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Police make arrest in case of ‘Woodland Rapist,’ charges date back to 1992

Police in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) say they have charged a suspect decades after an alleged serial rapist who targeted children eluded police in the 1990s.

The investigation, known as “Project Woodlands” focused on sexual assaults which occurred in Peel, Halton and Waterloo between 1992 and 1995.

The cold case has dogged investigators for decades, with the suspect dubbed the “Woodland Rapist.”

Children as young as eight reported being lured into the woods and sexually assaulted in a number of incidents, police have previously said.

A composite sketch of a suspect was released around the time of the assaults, but no arrests were ever made.

Woodlands Rapist composite

Searches in the national DNA database didn’t turn up any matches to known offenders either.

Investigators speculated over the years that the perpetrator may have died or moved out of the area.

The case was reopened 15 years ago in 2009 for another look. An image of a black cotton shirt left at one of the crime scenes, and bearing a distinctive wood duck logo, was released at the time as well.

Evidence

But many years passed without any major developments.  

Then on Wednesday, Peel and Halton announced said that a suspect from British Columbia was taken into custody on March 3 in connection with the investigation.

They said 64-year-old Richard Neil is now facing more than 20 charges, including kidnapping, uttering death threats, sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, forcible confinement, and administering a noxious thing with intent.

He was held for a bail hearing, police said.

“There is a publication ban in place to protect the identity of the victims, and no additional information is being released at this time,” Peel and Halton police said.

They did not say what evidence led to the arrest in this case, some 30 years after the crimes were committed. However new genetic genealogy techniques have recently allowed investigators in multiple jurisdictions to make breakthroughs in cold cases which have gone unsolved for decades.  

Investigators are asking anyone with further information about the case to reach out to police or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously.

–          With files from CTV News Toronto