News Local

Who killed Rachel Russell in Cobourg? Ten years later, sisters still seek answers

By PETE FISHER, Northumberland Today

COBOURG - Ever since their sister was murdered a decade ago, this is the time of year the Russell family dreads.

Rachel Russell was 28 when her body was found by a person looking for beer bottles along an abandoned set of railway tracks east of Ontario Street on Nov. 12, 2007.

Emergency medical services arrived along with police, but it was determined Russell had been dead for at least a few hours, possibly up to a few days. The autopsy revealed it was blunt force trauma that killed the woman.

Police haven't stopped working on the investigation since that time and every year the family gets a call notifying them that they are still actively involved in finding the person/s responsible.

"I hate the months of October, November waiting for that phone call from police," said Russell's sister Shelley Russell sitting at her kitchen table with her sister Cindy Russell.

Russell's son is now 14 and lives with his father in Oshawa. Last year the family told him how his mother died. He had beleieved it was cancer.

Shelley Russell remembers that 10 years ago, after hearing on the news that a girl's body was found in Cobourg, she called her mother. "I said OK, when did you talk to Rachel?"

Her mother said it was roughly three or four days previous.

"It was a gut feeling. I came home and said to my husband that I had this terrible feeling that it was Rachel."

When she went to work the next morning at 6 a.m. at the cab office the family owned she called the OPP. "I said she's not missing, but I called her and she hasn't got back to me so I'm just going to give you a description of her tattoos. That night they were at my doorstep breaking the news her sister had been murdered."

It was approximately 24 hours after Russell's body was found. It wasn't until Shelley gave the description along with the description of her tattoos that police identified her.

Shortly after, Shelley went to her parents' house to try and break the news. She said it was hours before she could find the courage and words.

Their father had cancer at the time and a day after Russell's funeral the family found out it was terminal and he only had a short time to live.

Since the murder a $50,000 reward has been offered and that still stands.

Both sisters agree - Rachel knew the person or people who killed her.

"For such a small area where everyone knows everyone's business why is it that no one has spoken up?," said Shelley.

"I think her friends, that group, knows. I think somebody is just scared ... of who killed her. But then you're dealing with people who have addictions that can't remember one day to the next."

But they also said their sister was very vocal.

"The problem with Rachel is she had a mouth. She was very opinionated, outspoken and it could have been her mouth that got her into trouble. She could have said something to the wrong person. Rachel always stood by what she believed and never backed down," said Shelley.

Police executed a search warrant at a nearby home, but it yielded no results in the investigation.

At the time there were many rumours around town about the murder.

It didn't help the family owned a cab company (Classic Cabs) and would hear people talking about the murder in the back seat, not knowing the connection.

Both sisters say that Rachel was addicted to oxycontin.

"She wasn't the normal addict," said Cindy. "You would never know. I honestly believe if Rachel never had cancer, she never would have ended up where she was."

Rachel's appendix ruptured approximately three years before her death, and doctors found cancer when they operated.

Rachel's world spiralled and she became addicted to the pills.

"We would love closure," said Shelley.

"I've come to terms that we may never know," said Cindy.

The sisters are partnering up with Northumberland United Way and having a fundraiser/awareness event on Nov. 17 from 8 p.m. to midnight at Cobourg Legion. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

"We just want to associate something positive with her name."

Rachel Russell is buried at the Canton United Church near her father.

Neither sister has been to the area where Russell's body was found.

"After 10 years maybe somebody that knew something 10 years ago, maybe the guilt is starting to weigh on them," said Cindy.