Police arrest 21-year-old man in random beating of woman east of Toronto

By Canadian Press

Police have arrested a 21-year-old man following a weeks-long manhunt after a 50-year-old woman was allegedly attacked at random, sexually assaulted and left for dead near a creek in Whitby, Ont.

Investigators worked around the clock to identify, then find the suspect and arrested him overnight in Ottawa, Durham regional police Chief Paul Martin said at a news conference Friday.

The woman was out for her usual walk on around 9 p.m. on July 28, but when she didn’t return, her family called police, Martin said.

The force searched through the night and around 10:30 a.m. the next morning, officers found her next to a creek, he said.

“She had multiple serious injuries consistent with a vicious assault,” Martin said.

She was airlifted to a Toronto hospital where she remains in critical condition, he said.

After canvassing the neighbourhood for surveillance video, police released footage of a man they said was following the woman on her walk.

The force said it was the help of the public that led to the identification of the suspect.

“Once we released those images, we were getting phone calls, getting people coming to the station, we were getting people approaching officers that were canvassing in the neighbourhood,” said Det. Gill Lock.

Martin said there is no indication mental health played a role in the attack, but cautioned the investigation remains in its early stages.

“The suspect was not known to the victim and this was a random assault,” he said.

The woman’s father was emotional when speaking with reporters.

“She’s alive, that’s all I’m going to say, thankfully,” he said.

Anthony Doiron-Francis, of Whitby, Ont., faces charges of attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated assault.

A GoFundMe account set up to help the woman has raised more than $100,000 since late July.

The family said the woman “sustained multiple life-threatening injuries that will require medical procedures, treatments and therapy to assist with healing during this difficult and long recovery.”

Someone with the same name as the accused donated $300 to the fund six days ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 14, 2020.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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