Cold cases in B.C.: DNA testing could bring break in 1993 homicide, judge says

The RCMP is allowed to keep “bloodied clothing” seized from a person of interest in a homicide investigation nearly 30 years ago, with a judge saying it is possible further examination could lead to a break in the case.

No one has ever been charged with the killing of Dorothy Greer Britton, whose body was found in her room at the Bonanza Hotel in Surrey in 1993, according to court documents posted online Friday.

“The decedent had been stabbed numerous times and had bruising to her neck. There was a blood-covered knife blade from a paring knife located across the top of her body,” Justice John S. Harvey wrote.

“Money that she had received that day from cashing her pension cheque(s) was apparently missing. There were partially consumed bottles of alcohol located at the crime site, an opened bottle of vodka and cans of Black Label beer. An autopsy revealed that the decedent had died from multiple stab wounds.”

The judgment describes how, earlier this year, the RCMP applied for an order to keep several items seized in its possession. Initially, the documents note, the Mounties applied for an order “prohibiting access by members of the public to all court records relating to this application.” However, Harvey said that application was “abandoned” and instead parts of the decision would be redacted “to preserve investigative integrity, both past and future.”


Harvey’s decision describes the investigative steps that led police to identify a person of interest the day after Britton’s body was found.

A forensic analysis of the beer cans found in Britton’s room yielded fingerprints that were identified as belonging to a person only identified by the initials “S.O.,” who was also a resident of the Bonanza Hotel.

Police interviewed S.O., who told them he had been with Britton the day before her body was found, going with her to cash her cheques and to buy the booze at a BC Liquor Store, the court heard.

“S.O. has an extensive criminal past including crimes of violence,” Harvey wrote.

A search of S.O’s hotel room resulted in the police seizing four jackets and one pair of shoes. A forensic analysis of the items found blood on one jacket and the shoes, according to Harvey.

“Analysis of the blood samples, collectively, indicated the quality and quantity were incapable of providing DNA typing patterns. Further DNA testing was performed on the samples in 1994, which indicated the presence of human DNA, but in insufficient quantity or quality for the purposes of analysis,” the judge wrote.

“The investigation continued, but eventually, by the mid-90s, was temporarily suspended because no new avenues of investigation seemed apparent.”


In 2006, the case was reviewed by the Surrey Unsolved Homicide Unit. As part of that review, the clothing was sent for further testing, and Harvey noted that scientific advances meant that the blood found on one of the jackets was determined to have come from three separate people and “both male and female DNA was present.”

While the possibility that the blood came from either S.O. or Britton was not eliminated, “nothing further emerged linking S.O. to the homicide,” Harvey’s decision said.

“The investigation stopped in 2009, but again was never concluded. Other historical homicides took on priority and the priority of this particular homicide diminished,” he added.

In 2020, the case was reassigned to the Serious Crime Unit for review.


Soon after the review began, investigators found that the application to detain the items expired in June of 1993. They were then transferred to a “secure facility” and no further testing was carried out.

In order to further test the items, Harvey said the court would have to grant an order to keep them in the custody of the RCMP.

In support of the application, the RCMP submitted affidavits that outlined plans for future forensic examination of the items and described how advances in testing may enable them to get more conclusive results than were available in the past.

“The affiants, optimistically, presume further testing of the items sought to be detained will provide a more statistically compelling identification of the blood as that of the decedent so as to be able to confront S.O. in a further interview with the forensic analysis,” the decision says.

“The applicant has been waiting for technology to advance to the stage where further analysis can support, with other evidence, the laying of charges or, alternatively, the removal of S.O. as a person of interest.”

Harvey also noted that investigators of cold cases such as Britton’s generally view cases where forensic material is available and DNA testing is possible have “a higher degree of solvability than others.”

In granting the order to keep the clothing for one year, Harvey said “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.”

However, the decision also noted that the ongoing detention and testing of the evidence after the expiry of the initial order could be an issue if the case ever goes to trial.

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