Two years af­ter her cry for help, the ter­ri­fy­ing truth is re­vealed

De­tails emerge in a kid­nap­ping that ex­posed the worst of hu­man­ity — and the rescue that high­lighted the best of it

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - Ed­ward Keenan Editor’s note: This col­umn con­tains dis­turb­ing sub­ject mat­ter

Just over two years ago, on Easter Sun­day in 2015, Peter Hamilton was out walk­ing his dog on his side street in Les­lieville when he heard a cry com­ing from the front porch of a run­down red-brick house. “Help. Can you help me?” There was a woman there, naked from the waist down, cov­ered in bruises, hand­cuffed and with her hands and feet bound by duct tape, Hamilton told me at the time. The woman said she’d been held cap­tive for five days by a man with a gun who was in­side the house. Hamilton helped as best he could, cut­ting her re­straints with the nail clip­pers in his pocket, get­ting a passerby to call 911, stand­ing tall as the cap­tor fled the house past them and ran away.

“The hor­ror of what hap­pened to her, of what she had gone through, hadn’t re­ally sunk in to me yet,” he said as he de­scribed it to me at the time.

In­deed, only the broad strokes of what had hap­pened were known when I wrote about the en­counter two years ago. The story of the woman’s es­cape from cap­tiv­ity, and Hamilton’s ac­ci­den­tal role in help­ing with it, pro­vided the small­est of sil­ver lin­ings to a hor­ri­fy­ingly dark cloud of a crime. How dark it was only be­came clear last week, when 45-year-old Re­jean Per­ron pleaded guilty to use of an imi­ta­tion firearm in the com­mis­sion of an in­dictable of­fence, forcible con­fine­ment and sex­ual as­sault with a weapon. The de­tails are very dis­turb­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the agreed state­ment of fact read in court April 4, Per­ron lived alone at the time in that red brick room­ing house, sup­port­ing him­self on On­tario Works. “Dur­ing 2014, Mr. Per­ron de­vised a plan to find a vul­ner­a­ble woman, kid­nap her if nec­es­sary and force her to get en­gaged and mar­ried.”

He set about gath­er­ing tools to ex­e­cute this plan: fill­ing a duf­fel bag with two plas­tic guns, a hunt­ing knife, five pairs of hand­cuffs, rope and mask­ing tape. “He looked for a se­cluded lo­ca­tion to ex­e­cute his plan. An op­por­tu­nity to ex­e­cute his plan never pre­sented it­self,” the state­ment of fact reads.

When he re­al­ized his land­lord would be away for two months, he de­cided to lure a pros­ti­tute to make good on his plan — he’d “bring her home, force her to marry him and keep her for him­self.”

He set aside $160 to use as a lure, and pre­pared his bed­room with ropes set up be­tween mat­tress and box spring to act as re­straints.

“He prac­tised what he was go­ing to say to her, in­clud­ing the en­gage­ment and mar­riage cer­e­mony. He pre­pared him­self to use the gun and/or the knife to threaten her only if nec­es­sary.”

He waited for his land­lord to leave and his room­mates to clear out of the house, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment of fact. On March 31, he armed him­self and went out to the area of Shuter and Sher­bourne Sts.

The vic­tim, whose iden­tity is pro­tected by a pub­li­ca­tion ban, “strug­gles with ad­dic­tion to crack and heroin,” ac­cord­ing to the state­ment of fact. “She sup­ports her­self on On­tario Works, sup­ple­ment­ing her in­come by par­tic­i­pat­ing in the sex trade.”

She had been con­sum­ing both crack and heroin the night Per­ron ap­proached her on the street. She agreed to re­turn to his room and have sex with him in ex­change for $160, and they took a taxi to the Les­lieville house.

There, he gave her the money and told her to bend over. “As soon as she did, Mr. Per­ron hand­cuffed her wrists.” She turned to face him and kicked at him, plead­ing “Please don’t kill me.” While as­sur­ing her he wouldn’t kill her, Per­ron bound her with a sec­ond set of hand­cuffs and taped her mouth, arms, back, stom­ach and legs “un­til she couldn’t move.” He re­moved his pants and sex­u­ally as­saulted her. Com­ing down from her heroin use by then, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing drowsy, flu-like symp­toms, she fell asleep when he was fin­ished.

