Regina’s “John Doe” identified 26 years after his death using genealogical technology

For 26 years, a man labeled “John Doe” has laid in Riverside Cemetery with no information as to who he was. That is no longer the case.

Using a genealogical search, the man struck by a train on July 28, 1995, has been identified as Michael Kirov. According to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service says he was 30 at the time of his death.

Chief Coroner Clive Weighill says identifying Kirov is a huge victory and shows why police services never stop trying to find answers.

“This story demonstrates that investigations such as this are never closed, and those charged with the investigations never cease to look for answers,” said Weighill. “We review cases, follow up on new evidence, take advantage of scientific advancements to move our cases forward. Sometimes those new technologies bring us break through, and that’s why we’re here today.”

Weighill says what made the case so tough was the lack of identifying marks on Kirov’s body and the fact that DNA sampling was in its infancy.

After years of searching, a sample of Kirov’s DNA was sent to the RCMP Lab in Ottawa where they found a matching strand, ultimately leading to U.S. based Othram being able to find his relatives, ultimately identifying him.

Coroner Jerry Bell responded to the scene nearly three decades ago, and he says in his entire career, this case was the only unsolved one.

Bell adds it’s a privilege to have been able to find Kirov’s identity and to reunite him with his family.

“I said, probably at the five-year mark, that my goal was to always put a name to John Doe, and to always, hopefully, bring John Doe to his family or his family to him,” said Bell. “And so today, I’m very privileged to be sitting with John’s family, and that is Michael Kirov.”

While the case may have stayed unsolved for decades, Bell says he never looked at it as a burden, instead as a challenge he would never give up on.

Three of Kirov’s cousins were in attendance as he was an only child. They say they only knew him by his birth name, Michael Lewis.

According to his family, Kirov left his hometown of Winnipeg after the death of his mother in 1991 with the goal of “finding himself”.

After just learning of his fate, Kirov’s family says they can’t thank Regina enough for the care they showed for their “dear cousin”

“It meant a lot to us to know that people care about him,” said Cousin Karen Clawson. “They didn’t know him, but they truly cared about him, they looked after him until we were found, until we could.”

Kirov’s family says they plan to keep “John Doe” on his gravestone in significance of the name to Regina citizens and the support the city showed for a man they didn’t know.

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