Four decades of agonizing uncertainty. Forty years of wondering why. It’s hard to fathom the torment endured in that span by the family of Jacqueline English (inset). The 15-year-old London, Ontario, girl was abducted, raped and murdered 40 years ago. Her murderer, perhaps a serial killer who preyed on young girls in the region during that time, has not been caught.
Too many of these grim anniversaries pass unnoticed. It is not surprising. Jacqueline’s case is but one among thousands. There are more than 3,400 unsolved murders in Canada, dating back to 1961. Who knows how many more from decades beyond. Many cases are gone from view, dissolved like sugar cubes in warm water. Many of these cases are not being actively investigated. Time has faded memories, washed away evidence and bred inertia. Jacqueline’s case does not appear on the cold case web list of the London Police Service.
Jacqueline was last seen leaving the former Treasure Island shopping plaza on Wellington Road in London on Oct. 4 and getting into a car. Five days later, her naked body was found in Big Otter Creek, near Tillsonburg, a small community about 40 kilometres east of London. She had been raped and struck on the head. Jacqueline’s case was among 20 examined by a cold-case task force that operated for several years in the late 1990s in southwestern Ontario. Though some cases were cracked, Jacqueline’s murder was not solved.
In 2000, Jacqueline’s sister, Anne English-Cremers, put pain to paper in this poignant letter to the editor published in a London newspaper:
Many of us have lived with the tragic effect of these events for decades. Time and time again, our hopes have been renewed, only to fade away. We have waited and watched as family members succumbed to chronic or terminal illness. We have quietly acknowledged our loved ones’ (the victims) birthdays, which remain uncelebrated, as well as the anniversary of their sudden deaths.
We have spent uncountable hours reliving the facts of each case, uncountable hours with our memories of that macabre time, uncountable hours questioning whether we could have somehow altered the fate of our loved ones. We have entertained ideas of how different our existence may have been had these murders never occurred or even the difference if the person(s) responsible had been found and held accountable for our loss.
Someone, somewhere knows or suspects the person(s) responsible but chooses to protect their family from the stigma that would surely be attached to the revelation of the guilty party. So, we the families of the many loved ones taken will, in all likelihood, live the remainder of our lives with the unimaginable thoughts and questions of who and why, while the family of the killer(s) lives the remainder of their lives with guilt and shame for their lack of courage as the price for total anonymity.
Roughly 90 of the approximately 600 murders committed in Canada each year are not solved. While every murder leaves a life story unwritten, these 90 are wretched for the doubts and uncertainty they sow.
If you know anything about the murder of Jacqueline English, or any other unsolved murder, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, or call your local police department.