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Is the North End spree killer back at work?

Or in-your-face?

On Saturday last, the Winnipeg Free Press ran a full-page update on the police investigation into a spree killer's night of murder last October. Two men dead, one girl shot in the stomach, one teen with a hole through his clothes where a bullet passed millimetres from his body. No arrest. Hell, not even a viable suspect.

But before the day was out, another man was in hospital with a gunshot wound suffered under eerily familiar circumstances. A knock on a door, a man answered and a stranger shot him in the head at point blank range.

The location, the 500 block of Dufferin Avenue, literally a stone's throw away from the second shooting in October. The MO, identical to the third shooting that fall evening; only in that case the victim died. The target of Saturday's shooting was grazed by a bullet but lived to tell about it.

He was, said a police spokesman, "cooperating with police."

Did the newspaper story trigger the spree killer to come out and taunt the police by killing again?

If it was him, he escaped with the same ease he did in October. On Saturday police on foot scoured back lanes, a tracker dog at the ready, a helicopter in the sky illuminating back yards and keeping people in the North End awake in for hours. The result---nada.

The description of shooter in the latest failed murder attempt was more or less identical to the spree killer---a tall, skinny aboriginal male in his late teens or early 20's. Oh, and this one was bald.

That's about all the police are telling the public about their investigation. As far as we know, they know doodly squat about who did the shootings seven months ago.

The FP story may have run a full page, but it had little new to say.

Let's see ... police have surveillance video from a community centre from across the street from 261 Stella Walk where the killer opened fire on a group of teens, hitting a 13-year-old girl in the abdomen and narrowly missing one of her companions.

Have the police shown the video to the public to jump-start their stalled investigation? No. They're keeping it under wraps while the spree killer runs free.

Ten minutes after the girl got shot, and as police swarmed the area, the brazen killer struck again, fatally ambushing a man leaving a home at 495 Dufferin Ave. And a half hour later, as police criss-crossed the North End, he, or, believe it or not, a second shooter, knocked on a door on Boyd Avenue and shot the man who answered. In that case, police revealed to the FP, he had a female accomplice.

Police don't know, or won't say, if there is one killer or two or even three (counting the girl) on the loose. They don't know how he, or they, escaped--bicycle, on foot or by car. They're showing pictures to area residents. They're hinting drugs might have been involved -- the shooter asked the teens if they wanted some pot, just before he started blasting away, and the second October victim, well, there are allegations.

It's all very hush hush. And unsatisfactory.

Has the killer has come out after hibernating all winter? Why won't the police tell the public anything?

Compare how the Winnipeg police are handling their hunt for a double-murderer with how the police chief of Orangeville, Ontario, population 27,000, attacked an unsolved murder in his town last year.

In August, Sonia Varaschin, 42, was killed by an intruder in her home in Orangeville, northwest of Toronto. The killer put her body in her car, drove it 12 kilometres to a neighbouring town, and dumped it next to a remote road. He then drove back to Orangeville, and abandoned the car in an alley.

Four months later, police pulled out all the stops on the investigation. They hosted 25 criminal profilers and investigators from across North America in a three day "investigative summit" to thrash over the details of the crime and to create a profile of the killer.

There were officers from the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP, homicide investigators from Toronto, Ottawa and York Region, plus FBI profilers.

In attendance were criminal profilers from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Virginia-based behavioural analysis unit, Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP, plus senior homicide investigators from several forces, including York Region, Toronto and Ottawa.

In December they issued a lengthy profile, something to engage the public and stimulate leads.

In Winnipeg, the chief of police begs people to contact police. Then he rushes off to the next photo-op.

They haven't solved the Varaschin murder yet. But at least they have no doubt their chief of police has done everything possible to nail her killer.

We can't say the same.

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