On January 1, 1992, Andrea Lynn King, an 18-year-old woman from British Columbia flew to Halifax to begin a travel-work adventure… She phoned her sister from the airport to say she’d landed and would be staying the night at a downtown hostel. She would call the next day, she said, with her new address so her family could mail a purse she’d forgotten.
She never called.
Three days later, her family reported her missing. A year later, her remains were found in woods near the Sackville business park.
Today, Andrea King’s name is on an incredibly long list of Halifax’s unsolved homicides. The total is now 52, with six new cases added in 2012 alone.
Over the weekend, there were the predictable anniversary-of stories highlighting the fact the King investigation is ongoing, that anyone with information should call… etc..
Missing from the accounts I read was any acknowledgment Halifax police had a prime suspect in the King murder—along with several other unsolved crimes—but botched it.
During a 1997 re-investigation of the 1989 disappearance of another young woman, Kimberly McAndrew—her case also still unsolved—police identified a former Halifax sex offender as a prime suspect. During a sex offender treatment program, the man, Andrew Paul Johnson, had been asked to write an essay about a sexual assault from the point of view of the victim. Johnson’s essay was a chilling account of McAndrew’s rape and murder.
Rummaging through Johnson’s life and times, police also found evidence linking him to King’s disappearance, including her compact.
At the time, DNA testing wasn’t sophisticated enough to positively connect the murder dots from Johnson to McAndrew or King, and police themselves lost interest after a B.C. court declared Johnson a dangerous offender in 2001.
Three years later, then-detective Tom Martin—who would run for mayor in 2012—joined the force’s cold case squad and asked for a piece of DNA evidence he knew the task force had collected. He hoped testing advances might lead to the breakthrough investigators needed.
The evidence had disappeared.
Today, police are still “seeking the public’s help…”
There are any number of reasons, of course, why homicides don’t get solved. But, given the stunning number still on the books in Halifax, we need to ask if incompetence is one of those reasons.