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The Unsolved Murder of Samuel Lottery

The Unsolved Murder of Samuel Lottery

Case File Overview

On Friday, January 19, 1996, Samuel Lottery failed to return to his London, Ontario home. Sam’s concerned family immediately contacted authorities and reported him missing.

When he disappeared, Sam was 17 years old and an H.B. Beal Secondary School student.

Samuel Lottery

Image of murder victim Sam Lottery
Image source: London Police Service website

Sam was a happy-go-lucky teen, electronics whiz, and loved spending time in Jamaica with family. He also enjoyed basketball and listening to hip hop.

Soon after his disappearance, Sam’s family received letters suggesting where his body could be found.

In March 1996, a handwritten letter on unique stationery was discovered at the Pillar of Fire Church, Sam’s family’s place of worship. The letter intimated that Sam’s body could be found by the Thames River. Sent with the letter was a photograph of Sam that was in his wallet when he disappeared.

Months later, in November 1996, a similar letter was sent to Sam’s parents at their home. It provided more details about where Sam’s remains could be found; however, police were unable to locate Sam.

Unique stationery

Image of the stationery received by the family in the Samuel Lottery murder case.
Image source: London Police Services

In May 1997, an arm bone was found by a man out walking his dog along the Thames River near Blackfriars Bridge. More bones were eventually located. Finally, in April 2008, a human skull was discovered on the bank of the Thames River near Greenway Park.

Distance from Sam’s family’s church where one of the letters was left to the location of Sam’s remains: 3-min. drive

Image of the distant between the church where the letter was received in the Sam Lottery murder case and the location of Sam's remains.
Image source: Google Maps

On October 26, 2009, after forensics confirmed the remains were Sam’s, a homicide investigation was officially opened by the London Police Service.

Case File Theories

Sam was murdered by a stranger

Although unlikely, Sam could’ve been murdered by a stranger. The murderer would’ve had to find out details about Sam and his family after the murder to write and send the letters. Or, perhaps, the murderer could’ve told someone about the crime and that person either knew Sam’s family or found out information about them and then wrote the letters. However, this doesn’t account for how the photograph that Sam had with him at the time of his disappearance was included with the first letter.

Sam was murdered by someone he knew

There appears to be only one viable theory in this case; Sam was murdered by someone he knew. The London Police Service recently explained, “We know that Samuel Lottery was targeted by one or more people who were known to him and that multiple people have information about his murder.”

Given the letters Sam’s family received after his disappearance, this makes sense. Although they aren’t releasing much information, the London Police Service have called the two anonymous notes sent to Sam’s family “the heart of the investigation.” Whoever wrote the letters knew enough about Sam’s family to leave one of the letters at their church. Also, the second letter was delivered to Sam’s home, suggesting the letter writer either knew where Sam lived or put in the effort to find out the information. Although the content of the letters hasn’t been released, the letters could’ve included personal details about Sam, named a suspect in his murder, or the writer could’ve taken responsibility for the crime.

We don’t know if the letters were written by the murderer or a witness, although the inclusion of the photograph Sam had on him at the time of his disappearance makes me lean towards the murderer. Regardless, clearly the police don’t have enough evidence to make an arrest and are waiting on a witness to come forward to help crack this case.

Who do you think murdered Samuel Lottery?

After Sam’s skull was located, his mother, Tathlin Lottery, said, “This is not giving me hope. It’s just more heartache.” Tathlin and her husband, Errol, turned to their faith to carry them through the loss of their beloved son. Tathlin explained, “The Lord comforted me. I know the Lord and I trust him. He keeps me going.”

I find it especially disheartening how little information there is out there on Sam’s disappearance and murder, and I wonder if this is a case of Missing White Girl Syndrome. If Sam had been a white, beautiful teenage girl, would his case have received more coverage?

Sam and his family deserve some semblance of  justice. If you recognize the unique stationery or have any information about the murder of Samuel (Sam) Lottery please contact the London Police Service at 519-661-5674, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or go online at www.londoncrimestoppers.com.

Related Reading

Samuel Lottery Case Overview – The London Police Service

“Who Killed Sam Lottery?”London Free Press article

Interested in unsolved murders? Check out the mysterious murder of Lisa Leckie and the slaying of Andrew Moore.

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24 Comments

  1. Gracie Gracie

    This looks more like stationery that a female would use. Maybe the girlfriend of the murderer that could possibly have been given the wallet. Was the wallet missing or just the photo? I do feel that Sam was murdered by someone he knows. The letters would signify that either the murderer wants to take credit or he/she is feeling remorse. Hopefully whoever knows anything about the murder of Sam will come forward.

