February 7, 2013 / 7:05 PM / in 5 years

Man faces double murder charge as Ottawa sex workers on alert

(Reuters) - An Ottawa man has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the killing of two women in Canada’s capital, where police have warned they have discovered a pattern in the slaying of local sex workers.

Marc Leduc, 56, has been charged in connection with the murder of a woman in 2008 and another murder in 2011, Ottawa police said in a statement on Thursday.

The police, however, said they would not discuss any possible links with cases that remain unsolved in the city, saying the investigation was continuing.

Pamela Kosmac, 39, was found murdered in 2008 near a bicycle path, while Leanne Lawson, 23, was found in a parking lot in a central part of the city.

“Pamela and Leanne were members of this community and they were the victims of senseless homicides,” the police said in a statement.

Police said they were using DNA evidence in the arrest of Leduc, who was already in custody facing 11 charges related to an alleged sexual assault of a 19-year-old Ottawa woman last November.

In the statement, the police reiterated a warning they issued late in 2011 that women, particularly in the sex trade, needed to be vigilant about their safety.

“We usually don’t hold news conferences to announce charges related to investigations but we know that there is a great amount of public interest in these homicide files and (we) want to be as open as possible about this investigation,” the statement said.

The Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported that at least five other recent murders of women remain unsolved.

If the Ottawa investigation widens, the case could be compared to grisly slaying of sex workers in Vancouver, British Columbia, where police were accused of bungling a long-running case.

Robert Pickton was found guilty in 2007 of six counts of murder of sex trade workers and sent to prison for life. Originally charged with 26 murders, he picked up women on Vancouver’s rough east side, killed them, and dumped their bodies at his suburban pig farm.

Vancouver police admitted mistakes in the case and a public inquiry entitled “Forsaken” highlighted how a “systemic bias” against the sex workers hindered their investigation.

Reporting By Russ Blinch; Editing by Peter Galloway

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