply and would use the nearby Hope Centre for food from time to time, he added.

    Ryan credited many other agencies for the arrests: Jamaican authorities, Niagara Regional Police, the RCMP, York Regional Police, the coroner’s office and the Centre for Forensic Sciences.

    This was the second major cold case leading to arrests by Toronto police in the past few months.

    In December, a man serving time for a 1994 murder was arrested in custody and charged in the 1981 rape and murder of a woman in Mississauga.

    Ryan said the phone call that cracked the Biddersingh case should provide hope for others connected to unsolved cold cases.

    “I am hopeful for all those other families who have lost loved ones to murder,” the cold-case detective said. “For them I say, ‘Just don’t give up, remain hopeful, because we have not forgotten about you or your loved ones.’ ”

  5. #5

    Default Re: Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

    Why does this abuse of children happen? It is so terrible what these children have to endure because they just happen to be in the care of people who are unstable and cruel. I wish something could be done.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

    I would wish something could be done too Starless. I guess most people know, like neighbors, relatives, teachers in school, but apparently they are afraid to talk, as it is not always easy to proof, and most also think, (I guess): What if the children are taken away from the parents, are they better off then?

    I would think so yes, but I remember when I was about 10, there was a boy in my class. We had gym, and he didn't even wear a shirt and his back had lots of scratches. My teacher went to talk with the parents, but as we heard later, the mother said his sister, a year older, had done that, as they fought a lot.
    He was still in my class two years afterwards, and he ate everything he could find ( In my school we had to put our fruit, drinks and sandwiches on a table in the classroom, and somehow everytime alot of it was gone) He was very skinny, sent to bed without dinner often, his sister once said. The boy had nothing, his sister got everything she asked for.
    I wish I was an adult back then, I even told my mother about him, but all she said was: Well, if anything is wrong the teacher will find out and do something about it...No one did though

    I think often all are misled by those so called "caring" parents. They should listen to, and look at the children, instead of talking to the parents.
    It is in their pictures, as if some of the parents don't even care if their child is on a picture with a black eye or a big bump in the face, or they just don't see it because it is normal for them.

    Look at the little ones missing on Doenetwork, it is in their eyes often, very awful. And then I just think: how did those parents ever get away with it.
    But just like Melonie's parents who thought they did: Justice is right around the corner, it is all a matter of time!!!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

    Couple charged in cold case murder appear in court

    TORONTO - It is our first glimpse at the most hated couple in the GTA.

    They are Everton Biddersingh, 56, and his wife Elaine, both charged with killing his 17-year-old daughter Melonie, stuffing her malnourished body into a forest green Samsonite suitcase and lighting it afire in 1994 so that no one would ever know who she was.

    And for almost two decades, no one did. She was our mysterious Jane Doe, a teen of north African origin who was so small she weighed just 50 pounds. But nothing more was known — even her fingerprints and her footprints had been burned away and no one had reported her missing. So despite numerous public appeals, countless composite drawings and even a clay reconstruction of her face, her charred body remained unidentified and unclaimed in a cold provincial morgue.

    She was just the girl in the suitcase, coroner file R21894. Until last month.

    Now her father and stepmother are in custody, accused of the heinous crime 18 years before.

    They appear separately on the video remand camera before a justice of the peace in a courtroom at Old City Hall: She wears a green sweatsuit from the Vanier Centre for Women; her bearded husband dressed in prison-issue orange at the Don Jail.

    He blinks into the camera, unsure where to stand. “This is the first I’ve experienced,” he explains to an unseen guard telling him what to do.

    For both, it is all over in a matter of moments. The JP remands them in custody after their lawyers express frustration that they have yet to be given any disclosure from the Crown.

    “There is an ongoing investigation in this matter,” the prosecutor explains.

    Because the police are now looking into the suspicious death of Melonie’s brother two years before. When 15-year-old Dwayne died after plunging 22 storeys from the family’s Parkdale apartment in 1992, it was ruled a suicide. Now the case has been reopened.

