UNSOLVED: Hamilton mother's lifeless body discovered in downtown alleyway


Helen Gillings was 19 years old and a mother of two when her lifeless body was discovered naked and stuffed under an overturned couch in an alley near King Street East and Emerald in downtown Hamilton.

It was February 17, 1995, and Helen was last seen entering the alley with a man on Feb. 16 at approximately 1 a.m.

Helen's life had not been an easy one: she was born in Kenora, ON, and at the age of four, she and her sister — who are Indigenous — were adopted and raised by a non-Indigenous family in Alberta.

While Helen was known to be bright and harbour a love of drawing and animals, she did not like school and developed a rebellious streak early on. By the age of 12, Helen had run away from home numerous times. As early as 14, Helen was living on the streets.

In the early 90s, Helen moved to Toronto where she met her boyfriend Jerry. In 1994, the couple moved to Hamilton. A short time later, Helen gave birth to the couple's first daughter.

People who knew Helen around this time say that when they first met her, she had big beautiful eyes, long shiny hair and was pleasant to chat with. Soon, however, they say is seems things started to go downhill rapidly.

Eventually, Jerry and Helen were evicted from their apartment.

Neighbours and Hamilton Police say that Helen, shortly after arriving in Hamilton, became involved in the sex trade.

According to Hamilton Police, Helen frequented a bar called the Straw Hat Tavern, in the area near King and Emerald.

On Jan. 26, 1995, Helen gave birth to another daughter prematurely. In fact, the baby was still hospitalized at St. Joe's when Helen was murdered. Following Helen's death, her daughters were eventually adopted.

Reports say that Helen was strangled to death and police are unclear if where Helen's body was found is where the murder happened or whether that was just where the perpetrator(s) stuffed her body.

As the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) gained momentum, so too did the call for justice for Helen.

The Hamilton Spectator has run several profiles on Helen and her murder and the CBC has also profiled the case.

Members of the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre have also done much to raise awareness of this case and have held a number of community events to honour Helen.

Hamilton Police say they believe there are people who have information regarding this homicide and that this information may assist in solving this murder.

The Hamilton Police Service Board is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for Helen's murder.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Major Crime Unit at (905) 546-3801 or Crime Stoppers at (905) 522-TIPS (8477).

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