The Case

All That Remains is a serial storytelling podcast dedicated to exploring the case of The Otonabee River Man. Below you can read everything we know so far…

On July 10th, 1988 a decapitated head was discovered in the Otonabee River, near Lock and McKellar Street, by a group of recreational divers. In a press release, forensic anthropologist Dr. Kathy Gruspier, said “There are very definitive indications that a blade was used to dismember the head…It has been looked at a number of times and determined that it is not a propeller or lock system, it was a deliberate dismemberment using a sharp object.”

What makes this case so strange, is that in 1988 there were no missing persons reports in the county of Peterborough matching the man’s description and no one came forward to identify him – leading police to speculate that the head may have been brought to Peterborough from elsewhere.

The head offered very little identifiers for investigators. Forensics consultants were unable to pinpoint how long the head had been in the river for, eventually speculating that it could have been anywhere from a few weeks to fifty years. What investigators were able to determine offers very little insight into the man’s identity.

The man is believed to have been between 40-74 years old when he died. He likely was either bald or partially bald when he died and his hair was probably dark colored.

He had poor dental hygiene and missing several lower molars before death. The staining on his teeth also suggested that he was a smoker.

The man had indicators of arthritis forming in the jaw and probably experienced daily jaw pain prior to death.

Nuclear DNA was extracted from the head in Vancouver in 2010 and a DNA profile of the unknown man is on file with Ontario Forensic Pathology Service. The case is also listed in several violent crime and missing persons databases from across Canada.

A total of 372 potential people have been eliminated throughout the investigation, and no other unidentified body parts have matched the “Otonabee River Man’s” DNA.

In 2014, advancements in facial reconstruction technology allowed the Peterborough Police Service to put out a more accurate reconstruction of the man’s face. It was release to the public with the caption

“Can you identify me?”

The case is still considered active. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Peterborough  Police Service 705-876-1122, or by contacting Crime Stoppers ontariocrimestoppers.ca (1-800-222-tips). 

You can visit the Peterborough Police Service’s information about the Otonabee River Man through their website.