When she awoke, he told her of his mar­riage plans for the two of them. “Mr. Per­ron per­formed a mar­riage cer­e­mony and put a Bar­bie ring on her fin­ger.”

Over the next five days, “Mr. Per­ron con­tin­ued to sex­u­ally as­sault” her in var­i­ous ways. I will spare you the more graphic de­tails. But he ter­ror­ized her con­tin­u­ously. She re­mained naked from the waist down, her un­der­gar­ments and pants cut off by Per­ron.

She was kept in his bed­room, forced to re­lieve her­self in a bucket. Per­ron called her “his Bar­bie” and cut her hair, painted her fin­ger­nails and toe­nails red and sprin­kled her with glit­ter.

She “re­peat­edly at­tempted to free her­self from the re­straints” and he phys­i­cally at­tacked her and also threat­ened her with the two guns, which he showed her briefly “in or­der to fur­ther in­tim­i­date her and en­sure fur­ther com­pli­ance.” Only later did po­lice de­ter­mine that one gun was a plas­tic pel­let gun and “the other was a plas­tic gun.”

She “did her best to re­main calm,” try­ing to secure her re­lease, the state­ment of fact says. At one point her at­tacker told her he “wanted to keep her for a lit­tle while longer,” at an­other, “he told her he was never go­ing to let her go.”

Fi­nally, on April 5, Per­ron bound her up from head to toe in tape, leav­ing only her eyes ex­posed, and went out and got them some food from 7-Eleven. Then he came back. “He re­moved some of her re­straints, and they ate and smoked the cigarettes he pur­chased. Af­ter eat­ing, he fell asleep.”

Fi­nally, af­ter five days of be­ing as­saulted and ter­ror­ized, she had a chance. The state­ment of fact says the vic­tim, still hand­cuffed and bound, moved the mini-fridge that was block­ing the door, and slid down two flights of stairs while call­ing for help. She made her way out onto the ve­randa out­side, where Peter Hamilton was walk­ing his dog.

“Mr. Per­ron woke up to the sound,” it says, of her “scream­ing ‘help me’ at his room­ing house neigh­bour.”

Two years later, Per­ron has pleaded guilty. Sen­tenc­ing will prob­a­bly not take place for months. There are var­i­ous hear­ings and re­ports ex­pected be­tween now and then. The crimes he has pleaded guilty to carry max­i­mum sen­tences of 14 years for use of an imi­ta­tion firearm in com­mit­ting an of­fence, 10 years for forcible con­fine­ment and 14 years for sex­ual as­sault with a weapon. The imi­ta­tion firearm charge car­ries a min­i­mum sen­tence of one year.

Hamilton, the man who hap­pened by and helped the vic­tim, told me on the phone this week that he has thought about the crime every day for two years. He lives on the street where it hap­pened.

His daugh­ter’s school is di­rectly across the street from the house where the vic­tim pleaded for his help.

Hamilton has not met the vic­tim since that day — he was ex­pected to tes­tify at trial but then the plea was en­tered — but thinks of her of­ten. “I’d like to meet her if it would help her heal­ing process in any way. Just to say, ‘How are you do­ing?’ To give her a hug.”

His ac­tions that day, which I re­ported at the time, re­flected some of the best of what we hope ex­ists in the hu­man spirit. “It was noth­ing less than heroic,” the Star’s ed­i­to­rial board wrote that week.

But the de­tails of the crime that led to his mo­ment of in­spir­ing brav­ery are the op­po­site, an ex­am­ple of the very worst of hu­man be­hav­iour. What the vic­tim lived through be­fore she sum­moned the re­silience and found the op­por­tu­nity to es­cape is hor­rific, the stuff of night­mares. It is hard to imag­ine a jail sen­tence strong enough that it would serve jus­tice. It is hard enough to imag­ine the crime. To let the hor­ror sink in. With files from Alyshah Hasham Ed­ward Keenan writes on city is­sues ekeenan@thes­tar.ca. Fol­low: @the­keenan­wire

RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR

Peter Hamilton was walk­ing his dog on Easter Sun­day in 2015 when he helped a woman es­cape her cap­tor.

Re­jean Per­ron kid­napped a sex worker and held her cap­tive for five days in 2015.

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