After serving 26 years in prison for the murder of a 10-year-old girl, Tim Rees will have his sentence reviewed by the Ontario Court of Appeal, after Arif Virani, Canada’s Attorney General, ordered a new appeal because there is a “reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred.”
In March 1989, Darla Thurott, 10, was found by her mother strangled in her bed.Rees, then 25 years old, was a Scarborough welder and friend of the Thurott family. The day before Darla Thurott was found dead, he had visited their home, and spent the night.
On Sept. 15, 1990, Rees was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for at least 15 years for the girl’s murder.“One can only imagine the stark horror she must have felt when her former friend grabbed her by the throat and snuffed out her life,” said Judge Edward Then, when handing down the sentence.
At the time, Rees denied killing the girl. He said he had been addicted to crack, cocaine, and alcohol for several years.The judge said drug dealers were attacking the community. “There is a crack plague infesting this city,” Then wrote. “(They) prey upon the vulnerable to feed their habit” and commit “cowardly acts.”
In 1994, Rees’s appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal was dismissed and the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his case.After 26 years behind bars, Rees was released on parole in 2016, where he remains. He is now 60 years old.On the year he was released, Innocence Canada — a non-profit organization that advocates for wrongfully convicted citizens — took his case, and two years later filed an application with the former minister of justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, claiming he had been wrongfully convicted.
Their strongest argument for the application was an undisclosed “highly incriminating statement” by the landlord of the family home, which he made to the Toronto police homicide squad. The landlord, who has since died, testified at trial that he did not have any relationship with Darla Thurott nor had he been in her room on the day of the murder. But, Innocence Canada says, this is false, based on what was in the taped statement given to the Toronto police.
Innocence Canada goes on to say that the homicide squad had not revealed the existence of the taped “highly incriminating statement” to Rees’s defence counsel in 1989. Ironically, the tape was later found by members of the Toronto police homicide cold case squad in 2016.
“If the missing tape-recording had been disclosed in 1989, it is doubtful that Mr. Rees would ever have been charged, let alone convicted of Darla’s murder,” Innocence Canada said in a news release.The Ontario Court of Appeal will now review the case in a new appeal.