8 teenage girls charged after social media-fuelled murder of 59-year-old man
"I've been in policing for almost 35 years and you think you've seen it all."
Eight teenage girls have been charged with second-degree murder following the fatal stabbing of a 59-year-old man in Toronto, Canada.
The attack took place in downtown Toronto in the early hours of Sunday morning, 18 December.
According to authorities, the assailants – some of whom are as young as 13 years old – met each other online via social media. It is currently unclear how long they have known one another for.
Outlining the timeline of the assault on Tuesday, Detective Sergeant Terry Browne said that members of the public flagged down a police car and told the officers about the incident.
"Emergency medical services staff commenced medical intervention," said Browne. "They realised that the victim had suffered what would be described as stab wounds.
According to Canadian outlet CTV News, the slaying has been described as a possible "swarming" incident – a situation where a target is attacked from all sides simultaneously by multiple individuals.
A number of weapons were recovered by police, though specific details on the instruments used in the murder have been withheld.
The teenage girls were arrested nearby where the stabbing was carried out. They cannot be identified for legal reasons, though investigating authorities confirmed that three are aged 13, three are aged 14, and the remaining two are aged 16.
All eight have been formally charged with second-degree murder. Regarding a possible motive, police have speculated that the girls were attempting to take a bottle of alcohol from the man. It has also been reported that the group were involved in a separate altercation earlier in the night.
Clip via Toronto Police Service
"I've been in policing for almost 35 years and you think you've seen it all," Detective Sergeant Browne told the Associated Press.
"Anyone who isn't shocked with hearing something like this has clearly just thrown in the towel and just said that anything is possible in this world. Eight young girls and most under the age of 16. If this isn't alarming and shocking to everyone, then we're all in trouble, quite frankly."
“They met each other through social media," Browne continued. "They come from varying parts of the city. We don’t know how or why they met on that evening and why the destination was downtown Toronto. We don’t know how long they were acquainted with each other. I wouldn’t describe them as a gang at this point.
"Maybe these were eight young women that wanted to make a name for themselves and see if they could become socially famous," he added.
"They are all equally culpable. There is no doubt in our minds that they were all working as a singular entity in a swarming mob mentality when they chose to attack this man."
Browne confirmed that a number of weapons were seized, but he declined to say what kind. He also said three of the girls had prior encounters with the police.
“It’s bizarre that they would all have hooked up together and found their way to downtown Toronto. Their primary residences are all over the place,” he said.
Mayor of Toronto John Tory has said he is "disturbed" by the nature of the incident.
"While we are continuing to learn details of this murder, I am deeply disturbed by the allegations made public so far," said Tory. Everyone in our city deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
"I am so saddened to know that a man has lost his life in this way. Toronto Police have made several arrests in this case – I am extremely troubled by the young age of those accused and by the number of people allegedly involved in this murder."