UPDATE: The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced late Sunday afternoon that it has made an arrest in connection to the murder of 17-year-old Serena Vermeersch.
“One male has been arrested and is currently in custody. As there is a publication ban, IHIT will not be releasing the identity of the accused,” the news release stated.
A news conference was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday.
More to come…
Police have issued a community warning following the murder this week of Surrey teenager Serena Vermeersch.
The 17-year-old’s body was found in an overgrown area near railway tracks in the 14600-block of 66 Avenue Tuesday evening by search-and-rescue crews – less than 24 hours after her mother reported her missing.
Vermeersch’s death was quickly deemed a homicide. The suspect is still at large.
Police believe it was a crime of opportunity and are urging the public to be cautious and use common sense when outdoors alone or after dark.
“We have a 17-year-old girl who has been taken from us,” Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said, during a press conference at the Surrey detachment. “Until we have clarity with respect to how that happened, and we have the person in custody who committed that offence, I want to do everything I can to prevent that from happening again.“
According to officers with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, Vermeersch had been on her way home when she went missing.
IHIT Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound said it was out of character for Vermeersch not to show up at home or contact her parents, which is why a missing persons alert went out right away on Monday.
“The concern of her family was immediate when she didn’t return phone calls,” Pound told the news conference.
Tuesday afternoon, Surrey RCMP issued a public advisory asking for help locating the teen. Her body was found less than four hours later, at approximately 7 p.m.
Police said Thursday that evidence located so far “supports the theory that Serena was murdered.”
Fordy said he is “angry” this crime has happened to a vulnerable girl of such a young age.
“The loss of any life is a tragedy,” Fordy said.
“In this particular case, we have a 17-year-old girl, who had the rest of her life to live, and she’s been taken from her family and friends by a person we have yet to identify.
“And I find that offensive,” Fordy said.
Vermeersch was reportedly last seen just after 8 p.m. Monday boarding a transit bus near 128 Street and 64 Avenue, and police want to speak with anyone who may have seen her get on or off the bus.
Police also want to speak with a dark-clothed male who was seen walking across the tracks and leaving the area in a pickup truck less than an hour before Vermeersch’s body was found.
The vehicle is described as a full-size, grey/silver Dodge 3/4 ton with a canopy and roof rack. It was seen departing westbound on 66 Avenue, then making a U-turn at Uplands Road to head eastbound on 66 Avenue towards 148 Street.
Thursday afternoon, two bouquets of flowers lay by a telephone pole near the train tracks – an early sign of a memorial to Vermeersch.
Tributes to Vermeersch also quickly appeared on her Facebook page. They describe the teen as “an angel” who will be missed.
“Very sad! I wish we knew what happened,” reads a post by Nikke Furber.
“Rest in peace beautiful. You will be missed by many,” writes Lisa Marie Holman.
The tributes follow the last post Vermeersch made to her timeline, dated Sept. 13 – a photo of herself with the status “I’m lonely.”
Anyone with information on the case may call the IHIT tip line at 1-877-551-IHIT (4448) or Crime Stoppers, at 1-800-222-8477.
– with files from Tracy Holmes