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Court permits RCMP to hold seized clothes in Surrey cold-case killing as DNA technology advances

No one has been charged in the fatal stabbing, which has gone unsolved for nearly 30 years
Newspaper clipping from 1993 shows forensic investigators searching for evidence outside homicide victim Dorothy Britton’s home in Whalley. (Image Surrey Now-Leader)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has granted an RCMP application to continue to hold onto clothing that was seized from a “person of interest” following the 1993 homicide of Dorothy Britton, 80, in Whalley, in light of advances in DNA forensic technology.

“The retention of the items sought to be ‘further detained’ are clearly essential to the ongoing investigation and, in my view, the further detention is in the interests of justice,” Justice John Harvey declared in his Nov. 3, 2022 reasons for judgment, delivered in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. “Accordingly, the application is granted. The items set out in the application are to be detained for a period of one year from the date of these reasons.”

No one has been charged in the fatal stabbing, which has gone unsolved for nearly 30 years.

On March 30, 1993, Britton was stabbed five times in the chest in her tiny bungalow next to the Bonanza Motel, where she lived with her two pet dogs, birds and a few cats.

“The affidavit material brought before me sets out considerable advances made in DNA forensic technology since testing was performed in the 1990s and since last tested in 2008,” Harvey noted.

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“Since the homicide, according to the affidavit material before me, investigative techniques, particularly with respect to the analysis of DNA and blood stain patterns, have become significantly enhanced.”

Harvey noted police have been waiting for technology “to advance to the stage where further analysis can support, with other evidence,” either the laying of charges or removal of the individual as a person of interest.

“The items sought to be detained, bloodied clothing from a person known to have contact with a homicide victim shortly prior to her death, are reasonably related to the ongoing homicide investigation,” the judge found.

The sky was overcast on Wednesday morning, March 31, 1993 as forensic investigators searched through the bright plastic flowerpots outside Britton’s home.

Police found her body on her kitchen floor just inside the door, lying in a small pool of blood. Her television was still on and – something unusual for the elderly lady – the floral curtains in her window were drawn. A garden table was carefully arranged in her backyard a few paces away, as if awaiting an afternoon tea party.

Police were called to the house at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, after her neighbours noticed she hadn’t brought in her morning newspaper. A knife was found at the scene.

Britton was a fiercely independent lady with a kind heart, and was known as the “motel grandma.” She had an eclectic collection of china cups and saucers and a passion for arranging flowers.

A widow of 20 years, Britton was born in Victoria in 1913, had no known enemies and her main sources of income were social security and a Canada Pension cheque.

Her house was demolished many years ago.

Harvey noted that on the day after Britton died a person of interest was interviewed by police and acknowleged that he helped her pick up her cheques and then took a cab with her to Money Mart to cash them.

Surveillance video footage from a store where they shopped showed him wearing a black mac jacket over a hoodie. On March 31, 1993, police searched a room at the Bonanza and seized a red-and-black mac jacket, a grey-green plaid jacket, a grey jacket, a red-yellow-blue mac jacket and Nike Air white-and-purple running shoes.

Britton’s is one of three cold-case, or unsolved, homicides in Surrey dating back to 1993.

On March 21, 1993 Doreta Mary Andrews, 49, was strangled in her townhouse at 7837 120A St. in Newton and on Aug. 4, 1993 the charred remains of what police believe was 64-year-old Bikker Singh Sangha were found on four trays in the Pizza King restaurant, which used to be at 12012 88th Ave.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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