    • Christine Christine

      Great points! I agree that the stationery seems to stereotypically gesture towards a female owner. I believe that Sam’s wallet disappeared with Sam when he vanished and that the photo (and not the wallet) was mailed with the letter to his family. The reports did not mention a wallet being located with his skeletal remains, but I suppose it could’ve been and the police kept it quiet. Like you, I really do think Sam was murdered by someone he knew. I hope that someone who knows something will come forward and help to give his family some semblance of closure. I can’t imagine going about my business and passing people in the streets and wondering if they had something to do with the murder of my loved one.

  2. Gracie Gracie

    I just feel it is a female informant maybe of the boyfriend or a close associate of hers. If so, the weight of carrying around this “secret” will wear her down. Would be nice to know what was written in the letter as this is what I feel will bring justice!

    • Christine Christine

      Here’s hoping the burden of the secret does weigh whoever it is down; unless someone comes forward, there’s unlikely to be closure in this case. I agree! Maybe one day the police will consider releasing the letter contents. Fingers crossed!

  3. So did the police not take the letter seriously? Because all they had to do was take cadaver dogs down to the area. But in the entry it says they were unable to find him?

    • Christine Christine

      Thanks for your comment. Great question! I’ve always been confused why it took so long to find Sam’s body after the letters. Authorities don’t explain what happened, but the media implies the police did search the area and didn’t find anything. Like you, I’m left wondering how they missed the remains. I guess they could’ve been moved there by the murderer after the initial search, but I find this highly unlikely, especially given the letters. I guess the body could’ve been at least partially in the water and that could’ve interfered somehow. Definitely a strange case.

  4. Jason Jason

    While he case is a tragedy and needs to be solved, I find it disgusting how you could insinuate the case didn’t receive enough coverage because he wasn’t a white girl. There are countless murder cases each year that get little or no media attention. How is I know about this case and not many others? Because it was brought to my attention by the media. I clicked on your post to see if you night have any information they missed. Unfortunately you just copied and pasted the details and added your sick racial theory. You should be ah amazed for yourself.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Jason. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I agree that it would be terrific if Samuel Lottery’s case could be solved. However, I have to strongly disagree that race and gender play no role in mainstream media coverage of crime. I wish it was just a “sick racial theory,” as you suggest, but sadly it has been researched and proven time and time again. I have attached some links if you’d like to learn more about how race and gender can impact media coverage, which is what I maintain has occurred in Samuel’s case. I’ll happily keep spreading the word about Samuel, helping in any way that I can.

      News Media Coverage and the Epidemiology of Homicide

      Cleveland Abductions: Do White Victims Get More Attention?

      Missing White Woman Syndrome: An Empirical Analysis of Race and Gender Disparities in Online News Coverage of Missing Persons

    • Nancy Nancy

      Look how many people are still talking about Maura Murray vrs Alexis Scott. The more research i do into cases, The more i believe it’s not just missing white woman but missing pretty and middle class or higher syndrome

      • Christine Christine

        Definitely (and depressingly) a variety of such factors impacts what gets covered by the media and what the general public typically cares about.

  5. Bill Bill

    The possibility that struck me is that he was killed by a stranger and that his killing was witnessed by someone with some conscience but not enough conscience to come forward. The killer or killers may have taken his wallet, grabbed whatever cash or other valuables were in the wallet and then thrown the wallet away. The witness picked up the wallet to look for anything valuable that the killers missed and found the picture. Because faith was important to the victim’s parents, their church may have been mentioned in whatever news coverage was given, so the witness would know to take a letter to the church. The witness may have later done a little investigation to find the parents’ address. Sometimes, news articles will give the street name where the victim or victim’s family lives. Finding the exact address from that information wouldn’t be difficult. The witness may not have followed the killers all the way to where they dumped the body but gave only a rough idea in the letters. The stationery may be something that belonged to the witness’s mother or grandmother and was available when the witness wanted to write.

    The obvious question is whether the police found fingerprints on the stationery or the photo from the victim’s wallet. I wouldn’t expect them to release that information, but that information would be crucial. One reason that the witness in my scenario would have sent the picture but not the whole wallet could be that the witness handled the wallet and had already left prints but handled the picture only by the edges to avoid leaving prints.

