Man charged in Toronto stabbing, police say; mosque calls for hate crime probe

TORONTO — An arrest has been made in the death of a man who was fatally stabbed outside a Toronto mosque, police said Friday as the religious group called for the murder to be investigated as a hate crime.

Insp. Hank Idsinga, head of the Toronto Police Service's homicide unit, said a 34-year-old man from Toronto was arrested Friday morning and charged with first-degree murder.

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"We have received information and support from the community. I thank them for that," Idsinga said at a news conference announcing the charge against Guilherme (William) Von Neutegem.

Idsinga said there is no known motive or a relationship between the accused and the victim, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis.

Zafis, 58, was seated outside the International Muslim Organization on Sept. 12 when police allege the suspect approached and fatally stabbed him before fleeing the scene.

Zafis' funeral, hosted metres away from where he was attacked, drew hundreds of mourners to the mosque parking lot in Etobicoke this week. He was remembered at the service as a gentle soul who was dedicated to helping others in need and was volunteering at the time he was killed.

A vigil is planned for Zafis on Saturday afternoon, where the International Muslim Organization said it will thank police for their work on the case, and ask that the possibility of a hate crime be explored.

"The IMO will be calling on the Toronto Police Service to investigate the murder as a potentially hate-motivated homicide," the organization said in a statement Friday.

Idsinga said it is too soon to exclude Von Neutegem from the investigation into another stabbing death that occurred in the city five days earlier.

However, he said it is also too soon to refer to the arrested man as a suspect in the killing of Rampreet (Peter) Singh.

Police allege Singh was stabbed multiple times under the bridge where he'd been living for several months.

Earlier this week, police said they were investigating whether the two murders were connected because of a number of similarities, though there was no evidence linking the two.

Both victims were men with brown skin who died of stab wounds after sudden attacks that happened within kilometres of one another.

Idsinga said Friday the investigation into Singh's death is still "very active," with "several different avenues" being explored, and it will take time to process all the evidence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18., 2020.

© Virden Empire-Advance

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