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'The heartache doesn’t go away’: Family marks 40th anniversary of teen’s murder

It has been 40 years since London, Ont. was shocked by the murder of a 17-year-old girl.

Decades later, what happened to Donna Jean Awcock remains a mystery and a source of heartache for her family.

“My dad didn’t get to walk her down the aisle. We didn’t get to see her have kids. We missed out on a lot,” her sister Tammy Dennett said in an interview with CTV News London.

Oct. 13, 1983 forever changed the Awcock family.

That evening, Donna was babysitting at an apartment on Cheyanne Avenue, which is present-day Oakville Avenue. The woman she was babysitting for had returned that night and asked her to get a package of cigarettes from a variety store.

Donna Jean Awcock of London, Ont. is seen in this undated photo. She was murdered on Oct. 13, 1983. (Submitted)“Donna gets to the store and the clerk said she either appeared to be crying or upset,” Tammy shared.

After being denied the use of the store’s telephone, Donna left.

“Whatever happened when she left the store is a mystery. Nobody hears nothing, nobody sees nothing,” said Tammy.

A search party, consisting of apartment residents and friends, set out to find her. Hours later, two young men found Donna’s body down a steep embankment just metres away from Fanshawe Dam.

The area, at the time located in London Township, was soon surrounded by OPP officers.

OPP cruisers are seen outside a mini-mall where Donna Jean Awcock was last seen on October 13, 1983. (CTV News London archives)

Eventually, Donna’s father was asked to identify her body. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

“What my dad saw...well, it was just a nightmare after that,” she said.

It’s a nightmare that continues to this day for Tammy.

While her siblings support her efforts, she is at the forefront of keeping Donna’s story at the top of the public mind.

“Somebody out there knows something,” she said. “They just need to speak up.”

OPP detectives are still actively pursuing any leads in the case. Tammy said they are also planning to start a billboard campaign to remind the public of the case.

A memorial stone dedicated to Donna Jean Awcock, who was murdered in October of 1983, is seen on Sept. 28, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

Tammy is hopeful it will help, even though all previous leads have not led to an arrest.

But, in her mind, one will come, and she can’t wait to get answers.

“I want that bastard to look in my eyes, and tell me why? What he’s done to my family is just wrong,” she said.

To help ease the pain of Donna’s family, anyone with information on the murder of Donna Jean Awcock is asked to contact OPP.

“It’s heartache, it doesn’t go away. Like we live with it every single day,” said Tammy. “Every single day.” Top Stories

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