OPP: We could be texting the killer

If you get a text Thursday from the Ontario Provincial Police asking for your help in solving a homicide: it's not a hoax.

Police are using the unprecedented method as an extension of the way they canvass the public for tips.

OPP have exhausted all leads in the case of Frederick John Hatch, a drifter who's body was discovered in the Town of Erin December 17th, 2015.

He was last seen alive at a Dollar Tree store in Nepean the day before.

Now OPP are reaching out to the users 7,500 cell phones that pinged in the area of West Hunt Club and Merivale December 16th, 2015.

"We recognize that Mr. Hatch's killer or killers could be among the recipients of our text messages," said OPP Det.-Supt Dave Truax. "We could in fact be texting the killer."

Each one of those cell numbers will receive two texts from the OPP linking to a questionnaire. One will be in English and one will be in French.

"(Were) they in the area that day? Do they recognize Mr. Hatch? Did they interact with him? Did they give him a ride?" said Truax. "We're hoping that that is not seen as an inconvenience or a bother to the individuals that receive our text message to help us solve a murder."

Truax said their goal was to advance their investigation. Police are not sure how Hatch got to Erin, some 450 km away from Ottawa.

"The perpetrator should also know, he or she, one or more perpetrators, should know that there are potentially at least 7,500 sets of eyes and ears with camera equipped devices who are out there, anyone of whom could have seen the victim and the murderer together," said Truax.

While the OPP used a court process called a Production Order to gain access to the numbers, they do not have the names or addresses linked to the cell phones. The owner of the cell phone

Truax said they don't know how many people will answer their texts, adding he knows many people are hesitant to respond to unknown numbers.

"It's not a hoax," he said. "It's not an April Fool's prank. It's not a Halloween joke or anything like that. We are trying to solve a murder."