Police have charged a former investment banker with first-degree murder in connection with the disappearance of Harley Walker, a 72-year-old Toronto gay man.
Police arrested David Reid, 46, on Oct 28 in northern Ontario. Police say the accused transported Walker’s body in a U-Haul van from Toronto to the northern area on Oct 16. Walker’s body has not yet been recovered.
Detectives say Walker met his killer on an Internet site, and targeted him for his money. Walker’s bank account had apparently been emptied, and police found blood and signs of violence at his Cabbagetown home.
Greg Seale, a close friend of Walker, reported him missing on Oct 13. Seale says he contacted police after calling Walker, and not hearing back from him for hours, behaviour he says was unusual. Seale says he went to Walker’s home where things seemed off. Seale says that before calling the police, he contacted several other friends of Walker.
“I was just trying to get confirmation from people that this was unusual behaviour. Before I called the police, I wanted to respect his privacy, so I probably didn’t call the police as soon as I should have.”
Seale says that police were not sympathetic at first.
“The supervisor was quite a prick. He said, ‘What would Harley think if he knew you had the police all over his house?’
“It wasn’t until I got a detective that things got going. The detectives have been incredible.”
Seale says Walker’s friends were aware he often met men on-line.
“Some of us were quite worried that he would invite complete strangers home. But his favourite thing was to have them come to his house, where he felt safe. He’d never been robbed before. He’s very cautious. But the one thing he didn’t do is tell someone specifically when he had a date.”
Seale says Walker was very well known in the community, and had helped many younger gay men.
“He’s sort of like an elder statesman. He’s very generous to others. He’s very happy to show people the ropes. He’s an example for many of us.”
Seale says Walker was particularly supportive of those just coming to terms with their sexuality. Walker would organize get-togethers for users of Gaytoronto.com.
“There’s a lot of people who are confused and in the closet on Gaytoronto. He was the face.”
Bryan Gloyd, another friend of Walker’s, says he was particularly helpful when Gloyd was coming out in the late 1980s. The two met on a gay bulletin board, a precursor to today’s chatrooms.
“At the time, I was married and trying to deal with the fact I was gay. I was looking for help. He was really kind and helpful, talking to me about the gay life and things I might want to consider. He acted like a bit of a father figure. It’s going to leave a big hole for those of us who knew him.”
Gloyd says that Walker, a longtime technician at CBC television, was a fascinating man.
“He knew [comedy duo] Wayne and Schuster, all those people you saw on television. I was a jazz fan; he knew Oscar Peterson. When I was with my wife, he took us to a broadcast of The National. We met Barbara Frum. He was very up on entertainment culture.”
Gloyd says Walker was always encouraging him, even when Gloyd decided to take up running.
“Harley was pretty thrilled. He thought it was pretty funny that here’s this guy starting running at 55. But his motto was, ‘If you want to do it, get out there and do it.'”
Gloyd says Walker was very happy in his retirement.
“He was enjoying this part of his life immensely. He loved to garden, he loved to shop, electronics and all that.”
Seale says the fact that Walker hasn’t been found makes thing even harder.
“I’m just really upset that we’re no closer to finding Harley. It’s kind of like we’re waiting around his deathbed. But there’s also been a terrible crime.”
Seale says he is especially worried that court proceedings will drag on.