The mystery surrounding Linda, the woman with no memory, appears to be over.
Toronto police are expected to reveal her identity Monday morning, and all signs point to Linda being an American from Delaware named Linda Hegg. The announcement will end a more than three-month search that baffled police.
The mystery began in early September, when a neatly dressed woman walked into a crowded shelter for the homeless in downtown Toronto. All she had with her was a tote bag filled with scraps of paper, a bottle of water, a map of Toronto bus routes and a wallet with a $ 20 Canadian bill. She had no ID.
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When police were called, she was interviewed by Det. Roger Caracciolo, who led the investigation. She didn’t know her name, what day it was, where she came from or what city she was in. She didn’t remember the Summer Olympics or the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States. She insisted, however, that her first name was Linda.
She has since been receiving mental health care at a long-term facility, where she waits to be told who she is. It’s likely she suffers from what doctors call “fugue amnesia” – psychological trauma that triggers physical escape.
Particularly baffling for police was that facial recognition checks with Canada’s passport office and every provincial ministry of transportation failed to produce a match. Fingerprint checks, including with the FBI, also came up blank.
At one point, Linda identified herself with a full name, and later mentioned the crossroads to a busy intersection in Halifax — information that led police on wild goose chases. A case police thought would be solved within days dragged on for weeks.
Meanwhile, south of the border in Newark, the mailman at a two-storey apartment building noticed that uncollected mail for the tenant in apartment 203 was piling up. Neighbours hadn’t seen Hegg for weeks.
The building, within walking distance of Newark’s downtown, is run by the non-profit National Alliance for Mental Illness. Its 17 tenants pay 30 per cent of their federal disability benefits in rent. Hegg has lived in the building for years.
Hegg used to be in the U.S. navy. She was stationed at an American military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa. She left as a lieutenant around 1987 after what her father described as a traumatic experience involving a pregnancy.
She never married, but in Newark was close to a man tenants describe as her boyfriend. They apparently broke up in 2007. Neighbours say she then stopped communicating with other tenants. The former boyfriend died of kidney failure a year later.
The building’s superintendent eventually notified Newark police of Hegg’s disappearance. Police issued a photo of Hegg and asked for the public’s help in finding her on Nov. 5. Two days later, people using Internet sites for missing persons noted the similarity between Hegg’s picture and the picture of Linda issued by Toronto police.
Linda’s mystery was on the verge of being solved.