OPP texts thousands of cell phones hoping to solve murder

The OPP plans to text thousands of people who were near a murder victim last year, hoping it help them solve the case.

Police are calling it an “innovative new technique to identify potential witnesses.”

The partially-burned body of 65-year-old Frederick “John” Hatch was discovered in Erin on Dec. 17, 2015.

Police say Hatch was last seen alive the previous day between 12:30 and 3:30pm in the area of West Hunt Club Road and Merivale Road in Nepean.

The OPP announced on Oct. 26 that about 7,500 cell phone users in that area at the time will receive two text messages – one in English and one in French – from the OPP asking them to “answer a few simple questions” online.

The OPP obtained the numbers from cell phone companies through a court order – but not the names or any other contact information for the cell phone owners. Police urged those who received the message to respond online or call the dedicated tip line at 1-844-677-5010.

“We believe this new investigative technique … will reach witnesses who may not be aware of the murder … but they may help us solve it …  and potentially remove a dangerous offender from society before they harm someone else,” OPP Detective Superintendent Dave Truax stated in a press release.

OPP Detective Inspector Andy Raffay said the technique, which builds “on the accepted practice of the door-to-door witness canvass,” is “unique, maybe unprecedented.

“But it’s the most efficient way to contact these people quickly to either eliminate them as witnesses or learn whether they have any useful information.”