    If all they have is an arm bone and a skull, then cause of death is difficult, but cause of death would be an important part of understanding what happened. If he was killed by someone using a knife or a blunt object, the arm and skull might show signs of damage. If he was shot, maybe just those bones wouldn’t give many clues. You say that other bones were found, but again, we don’t know what those bones would tell us.

    I’m curious how much and how long the snow cover is where they found his skull and other bones. If the killers buried parts of the victim under some snow and additional snow fell over that location, then he could have been covered for a long time. That would delay finding the body and would mean that scavengers would have taken some of his flesh.

    Whether the race, sex, and age of the victim matter in this case is a difficult question. If the police aren’t giving much information to the the press or public, then I can understand the press not wanting to publish stories that give no new information. You don’t talk about any bad influences in the kid’s life, but we don’t know what may have been happening below the radar. If the police found that a gang was trying to recruit him, they might not release that information, but that could explain his killing if he rejected them. More coverage doesn’t always lead to finding answers.

    The press sometimes seems to have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. If the press covers a crime against a “pretty white girl” and the crime is solved, some people in the press assume that police solved the case because of the press coverage. When the press does a study of itself and claims that the study shows how important it is, I’m doubly skeptical.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Bill. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment! I like the idea that a witness wrote the letter. At first I thought that would be disappointing because it would not lead to the killer, but I guess it would lead to a witness, which would be the next best thing. I can attest that it does indeed snow a lot in London, as I live there. I would not be surprised if the remains were covered for some time. I see lots of cases with very little evidence that the press still rehashes over and over again. This story had some meat to it (such as the letter) and I think would be very “coverable” if they were so inclined.

  6. Katie Katie

    Its baffling that this case has received very little media coverage. A child goes missing and ends up murdered, yet there is hardly any information online. When did he go missing? When was he reported missing? Why did it take years for this case to be considered a homicide? Has there been pleas for information from the family? What was written in the letters? With the advances in DNA, those letters might hold the key to solving this case.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Katie. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. The fact Samuel’s case gets so little coverage is one of the reasons I covered it. I can’t imagine how it must make his loved ones feel for his case to get so little attention. It’s time a cold case team really digs into this one and gets it solved. And the media should cover it! Like you, I think answers may be found from the letter. Or even the people he knew when he disappeared. Someone knows something! Thanks again.

  7. Prem Prem

    Got to know about this case from Criminally Listed, struck me because I was also in London from 2008-2009, used to live on Platts Lane. My gut feeling is that the letters were a taunt (by the killer) and Samuel was killed by someone he knew, probably from Jamaica or the Caribbean. Motive could be jealousy, immigrants want to “succeed” in the new country and most often when the next generation gets caught up in drugs or gangs that is seen as a blow to the pride of immigration. The motive may also be some form of tit-for-tat which makes a taunt to find Samuel’s body more likely.

    The timing of the letters could indicate that the killer wanted his body found. The first letter was when sent in March when the snow melts, the second in November when snow starts falling again. It is as if the killer was trying to say “you had the whole summer to search”. Also, the choice of stationary could be because the killer know that it is untraceable. Probably the killer got it from a spring clean of an elderly home or somewhere similar. Also the letters stopped once the arm bone was found, meaning that the writer was probably confident that the arm bone belonged to Samuel. How would you match an arm bone to someone? By DNA, so it could be that the killer has some understanding of forensics as well.

    One problem I see with my proposed theory is that being a predominantly white city, a non-white person would have been more easily noticed unless covered by a hoodie during the winter.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Prem. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your insights! This is truly a perplexing case. I’m not ready to say we can possibly know the race of Samuel’s killer. But I really like your thoughts on the rationale behind the letter writing and the timing of the letters. Thanks again for sharing with our true crime community. Hopefully it will spark some conversation and keep this cold case alive.

  8. Katie Katie

    Unless Prem knew the victim or has inside knowledge of the crime, his/her comment is completely racist. There has been know information released by the police that Sam was into drugs or crime. Blatantly stating that Jamaicans or Carribeans “next generation gets caught up in drugs or gangs that is seen as a blow to the pride of immigration” is disgusting and reckless. It’s 2020 and millions of people are protesting around the world that black lives matter. This is the type of bigotry BIPOC and their allies are trying to bring awareness to. It’s sad that you didn’t callout the racism in his/her post. In predominantly white community (London) has a long history of racism. This system has failed Sam. A black child whose case have been virtually invisible.
    YOU NEED TO DO BETTER

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Katie. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. We think the comment is racist no matter what the year is, which is why we said to the commenter that we can’t possibly know the race of the perpetrator given the information released by the police.