    Outside the courtroom, defence lawyer Alana Page is upset her client is being tried by the police in the media while she’s not privy to the evidence against her.

    “She intends to defend these charges. She’s very anxious to know what it is the Crown is in possession of. She’s been in custody since March 5 with not a stitch of disclosure,” complains Page, who represents Melonie’s stepmom. “She’s not well. She has no understanding of why they laid these charges.”

    The Biddersinghs were living a quiet life in Welland, she says, when they were arrested March 5 and charged with failing to provide the necessities of life. It was at their March 13 hearing that they were stunned to learn those charges had been upped to the first-degree murder of Melonie.

    A week later came the stunning press conference where Toronto Police announced they’d finally cracked the cold case after a tip from a “person of conscience.”

    Police said Melonie and Dwayne had been sent from their home in Jamaica to find a better life with their father and stepmother in Toronto. But it would turn out far different. “My information was that her life in Toronto wasn’t pleasant,” homicide Det.-Sgt. Steve Ryan told reporters.

    Melonie never went to school, so her disappearance was never noted. In 2005, police released shocking details about the mysterious teen’s condition, hoping to spark information. A forensic anthropologist found she was never treated for recent fractures in her back, ribs, pelvis, knee and ankle, possibly from a fall from a great height or car crash, that would have left her immobile and in excruciating pain.

    “I can’t imagine the last moments of this girl’s life,” York Region Det. Tim Gore told the Toronto Sun then. “There’s no excuse for it. It’s torture.”

    Now the couple accused of that torture have been in custody for a month and under a court order not to contact each other.

    The charges are horrific but Everton’s defence lawyer John Erickson warns the public not to jump to any conclusions.

    “He’s deeply bothered by comments and articles that are inflammatory and he’s not in a position to respond,” he says.

    “It’ll be difficult to have a fair trial,” warns Page.

    But that is a long way off. The Biddersinghs next appear by video remand on April 17.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

    Melonie Biddersingh's mother shares tragic story

    Her mother offers a glimpse of the fine woman Melonie Biddersingh would have become.

    Despite the tragedy of losing two of her seven children here — Dwayne Biddersingh to an accidental death, her daughter to murder — Opal Austin is a Jamaican woman of remarkable grace and strength. The tears she has shed in the past were carefully tucked away for the important mission which was hers: to travel by plane for the first time so she could testify at the trial of Everton Biddersingh, the father of her dead children and the man she’d entrusted to give their daughter a better life in Toronto.

    Austin, 60, had raised them alone from the time Biddersingh left their two-year-old daughter and baby son to join another “baby mother” in Toronto. Asked about Melonie, Austin struggled to keep control, never once looking at the man charged with her gruesome murder.

    “She was a quiet person, she didn’t give no problem,” her mother replied.

    Melonie loved to draw and read her books. She did well at school, though she didn’t excel at math or participate in sports. Mello, as they called her, never disobeyed.

    And then, in welcome respite from the grisly autopsy photos from the previous day, Austin had pictures of Melonie as a happy child in Jamaica, often wearing her favourite cotton dress and holding a child, whether it was a neighbour’s or her stepsister’s daughter.

    Theirs was a simple, poor life in Kingston. With her seven kids, they lived in a one-room house with a dirt floor and zinc roof that often leaked. Their bathroom was an outhouse with a pit. They had no phone; electricity and water were never guaranteed.

    But her children never went hungry, Austin said proudly. Still, she believed at least her kids by Biddersingh could have a better life if they joined their dad and stepmom in Toronto. “I put my trust,” she said, in a fellow mother who had children of her own.

    How could she imagine she was sending both to their deaths?

    Austin would call collect but was often told Melonie was in class or the gym. In fact, she was never enrolled in school. Soon, Biddersingh didn’t accept her calls, she said, complaining his phone bill was too high.

    In their letters, he complained about their two kids, about how “weird” Melonie was, “stupid” and disobedient. He also cruelly told her that Mello was too busy to write. “She say she just want to live her life” in Canada and put their Jamaican ghetto behind her.

