Morag Davies didn’t give up without a fight.
The Sarnia real estate agent, described by friends as “friendly, reserved and dignified,” managed to cut her attacker in the bedroom of her home in a quiet neighbourhood in the city’s northeast side, where she lived alone.
Her attacker still managed to overwhelm her, and Davies’ body was found by co-workers on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 1988, when she failed to show up for work.
“Her throat was cut and her head was nearly falling off,” her younger sister, Sandra Longmuir, 74, said in a telephone interview from Scotland. (Davies was 45 when she was slain and would be 78 if she was alive today.)
“It was horrific,” Longmuir said. “I just don’t understand.”
Davies was preparing for bed when the killer arrived at her tiny house on Retlaw Drive, where she had lived for less than a month.
There was no sign of forced entry in the home and Longmuir believes her sister knew the killer.
“She opened the door and she wouldn’t do that unless she thought it was safe,” Longmuir said.
A blood trail led away from her body, suggesting her attacker had been seriously cut.
It was just Sarnia’s second murder in 20 months.
Davies had first worked as an emergency room nurse after she emigrated from Scotland with her then-husband, Peter.
The couple later divorced, but Longmuir and a friend of her sister’s strongly dismissed any suggestion he might be the attacker. The friend asked not to be identified.
“They had a very amicable split,” the friend said, noting the former couple even agreed to shared custody of their golden retriever. Still, the friend said, police repeatedly questioned him to the point of harassment.
“They made his life miserable,” the friend said.
The friend and Longmuir both have suspicions about men Davies met in the Sarnia real estate community.
Davies worked as an emergency ward nurse until about three years before her death, before changing careers. She was dismayed by what she considered a lack of respect paid to nurses by patients and doctors, the friend said.
“Sadly, I think that was the downfall,” Longmuir said. “Selling? It wasn’t my sister.”
Davies tried hard to make a go of her new career, networking and reading a pile of self-help books.
“She was always determined to do things well and properly,” Longmuir said.
Longmuir wasn’t impressed by all of her sister’s new associates in the real estate business when she came for a visit months before the murder.
Davies’ friend said she had severe suspicions about a male Sarnia real estate who is now dead.
She said he was obsessed with another of Davies’ friends, an extremely attractive woman who was also a real estate agent.
He wouldn’t take repeated hints to leave Davies’ real estate agent friend alone, the friend explained. “He scared me.”
Longmuir, who met this man during a visit to Canada, also found him troubling.
“He was a ghastly person,” Longmuir said.
She said this man was upset that Davies and the female real estate agent he desired were close friends, while he was kept at a distance.
Davies and the female real estate agent were worried the male real estate agent might damage their careers if they aggressively told him to go away.
“In the ’80s, it was a man’s world, and women had to be very careful how they turned down the advances of men where they worked, especially those women who weren’t married,” the friend said.
After Davies’ murder, the friend said she had a troubling conversation with that man, during which he said, “She got what she deserved.”
Longmuir also has suspicions about another man with whom her sister was romantically involved just before the murder.
Davies told her sister she was about to break off the relationship during one of their regular Sunday telephone calls.
“She said, ‘The s—’s going to hit the fan,’” Longmuir said. “The following Tuesday she was gone.”
Police have repeatedly said that they hope that testing at the forensic sciences centre in Toronto will point them to the killer.
Immediately after the murder, police said they thought the killer had a cut artery because of the trail of blood leading from Davies’ body.
There was a check of hospitals to see whether anyone had recently been treated for a knife wound.
A quarter-century after the murder, police said they continued to work the case, and hoped advances in DNA testing would yield some clues.
“They have a hair,” Longmuir said. “They did have semen. I don’t know whether it degrades. I believe they have a little bit of blood that was on a letter opener.”
Davies’ body was flown home to Scotland for cremation.
Investigators have alternately theorized Davies’ killer could have been someone close to her, or a complete stranger.
There was a person at the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Toronto who was assigned to the case, but newer cases took precedence, meaning a wait of weeks and even months.
Investigators also retired as the years dragged on.
“I think a lot of people know more than they’re saying,” Longmuir said. “Someone in Sarnia knows what happened. Hopefully, someone comes forward.”
The case remains unsolved.