Woman dead in Toronto subway stabbing didn't know attacker; mayor says transit safe

TORONTO — A woman who died after being stabbed on a Toronto subway train did not know her attacker, police said Friday, as the city's mayor looked to reassure the public about the safety of the transit system.

Toronto police said they charged a 52-year-old man with first-degree murder and attempted murder after he allegedly stabbed two women on a subway train Thursday afternoon, one of them fatally.

Toronto Mayor John Tory called what happened "a tragedy" but said the city's transit system was still safe for riders.

"It was a horrific event," he said during an unrelated press conference Friday. "I don't underestimate that at all, but the TTC remains a very safe system that moves millions of people every day."

Tory pledged to meet next week with the city's police chief and the chief executive of the Toronto Transit Commission to discuss what else could be done to bolster transit safety.

The double-stabbing was the latest among several violent incidents on city transit this year. A woman died after she was lit on fire while on a city bus in June, and another woman was pushed onto the subway tracks at a major station earlier this year, among other cases.

In Thursday's stabbing, police said 31-year-old Vanessa Kurpiewska died in hospital after she was stabbed on the subway train. A 37-year-old woman who was also stabbed has since been released from hospital.

Police said the suspect, who did not know the women, was found and arrested at High Park station.

The mayor said the TTC had already taken steps before the attack to increase the presence of transit constables, outreach workers and police. Tory said he's in ongoing discussions about increasing the budget to boost their presence.

But, he said, transit safety is also a mental health issue.

At the news conference Friday alongside provincial and federal ministers, Tory said all three orders of government must do more to increase mental health supports.

"We're dropping the ball collectively, but most of it is part of the health-care system," he said.

Tory said more investments needed to be made so people in crisis "have somewhere to go other than wander up and down subway cars."

In a statement Thursday, the TTC said it boosted the presence of uniformed staff at stations after the attack. It also pointed to safety programs already in place, including two-way communications systems on subway platforms and cameras in stations.

The union representing TTC workers wrote in a statement that it was "outraged at the repeated acts of violence on public transit" and demanded urgent action from the city and the transit commission.

Earlier this week, the union reported a TTC operator was assaulted and robbed while on duty Monday.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 said its highest transit safety priority is consistent and proper enforcement. It also called for better co-ordination with transit constables and more TTC public outreach about safety.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

Jordan Omstead, The Canadian Press