    Later she was told Melonie had stolen her stepmom’s clothes and jewellery and ran away to be with Jamaican friends she’d met during a family trip to the U.S. Biddersingh, she said, told her he wasn’t going to look for her.

    But she did.

    For 17 years, the desperate mother searched for her daughter, filling out missing person forms, posting her photos, asking the Red Cross and Canadian authorities for help — but there was no sign of her. Austin had no idea Melonie was lying unidentified in a Toronto morgue.

    On Feb. 16, 2012, Toronto detectives came to tell her a girl’s burned remains from 1994 might be her long-lost child. They asked for a mouth swab to compare their DNA.

    Austin got the results on her 57th birthday. It was Melonie. The beautiful, shy daughter she’d sent to Canada for a better future had been killed and torched just three years after she’d arrived.

    Day 3 of Everton Biddersingh murder trial

    Biddersingh, 60, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of daughter Melonie, 17. Stepmother Elaine Biddersingh goes on trial next year.

    On Sept. 1, 1994, police discovered a raging fire behind a Vaughan industrial building. The charred remains of a female stuffed inside a suitcase had been burned beyond recognition.

    No one reported a missing female and despite years of appeals, the case went cold.

    Eighteen years later, after Elaine Biddersingh allegedly told her pastor the identity of the girl in the suitcase, she and her husband were arrested.

    The jury has been told Melonie, brother Dwayne and stepbrother Cleon were brought from Jamaica to Toronto by their father in 1991. The following year, Dwayne died accidentally. In 1994, Biddersingh told family Melonie ran away to the U.S.

    An autopsy revealed she’d suffered 21 healing fractures, weighed 50 pounds and likely died from a combination of drowning and starvation.

    I'm lost for words.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Has the 'girl in the burning suitcase' murder mystery finally been solved?

    TORONTO -- Graphic crime-scene video and photos were shown Thursday at the trial of a man charged in the death of his teenage daughter, whose charred body was found in a burning suitcase 21 years ago.

    Everton Biddersingh has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 17-year-old daughter Melonie. He has pleaded not guilty.

    As Crown prosecutors questioned a police witness, jurors watched a video that showed Melonie's charred body as it was found -- curled up in the fetal position, the metal frame of a suitcase visible around her, a black tire beneath the suitcase.

    Court has heard that the suitcase was discovered burning in an industrial area north of Toronto in 1994.

    WARNING: Content may disturb some readers.

    In the video, the side of Melonie's body that was visible was badly burned but the general structure of her face and feet can be made out.

    The court was also shown photographs of Melonie's incredibly frail body during an autopsy, which the judge presiding over the case warned would be "quite graphic."

    A police officer who took the photographs described the teen's body as "very slight, very thin."

    Forensic officer Dan Lanegraff agreed with Biddersingh's lawyer, however, that there was "no physical evidence" tying Melonie's father to the scene of the burning suitcase which contained his daughter.

    A Crown prosecutor has said Melonie was starved and abused before her death. Jurors have heard that she is thought to have weighed only about 50 pounds when she died.

    Jurors have been told that Melonie came to Canada from Jamaica in 1991 to live with her father and stepmother, but was never sent to school and was "treated like a slave."

    The case has taken two decades to get to trial because police weren't able to identify Melonie's remains for years until they received a tip that eventually led to the arrest of Everton Biddersingh and Melonie's stepmother, Elaine Biddersingh, in March 2012.

    Elaine Biddersingh's trial on first-degree murder is set to begin in April 2016.

    A Crown lawyer has told the jury that Melonie was subjected to abuse that included being kept in a closet, having her head placed in a toilet that was flushed, being chained to the furniture at times, being kicked and punched and being deprived of food.

    The jury has heard that Melonie died on Sept. 1, 1994.

    Jurors also heard that expert evidence expected in the case will indicate Melonie had 21 "healing fractures" in her ribs, spine, pelvis, right knee and left ankle that were caused three weeks to six months before her death.

    Expert evidence is also expected to indicate that Melonie had inhaled water shortly before her death, jurors have been told.

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