Toronto police seek suspect for damaging costly fur coats

24 December, 2012

Toronto police are seeking a woman they suspect destroyed thousands of dollars worth of merchandise at several high-end stores by smearing fur garments with petroleum jelly.

Police said Monday they believe it to be the work of an anti-fur activist, making it the latest in a string of incidents leading up to Christmas.

Several store owners in the downtown and midtown areas of Toronto have lodged complaints with police about someone rubbing Vaseline on fur coats, rendering them unsalable.

Police said the suspect walks into the store and pretends to browse. Then, she surreptitiously dips her hand into a jar of jelly hidden in her bag and touches the garments. The damage goes unnoticed until the next customer handles the merchandise.

“She’s not wiping a ton of the stuff on the jackets,” said Toronto Police Staff- Sgt. Shawn Meloche. “But it’s enough to completely ruin the product.”

On Dec. 8, the Sporting Life store at Yonge Street and Blythwood Road reported damage to 60 winter jackets. On Dec. 21, Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street reported that 35 designer jackets with fur trim were covered in goops of petroleum jelly.

On Christmas Eve, Toronto police released a surveillance camera image, taken Dec. 21, of a woman entering the high-end retailer. She is considered a suspect, police say.

She is described as white, approximately five-foot-five, with a medium build. She was wearing baggy blue denim pants, a white three-quarter length winter coat, a red scarf and a black knit beret. She also carried a black shoulder bag.

In each case, store managers reported that a substantial number of coats belonging to the Canada Goose brand were affected. The designer coats start at $500.

“It doesn’t take long to rack up the damage,” said Meloche.

The Toronto-based company has been the subject of recent protest for its use of coyote fur on jacket hoods.

Last Saturday, an animal rights group called The Fur-Bearers Defenders staged a demonstration in front of the Bloor Street Holt Renfrew.

An open letter to the Canada Goose’s CEO denounces the company for “killing Canada’s wildlife.”

According to the group, coyotes often spend hours or even days stuck in cruel traps where common injuries include broken bones and teeth, gashed eyes, and severe internal bleeding.

Canada Goose says the company adheres to industry and government guidelines for the ethical treatment of animals.

Last Tuesday, Four Seasons Fur and T.O. Leather Fashions Ltd. — both located within a three-block radius near Spadina Ave. and Adelaide St. W. — had a foul-smelling chemical sprayed into their stores.

“This is what you get for profiting off of violence and suffering. This was your first attack but will not be your last,” an anonymous member of the Animal Liberation Front wrote in an email to animal activist magazine Bite Back.

Days after, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals distributed 30 fur coats to women from four homeless shelters at John Innes Community Centre, hoping to send the message that only Toronto’s most needy citizens should ever wear fur.