A man who went missing from CAMH two weeks ago has fled the country, police said Tuesday.
On Monday police issued a release saying 47-year-old Zhebin Cong had been missing since July 3, and was last seen in the Queen Street and Ossington Avenue area at around 4 p.m. that day.
CAMH said he was on an unaccompanied pass to the community, which he was permitted to by the terms of his Ontario Review Board (ORB) disposition, when he didn’t return. They notified police around 6:50 p.m. on July 3.
Records from the ORB — which evaluates the status of anyone found not criminally responsible — show Cong killed his roommate, 56-year-old San Tai Yuan, with a meat cleaver in 2014 and was found non-criminally responsible on a charge of first-degree murder as a result of his mental illness. At the time, police described the crime scene as one of the most gruesome they had ever seen.
In a statement to 680 NEWS, police confirmed Cong is no longer in Canada:
“On July 3, 2019, the Toronto Police Service were informed of a missing person and opened an investigation regarding Zhebin Cong. The Toronto Police Service has now confirmed that Zhebin Cong has fled the country. He boarded an international flight on the same day he was reported missing. We are working with international law enforcement agencies on next steps. This is an ongoing investigation.”
On Wednesday, police also added that they were informed Cong was “a low risk” to public safety and to himself. They say several officers were involved in the investigation once a missing person case was opened and they “conducted check-ins with CAMH, known addresses and shelters and hospitals over the next 11 days.”
As the probe continued, a decision was made to appeal to the public for help in finding him and leads were followed that confirmed Cong left the country the same day he was reported missing.
Cong was an in-patient at the secured forensic unit of CAMH and deals with schizophrenia, ORB records show.
He was granted a pass to the community by medical officials, which allowed him to leave the hospital for a fixed purpose on the condition that he return at a fixed time, the board documents show.
The board, in its last decision on Cong issued in April, found he continued to pose a significant threat to public safety. It also found his condition had slightly improved with ongoing anti-psychotic medication, but that he did not fully understand his mental illness, its symptoms and his risk of relapse and violence.
Board records show Cong’s history with mental illness can be traced back to 2012, when he was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. The board said he had no criminal record before the 2014 killing of his roommate.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says they take public safety very seriously and that patients are only allowed to engage with the community if they have met several set conditions. They said they have launched an internal incident review “in relation to this specific and rare incident.”
CAMH says they will be taking additional precautions and adding Physician-in-Chief oversight in which the Physician-in-Chief will re-assess all existing passes and privileges, “with a focus on those patients who have unsupervised access to the community.” They will also be adding more clinical and security staff.
Mayor John Tory called Cong’s disappearance “very troubling” and will be seeking answers as to how this was allowed to happen.
“I believe everyone involved in this case should be as transparent as possible with the public about this situation as they get answers,” said Tory. “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.”
A full report from Toronto police is expected in the coming days.
With Files from The Canadian Press