A passing comment by a kindergarten teacher led police last week to the identity of a brutally slain child and the arrest of her father and stepmother on charges of first-degree murder.
Since early December when police discovered three plastic bags containing the severed limbs of a small child, they have been searching frantically for her missing remains and her identity.
They got their first break last week when they were called to the Second Street Junior Middle School to investigate an unrelated assault. While there, a teacher told police about a kindergarten pupil who had left with her family to return to their native Pakistan to visit a sick relative.
When police checked for fingerprints in a notebook the girl had left behind, the prints matched those of the dismembered child in the city morgue. At about 7 a.m. Wednesday, police raided a low-rent apartment in the city's northwest section and arrested the girl's parents -- Muhammad Arsal Khan, 36, a machinist from Pakistan, and his wife, Kaneez Fatima, 45.
The girl, Farah Jahan Khan, was born in Pakistan and came to Canada in April. She would have turned 6 on Feb. 4.
Police said the girl was last seen at school Dec. 2, when her stepmother visited the school to tell staff the family was returning to Pakistan.
"It's not uncommon for families to take extended trips to their homeland," said School Board spokeswoman Stephanie Bolton, "so initially that did not trigger anything."
But the discovery, five days later, of body parts in bags at Col. Samuel Smith Park on the waterfront triggered a massive investigation by police and a search for the rest of the body.
On Thursday, police recovered the child's head in a bag on the banks of the West Humber River, about a mile south of the family's apartment and several miles from where the first body bags were found. Police still have not recovered the girl's torso.
Forensic investigators have yet to determine the exact cause of Farah's death. But they have said her head was severely battered, and her hands showed signs of defensive wounds.
Homicide Detective Rolf Prisor said police still hope to find the last of her remains "to at least be able to afford this child a decent burial."