      We approve upsetting comments we don’t agree with and don’t try to categorically end conversations. The authorities often read these comments and no matter how upsetting they can be they might help in some way bring to light issues percolating behind cold cases. Given this comment is made by someone who lived in the area at the time Sam was killed race could very well have tragically played a role in his death if this was the sentiment at the time. We felt it was important that was made known and discussed. So thanks again for commenting!

  9. Prem Prem

    Re: Katie
    First of all I am not white and I don’t think that Samuel’s murder was racially motivated. I will elaborate on what I meant, people migrate to affluent countries with so many dreams and aspirations. Some succeed in the new country but their children get caught up in not so good things. When this happens they get jealous of children who are not. By all accounts it appears that Samuel was a nice kid. This could have made him an envy of immigrant parents whose kids were not so fortunate. Fortunately for all of us very, very few people have burning jealousy that is strong enough to drive them to kill. However, I feel that among those that Samuel’s family knew there would have been one such person (most likely well educated) who had a burning jealousy that was strong enough to motivate him/her to kill or have Samuel killed.

    When someone goes missing there is always the hope that the missing person may be alive. So under the circumstances the killer would want to let the dastardly deed to be known. If you look objectively at the facts the letters stopped after the arm bone was found. This I feel fits well with my theory of the letters being a taunt. If you are expecting them to be from someone who is feeling remorse, then why do the letters stop? If it was someone who wanted to get the burden of his or her chest the letters would have continued unless there was another reason like the writer’s death. So in that case looking for someone known to Samuel’s family who passed away after November 1996 would be a good avenue of investigation. People who are heinous enough to kill an innocent over jealousy are very unlikely to feel remorse, that is why most likely no more letters were sent afterwards.

    One may have to speculate about a lot of things, including the race of a perpetrator. Censoring such speculation does good to no one. What we all want (by taking the time to type) is for the family of the unfortunate victim to get closure. In the end that is all that matters.

  10. Bent Bent

    This stationery looks like something a female would use. My sisters both had this type back in the day. It was very important to have the stationery that was right for you, that is for sure. Especially my oldest sister would put this on her Christmas wish list.

    The arm one should have been enough evidence for the police to take action and call it a homicide investigation and not wait til the skull was found.
    As a researcher into unsolved murders I wish there is something I could do to help.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your insights. I agree this is a disturbing case and Sam deserves justice. I think I had similar notepaper when I was a kid.

    • Prem Prem

      Dear Bent, I also agree that the stationary is of the type that would be preferred by a female. In which case, the killer could be a male trying to put investigators off track. I haven’t been near Gunn St., the location of Samuel’s family church but nearby is Cherryhill Mall, a place frequented by senior citizens. My first thought was that the killer would have got it from a spring clean or simply picked up a few sheets left behind by someone at Cherryhill Mall. Of course I was in London during 2008-2009, this happened in 1996, things may have been different back then.

      Trying to find out exactly where Samuel’s body was placed near the Thames river could be another good lead. Honestly, the only area of the Thames River I was familiar with was the area near Middlesex College. To me that area was pretty dark and spooky, specially during the Winter. I have no idea what the banks of the Thames look like near Blackfriar’s Bridge which is again not far downriver from Gunn St. Most likely, the body may have been hidden instead of buried, that is why the writer of the letter knew that it would be found if they looked along the Thames.

  11. Bent Bent

    Hi Prem
    I would like to see the spot where the remains were found. This is always enlightening.
    I have been down Gunn st 3 times and 27 Gunn
    gives me an eerie feeling

    Anyone who knows the area around the park and Blackfriars bridge would be be most welcomed to walk the area with me. This would be great so I could be brought up to speed.

    • Prem Prem

      Hi Bent, Sorry! Right now I am no longer in Canada and may not visit in the foreseeable future. My guess is that Samuel’s murder would have been planned and the murderer wanted the crime to be known eventually so the body would have been placed in the snow.

      It would be unlikely that the body was placed far away along Medway Creek, the area up to Waldorf Park would have been avoided because most of the property on that side of the river belongs to Western University, placing a body would be risky due to university police patrols. The banks after Gibbons and Waldorf Parks could be possible, but I’ve never been there during my stay at London and the area could have changed since the late 1990s. Figured all of this out from Google Maps.

      Anyway all the best and hope you will find something of interest to the case.

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