The destruction of the Morgentaler abortuary on Harbord Street last May has become another unsolved mystery for the Metro Toronto Police Force.
The investigation, which began with eight officers and has since dwindled to one, wraps up this month.
After eight months, police have “absolutely nothing” on the fire bombing which eliminated one of the enduring symbols of the abortion industry in Canada.
The crucial evidence in the case was a picture taken from a video camera of a man carrying cans of gasoline just before the explosion. The police blocked out the suspect‘s head, making public identification next to impossible.
“The photograph didn’t generate much interest,” admits Det. John Boyce, of 14 Division, who is the last remaining officer on the case. Police have never said why they haven’t revealed the suspect’s face.
Boyce says the investigating team had problems “right from the word go. There weren’t any witnesses to start with. It was very frustrating.”
Police conducted extensive questioning of leader and activists associated with the abortion issue. They received numerous leads from the public, especially from neighbours who were in the vicinity of the abortuary. In the end none of the leads planned out.
At one point, police were seriously investigating a white supremacist group. One of the officers on the case told the media “We have information which leads us to the Heritage Front.”
At the time of the May 18 explosion, the media and pro-abortion spokespeople immediately tied the incident to the pro-life movement. The Harbord Street clinic had been a focus for counseling and protest, both before and after a temporary injunction was granted in December 1989.
The presumption remains, both in the government and the media, that the firebombing was inspired or at least sanctioned be pro-life groups. The Ontario Health Minister at the time, Frances Lankin, said she was “shocked, angered (and) saddened” by the blast and clearly implicated pro- lifers in the incident.
The Toronto Star said it was left “wondering about the twisted values of extremists who risk human lives in order to save the fetus.” Henry Morgentaler and pro-abortionists unreservedly linked the blast with the pro-lifers.
But many in the pro-life movement think they were unjustly accused and the evidence for the destruction points to the other side.
“We were tried and convicted the day of the even,” says Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes. “It was trial by media”
He echoes the feeling of frustration that the pro-abortion side was never seriously considered as connected with the blast.”
“There is more evidence that the pro-aborts did the damage than any pro-lifer,” Hughes says. “We had nothing to gain by it. They had everything to gain.”
The day after the bombing, the Ontario New Democrat government announced a strategy to “counter anti abortion harassment.” It included a $420 000 package to boost security at the remaining abortuaries.
The bombing turned into a public bonanza for groups connected with abortionist Henry Morgentaler.
“It was a real eye-opener dealing with the different groups,” Boyce says. “It was frustrating dealing with some people. We were really spinning our wheels”
He wouldn’t reveal which people or groups frustrated his investigation.
The file on the case remains open but police won’t be doing any active work on it. In the mean time, Boyce has a few minor leads to wrap up before calling it quits.
“We’ll keep plugging away and see what happens,” he says.