By Don McHoull
An undercover operation by Ryerson security led to the arrest last week of a man suspected in a string of campus sex assaults.
On Nov. 7, Ryerson security deployed plain-clothed officers around campus to hunt for the suspected offender, who had allegedly sexually assaulted a Ryerson student the previous day.
“We were looking in more than one location around campus,” said Lawrence Robinson, director of campus security, noting that plain-clothed work was fairly common for Ryerson security.
Based on the description of the man wanted in the sex assaults, plain-clothed security officers waiting in the journalism lounge in the Rogers building stopped a man entering the room.
“They identified him as a suspect but there was nothing we could make the arrest on at that point,” said Robinson.
Ryerson security gave the man’s name to the Toronto police before releasing him.
Toronto police arrested 26-year-old Nick Belcourt last Thursday, charging him with sexual assault, assault and forcible confinement.
Det. Danny Bell of the 52 Division plain-clothed squad said the man was picked out of a lineup by one of the victims.
Police were waiting for Belcourt at the Good Shepherd Refuge men’s hostel at 412 Queen St. E., where the Ottawa-native had been living for the past three months.
In court yesterday, Belcourt waived his right to have a lawyer provided by legal aid, and sought to be released on bail.
Dressed in a Raptors jersey and a black coat, he shifted from foot to foot as the crown attorney read the list of charges against him.
Belcourt seemed confident in the prisoner’s box and spoke in a loud clear voice as he repeatedly scanned the courtroom with his eyes.
A publication ban prevented The Eyeopener from reporting what was said in court.
Belcourt was denied bail, and will remain in custody. His next court appearance is Nov. 27, at 2 p.m.
Det. Bell says that Belcourt is suspected in three assaults on Ryerson campus, dating back to October, but that police are investigating the possibility he may be connected to other assaults in the area.
“It’s unusual for something like this to start all of a sudden out of the blue,” Bell said. “It might not be just on Ryerson property.”
A Ryerson student who witnessed one of the attacks says the suspect had identified himself as a Ryerson student in the non-existent culinary arts program.
The witness said the suspect had approached a female student who was alone in the journalism lounge, and trapped her in the room.
“She was looking at me kind of strange, but I didn’t notice,” said the witness, who had entered and left the lounge while the suspect was talking with his victim. “They were just chatting.”
The suspect asked the victim for a hug. When she refused, he threatened her and prevented her from leaving the room, but eventually left.
In earlier assaults, a man had approached female students on or near campus and groped their breasts.