Winnipeg police on hunt for ‘person of interest’ in homicides

Two men who spent much of their time on Winnipeg's streets were found dead on Saturday

WINNIPEG — Two men who spent much of their time on Winnipeg’s streets are being remembered as friendly and polite visitors to the city’s soup kitchen lines.

Donald Collins, 65, and Stony Bushie, 48, were killed on the weekend in what police believe are related attacks. Their bodies were found less than a block apart on Saturday.

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Officers removed trash bins from a downtown alley Monday as they continued to investigate, but police haven’t said why.

A lane near a homeless shelter was blocked off with police tape and a flatbed was used to haul away the tarp-covered containers.

“A lot of people suffer from struggles and barriers that they aren’t able — for a variety of reasons — to protect themselves. So that leaves them very defenceless,” said Kristy Rebenchuk, a homeless worker with the Downtown Winnipeg Biz.

She said Collins and Bushie weren’t regular clients but she knew them, and described them both as “pleasant and engaging.” Bundled up in large jackets, they would sometimes wait in line with others for handouts of food.

“They had their days, but I remember both of them always being happy with what they had,” said Meaghan Wylie, another worker with the Biz group.

“They wanted a better life and they had probably gone through a lot of traumatic experiences in their past. But they were dealing with it. That was their life. That’s what they were content with.”

Police said they believe one suspect who was unknown to the men is responsible for both homicides.

Officers are searching for a “person of interest” who may have had contact with the pair and could provide valuable information. They are also looking for a man and a woman who were in the back lane on Friday night.

Sgt. John O’Donovan said police are asking the homeless to be careful, avoid secluded areas and walk with others if possible.

One of the men who died was homeless and the other man frequented the downtown, although he did have a home.

“Both the victims are vulnerable persons from our community here in Winnipeg. They are vulnerable in the way they suffer from mental health and/or substance abuse, and they spend their lives on the streets,” he said at a news conference Sunday.

The investigation has revealed both men were killed within hours of each other.

“That just leads us to be cautious that there may be more problems and more deaths, and we certainly want to prevent that and get on this as quickly as possible.”

O’Donovan said investigators haven’t ruled out the possibility the cases may be linked to the death of a homeless man in the city on April 10.