SURREY — School-aged children pressed against a fence along the busy Newton road, craning their necks for a glimpse of police officers investigating a double murder at 7561-144th Street.
The date was June 24, 1992. It was an uncharacteristically sweltering day for the time of year.
Surrey RCMP forensic identification officers dressed in white “bunny” suits walked in and out of the tiny run-down house, located amid tall weeds and many randomly parked automobiles. The front door was slightly ajar, and a woman’s rigid leg could be seen protruding over the arm of a couch.
Donna Marie Sywak, 39, and her common-law husband Gordon Clifford Charles Sinclair, 56, were shot to death inside their bungalow, marking the fourth and fifth murders within a 10-block area in recent months.
In the dark hours of that morning several residents heard as many as nine gunshots, but it wasn’t until
6 a.m. that police learned of the crime through an anonymous tip.
Both victims were well-known to police.
Sinclair had been convicted on June 17 on two counterfeiting charges and was to be sentenced July 29.
Before the murders, police had visited the house on several occasions.
Residents from across the street watched from their porch as the homicide detectives conducted their investigation well into the heat of the afternoon.
One resident said he heard the shots – first five, a pause, and then four or five more – and then looked outside but decided not to phone the police because he didn’t know what to make of the sound.
“It didn’t sound like gunshots,” he said. “Who knows, they could have been firing a gun in the backyard.”
Another neighbour said the murder victims had been quiet people who “really kept to themselves” despite all the cars coming and going, as many as 20 a day.
The couple’s house was demolished many years ago and has been replaced by tony row houses.
Today, more than two decades later, their killer – or killers – has yet to be brought to justice.
Sgt. Mike Hall, officer in charge of Surrey’s Unsolved Homicide Unit, said investigators believe the murders were “targeted and not random.”
As for the anonymous tip, he said, police “were able to locate and speak with this individual.”
Nevertheless, no one has ever been charged with these murders and the investigation into them remains active.
“No suspects have been identified in these murders,” Hall said.
“The motive for the murders is unknown. Investigators are aware of Sinclair’s conviction, and the investigation that proceeded it, and have looked at the possibility that the counterfeiting offences and the murder are related. Until such time that the true motivation is known, investigators need to remain open to all possible motives.”
Police ask anyone who can help solve this crime to call Sgt. Mike Hall at 604-599-7634.
Unsolved Homicide Unit has its hands full
Before the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team was formed in 2003, Surrey’s RCMP’s serious crimes section investigated murders in this city as they happened. Today, the Unsolved Homicide Unit investigates cold cases. Here are some other cases that are still on the books:
Jan. 15: The body of Evangeline Azarcon, 8, was found in Port Kells. She’d been kidnapped from Vancouver in late 1969.
March 8: Marvin Kehtler, 42, was clubbed and shot to death at his Surrey farm.
Feb. 14: Hugh Mainfold, 34, was beaten to death in his Lincoln near Highway 10 and 152nd Street.
April 22: Bill Heinrich, 36, was found dead at 99th Avenue and 132nd Street. His van was found at 137A Street and 107A Avenue.
July 25: Bradley John Schellenberg, 21, was found in the Fraser River south of the Pattullo Bridge, dead from gunshot wounds.
March 31: The body of Akhtar Chaudhry, 24, was found floating in the Nicomekl River.
Aug. 21: Donna Rose Kiss, 25, was strangled with a tie and her body was dumped near 56A Avenue and 136th Street.
March 21: Doreta Mary Andrews, 49, was strangled in her townhouse at 7837 120A St. in Newton.
March 31: Dorothy Britton, 80, was found stabbed to death in her tiny Newton bungalow, next to the Bonanza Motel.
Aug. 4: The charred remains of what police believe was Bikker Singh Sangha, 64, were found on four trays in the Pizza King restaurant, which used to be at 12012 88th Ave.
July 18: Wendy Nolan, 40, was found on the outskirts of Tynehead Park, in the 17200-block of Tynehead Drive.
Oct. 28: Matt Smith, 14, was found shot dead in a ditch in the 13800-block of 58th Avenue.
Jan. 18: Whalley prostitute Kelly Elizabeth Parsons, 30, was found lying in a pool of blood at the side of a dark road in Bolivar Heights. She died of head injuries.
June 4: Daniel Gordon Power, 36, was stabbed to death in his home in the 11100-block of 136th Street.
July 30: Ryan Charles Therrien, 28, was beaten to death in his home at 18918-76th Ave.
Aug. 3: Abbotsford businessman Dennis Brian Joiner, 49, was shot to death. His body was found in a bushy area a few paces off a dirt road in the 15600-block of 34th Avenue.
Nov. 18: Sikh newspaper publisher Tara Singh Hayer, 62, was shot dead in the garage of his home at 14768 Halstead Place in Guildford.
Jan. 16: Joseph Richards, 35, was stabbed to death in Surrey and his body was later recovered in the Mamquam River in Squamish.
Oct. 28: Lee Phelan Wishart, 27, was shot dead in the 10700-block of 134th Street.
Aug. 18: Joe Hung-Kha Ly, 29, was found dead inside his Toyota Rav4, parked behind the Willowbrook Lanes Bowling Alley at 6350-196th Street.
Nov. 24: Surrey residents Myanh Thi Nguyen, 17, and Tan Cuong Nguyen, 19, died in a hail of bullets fired from automatic weapons as they were dining at a Vietnamese restaurant at 14775 108th Ave.
Jan. 15: Vancouver resident Krishan Sharma, 24, was found dead in a pond near 112th Avenue and Bridge Road, under the Pattullo Bridge.
Jan. 31: Muhammed Jamshed Khan, 27, of Surrey was found dead in his car at 4 a.m., parked on the west side of Wal-Mart in Guildford. He was the driver for the notorious 626 robbery gang in 1992.
Dec. 13: Angela Williams, 31, was found lying face down in a patch of weeds and gravel on the shoulder of Surrey’s Colebrook Road.
Jan. 5: Riasat Ali Khan, 69, was shot several times while getting out of his car outside his home.