Tyler Hikoalok trial: Homicide detectives spotted ‘odd’ figure in surveillance video near crime scene & More Latest News

“He simply seemed odd to me. It was a heat day and he was carrying a hoodie with the hood up, carrying a big backpack and kind of trudging alongside on Laurier.”

Publishing date:

Sep 22, 2022  •  16 hours ago  •  4 minute read

Tyler Hikoalok is on trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Elisabeth Salm in May 2018. Photo by www.tr1bemusic.com /Handout

Homicide detectives narrowed in on the prime suspect in the May 24, 2018 killing of church librarian Elisabeth Salm after officers identified Tyler Hikoalok as the “odd” figure seen in surveillance video near the crime scene that day.

The jury in Hikoalok’s first-degree murder trial heard testimony this week from detectives who sifted through hours of security camera footage taken from a building down the street with several exterior views of the Laurier Avenue entrance to the Christian Science Reading Room, where Salm was found unresponsive by a co-worker hours after she was attacked. She was rushed to hospital where she died of her injuries the following day.

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Hikoalok pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in a killing prosecutors described as a “vicious and brutal attack” where the victim was sexually violated, beaten and left clinging to life on the reading room floor.

Homicide detective Sgt. Chris O’Brien was tasked with analyzing the surveillance video gleaned from security cameras at the Canadian Forces recruitment centre down the street, he testified this week.

One male figure in a hoodie caught his eye.

“He just looked odd to me. It was a warm day and he was wearing a hoodie with the hood up, wearing a large backpack and sort of trudging along on Laurier, so that drew my attention to him,” O’Brien testified.

“The streets were quite busy at that time, a lot of people in business attire, so this guy sort of stood out.”

Crown attorneys Brian Holowka and Lisa Miles guided the jury through a composite video that begins with Salm arriving for her morning shift as a volunteer librarian just before 9 a.m. that day.

Her assailant is seen on video about 15 minutes later, according to the Crown’s case, walking casually on the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets, wearing a backpack and dark clothing with his hood pulled up over a ball cap.

“He starts looking over his shoulder, stops, then looks towards the area where the reading room is,” O’Brien said as the video played on repeat for the jury.

There is no video from inside the reading room, and no video that shows the suspect inside the Gillin Building at 141 Laurier Ave., the trial has heard.

O’Brien told court he used two sandwich boards on the sidewalk as landmarks as the suspect is seen from a distance walking up the entrance ramp towards the front door around 9:14 a.m. before disappearing from the camera’s view.

The same figure is seen again at 10:21 a.m. emerging from a separate door that exits from the building’s parking garage, O’Brien testified.

The view is closer and clearer, O’Brien said, and he made still images of the suspect from those screen grabs.

“This time, you could make out more detail (of) what he was wearing, his complexion,” O’Brien testified.

The “person of interest” appeared to be an Indigenous male and the hoodie he wore had distinctive lettering on the front with the word “Tribe” in stylized white block letters. O’Brien said he could also see a sticker on the brim of the cap, and also noted lettering on the backpack he wore.

O’Brien said he and fellow Det. Guy Seguin were then tasked with circulating the image to staff at various downtown homeless shelters as police continued their search.

He was notified on May 26 by lead investigator Det. Krista Hill that police now had a name for the person of interest: Tyler Hikoalok.

Following O’Brien’s testimony on Wednesday, Crown attorneys and Hikoalok’s defence team of Michael Smith and Brook Laforest presented an agreed statement to the jury containing an admission that Hikoalok is the man seen in the video.

Court heard that two Ottawa police officers had a “prior interaction” with Hikoalok and recognized him as the man in the still photo as a bulletin circulated among police.

Once investigators were provided a name, O’Brien said he searched online and soon found a matching Facebook profile for a local rapper who went by the stage name Ty Millz.

The detective quickly discovered a connection to a local Indigenous hip-hop collective called TRIBE, and O’Brien noted the group’s website featured the same distinctive lettering that appeared on the hoodie.

The jury was shown photos of Hikoalok posing around a car with other members of the group.

O’Brien said he was dressed in street clothes on the day of Hikoalok’s arrest on May 27 and he joined the surveillance team and other officers as police fanned out over Lowertown, the Byward Market and Vanier.

He was notified at 4:32 p.m. of Hikoalok’s arrest at the intersection of Rideau and Nelson Street after a surveillance team had photographed him at a nearby Besserer Street address.

O’Brien arrived minutes later and took possession of the backpack Hikoalok was wearing.

“As soon as I saw the backpack I recognized it from the video,” he told court, as it bore the same “Canada” lettering and a small patch with a maple leaf flag.

The detective was later handed an evidence bag containing a pair of black shoes and a black baseball cap with a silver sticker on the brim. Police later seized a leather bracelet Hikoalok wore at the time of his arrest.

Crown prosecutors told the jury the bracelet and left shoe contained traces of Salm’s blood, and forensic scientists are expected to expand on that evidence later at trial.

ahelmer@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/helmera

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