TORONTO, Ont. – The victim of a fatal stabbing in Cabbagetown Tuesday morning was a 55-year-old Eritrean refugee with aspirations of bringing her family to Canada.
Nighisti Semret was stabbed multiple times in a laneway near Ontario Street, in what police fear was a random and unprovoked attack while walking home from work.
On Wednesday, CityNews Channel confirmed police had made contact with her next of kin. Her mother, brother and three children have been located in Uganda and were informed of her murder.
Police believe the suspect lives and frequents the Cabbagetown and Regent Park area. They warned that the stabbing could have been committed by a serial offender.
“This is something that this person does. This person has done this type of conduct before and as a result of that, somebody has a suspicion who this is, and we need to hear from them,” Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux said.
The victim was walking through the alleyway when a man with a knife followed from behind. She was found in the laneway with multiple stab wounds to her arms and torso.
Const. Wendy Drummond told 680News on Tuesday that officers were called to Ontario Street, near Carlton and Parliament streets, shortly after 7 a.m.
“We had reports of a woman screaming,” she said. “Officers arrived on scene, located the woman suffering from obvious injuries.”
“She was taken to hospital, but pronounced dead at hospital and our homicide unit has been called in,” Const. Drummond said.
In surveillance video, a man is seen following a woman on the south side of Bleecker Street toward Ontario Street. The suspect attacked the victim in front of 510 Ontario St., police said.
The footage shows a woman holding an umbrella and walking, with a man following closely behind her. The man appears to reach into his coat before he walks out of view.
The victim was taken to a trauma centre, where she succumbed to her injuries.
A worker who worked with the victim told CityNews that she knew the victim as “Nicky” and said Semret was in charge of a cleaning crew.
Semret came to Canada looking for a better life, and was a private woman, the co-worker added. She believes Semret lived alone and was working to bring family members to Canada.
Police describe the suspect as a white man with a medium build, approximately five-foot-10, wearing a dark full-looking coat with buttons up the front, light-coloured or white garment around his neck, dark shoes and a cap made of a material with a sheen in it.
Police said several witnesses saw the stabbing. At least one witness intervened in an attempt to save the woman.
Investigators are interviewing witnesses and reviewing surveillance footage from nearby apartment buildings.