WATCH ABOVE: Police have yet to locate 22-year-old Taylor Samson’s remains but they have laid murder charges and that’s leading many to question how that’s possible. Global’s Natasha Pace has more.
HALIFAX – Murder is a very complex thing to investigate. Sometimes, police officers are forced to lay charges without having the most crucial piece of evidence to make their case – a body.
Recently, Halifax Regional Police charged William Sandeson, 22, with first degree murder. The body of his alleged victim, fellow Dalhousie University student Taylor Samson, has not yet been found.
“We have been in this position several times over the last number of years, but it’s not something that happens very often,” said Theresa Rath, Halifax Regional Police.
In cases where the victim’s body is missing, police need to use other elements to help form the murder charges.
“For us to be able to lay a charge of homicide without having recovered remains really means that we have to have collected evidence and formed reasonable, probable grounds that an offence has taken place,” said Rath.
Halifax lawyer Luke Craggs says there are other ways to establish someone has met with foul play that do not require human remains.
“Just because a body can’t be found, doesn’t mean that police can’t pull together other circumstantial evidence which could lead to charges being laid,” Craggs said.
The circumstantial evidence police need to make their case can come in many ways. Craggs says one example would be from the suspect themselves. While under arrest and being interviewed by investigators, a suspect could confess to committing the homicide.
There could also be a situation where police have testimony from witnesses. For example, there could be half a dozen people who saw a person alive one minute, and then go off alone with a suspect and disappear.
Another thing Craggs says police can do is intercept conversations between the victim and the suspect.
“Things like text messages or social media messages, or other people who saw the person alive recently can lead police to a scene,” Craggs says.
“If they start looking at that scene and they find personal belongings that belong to the missing person or blood of the missing person in the suspects residence or something like that, it can certainly create grounds to arrest the person.”