Zhebin Cong: What we know and don't about the man who left CAMH and the country

Zhebin Cong

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, as well as Toronto Police are releasing new details about how a patient - found not criminally responsible for killing a man - not only left the grounds, but also the country.

TPS is also explaining why it took two weeks to inform the public about the disappearance of Zhebin Cong.

"CAMH has launched an internal incident review in relation to this specific and rare incident," the facility said in a statement. "The highest level of attention and review of our policies and procedures related to this incident is underway."

The 47-year-old Cong was found not criminally responsible for a deadly machete attack of another man back in 2014, and as of recently, the Ontario Review Board permitted him to have an unaccompanied pass to the community.

While he left the facility on July 3rd, he was reported missing late Sunday night, with a news release published on Monday.

On Tuesday, it was revealed he had actually boarded an international flight and now Toronto Police is working with international agencies to find him.

In its updated statement Wednesday afternoon, CAMH said it is now reviewing passes and privileges for patients with unsupervised access and will increase security.

After its updated statement, Toronto Police offered new details about why it took as long as it did, for Cong's disappearance to be made public.

The service said it was advised that Cong "was a 'low risk' to public safety, to himself and was allowed on regular, unaccompanied public passes."

After searching CAMH, known addresses, shelters and hospitals, it was determined to make the public appeal on the weekend.

The ORB had given him pemission to live in the community, but it's not clear if he was doing so.

While Cong was allowed unaccompanied passes, CP24 reports that according to an ORB document, as of May of this year, he still posed a significant threat to the safety of the public and it was probably he would stop taking essential medication.

The document also says he had a desire to return to China, although his current location is unknown.

It's unclear how he was able make it to the airport, let alone buy a ticket and get through security.

The status of his passport is also unclear.

NEWSTALK1010 has reached out to Canada Border Services.

In his own statement, Mayor John Tory called the incident "very troubling."

"I believe everyone involved in this case should be as transparent as possible with the public about this situation as they get answers."

FULL CAMH STATEMENT:

CAMH takes this incident very seriously.

CAMH notified the Toronto Police Service as per protocol on July 3, 2019 at 6:50 pm, the day that the patient did not return. The individual was on an unaccompanied pass to the community, as permitted by the terms of his Ontario Review Board (ORB) disposition.

CAMH has launched an internal incident review in relation to this specific and rare incident. The highest level of attention and review of our policies and procedures related to this incident is underway. As additional precautions, CAMH is also taking the following immediate actions: 

1.     Physician-in-Chief oversight: The Physician-in Chief will oversee an additional process by which all existing passes and privileges will be re-assessed, with a focus on those patients who have unsupervised access to the community.

2.     More clinical & security staff: CAMH is working to immediately increase clinical staffing levels to deliver enhanced assessments on our forensic units. CAMH is also working to immediately add security staff presence to all of our forensic units.

Each forensic patient at CAMH has a unique rehabilitation and recovery plan in place, which is overseen by the ORB. The ORB sets the parameters of supervision and management for people found Not Criminally Responsible.

The ORB has a system of privileges - which can include accompanied or unaccompanied community passes - that is essential to prepare forensic patients to be able to safely reintegrate with the community. Privileges such as community passes are only granted if several conditions are met, including ORB authorization. 

We are not able to comment on anything relating to the ongoing police investigation."

FULL POLICE STATEMENT:

Following a statement issued by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) today, the Toronto Police Service is able to confirm it received a report of a missing person from that agency on July 3, 2019.  For privacy reasons, the Toronto Police Service (Service) does not normally disclose who has reported an individual as missing.

The Service was informed that the missing individual, under care as a patient of CAMH, Zhebin Cong, was a “low risk” to public safety, to himself and was allowed on regular, unaccompanied public passes, as permitted by the terms of his Ontario Review Board (ORB) disposition. 

The Service opened the missing person investigation on July 3, 2019.  Several officers engaged on the file and conducted check-ins with CAMH, known addresses and shelters and hospitals over the next 11 days.

As the investigation continued, a decision to appeal to the public for assistance in locating Zhebin Cong was determined.  The Toronto Police Service tweeted the missing person case at 8:01pm on July 14, 2019, which was followed by a news release the next morning on July 15, 2019. 

Investigative work continued, leads were followed and on July 16, 2019, it was confirmed that Zhebin Cong had fled the country having boarded an international flight on the same day he was reported missing.  

Tweets and news releases are not done for all missing persons. The Toronto Police Service investigates between 4,000 – 5,000 missing person reports annually.

The Toronto Police Service continues to work with international law enforcement agencies on next steps. This is an ongoing investigation.

FULL TORY STATEMENT:

"Based on the facts reported publicly so far, this case is very troubling and I, along with all Toronto residents, have many questions about how this could have happened," he said in a statement. "I believe everyone involved in this case should be as transparent as possible with the public about this situation as they get answers."

"I'm confident that CAMH and all authorities involved are working to determine exactly what happened, will let us know as much as they can when they find out, and will make any changes necessary to make sure this situation is never repeated."