A Toronto man recently charged in connection with the murders of both of his parents was seen – and photographed – outside Henry Morgentaler’s former Harbord Street abortuary in the days before it was destroyed by a still-unsolved bomb explosion in May 1992.

David Patten, 44, was charged May 14 with two counts of first degree murder after a man beat 80-year-old Manny Patten and his 74-year-old wife Claire to death with a shovel. Police arrested the younger Patten a few blocks away after a struggle.

David Patten had been unemployed and living with his parents for several years. Neighbours said he had exhibited strange behaviour and recently shaved his head. “He acts really strange,” one man was quoted as saying. “The other day he was on his hands and knees on the lawn, staring at one spot on the grass for 10 minutes. Then he took off his shirt and stared some more.”

David Packer, a former Toronto police officer who as a private citizen has been investigating the abortuary bombing for the national pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition, said he has ascertained through Toronto police sources that Patten was seen outside the abortuary in the days leading up the explosion.

Seen at Morgentaler’s

Abortuary staff were concerned enough about his presence to photograph him. Toronto police were later able to identify the individual as being Patten. The photograph was distributed among the Canadian pro-life community, but no one recognized the individual in the photograph. Patten has no known ties to the pro-life cause.

According to Packer, the photograph depicts a man standing in “a defiant pose” while looking at the abortuary.

Campaign Life Coalition, confident that no one connected to the pro-life cause was responsible for the bombing, issued a still-valid $10,000 reward in 1995 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator or perpetrators. Morgentaler, while scoffing at CLC’s reward as “a publicity stunt,” nonetheless matched it with a $10,000 reward of his own.

CLC national president Jim Hughes told The Interim that finding the culprit “would take a heck of a load off us,” since the pro-life movement has generally been fingered as being behind it. The bombing prompted such measures as the imposition of “bubble zones” prohibiting pro-life activities within specified distances of certain Ontario abortuaries.

Hughes recalled that after the explosion in 1992, Toronto police came to him with the photograph taken by abortuary staff of Patten outside the facility. “When the police showed it to me, I told them I had never seen the guy before. And that was about it.” Hughes also forwarded copies of the photo to other pro-life leaders across Canada. No one recognized the man.