|Darlene MacNeill and Peter Dale MacDonald. (File photos)
TORONTO - The group photo Winnie Cornish often looks at shows all her family.
It was taken a world away, before several tragedies struck.
One daughter was among three Parkdale prostitutes murdered in the 1990s, that daughter's twin sister died in 2009 of hepatitis years after a blood transfusion, and Cornish's first granddaughter was slain in Etobicoke.
The mother-of-five cries as she looks at the picture.
But through tears, Cornish finds comfort knowing Toronto Police have accused a career criminal of strangling daughter Darlene MacNeill, Julieanne Middleton and Virginia Coote then dumping their bodies into Lake Ontario, near Lake Shore Blvd. W.
The heartbreak of the discovery of MacNeill's body 13 years ago Friday is still fresh.
Cornish can look at her photo as an adult and as a child, but not at the newspaper clippings, she said from Victoria, B.C., the day Peter Dale MacDonald, 52, was arraigned in Old City Hall court on three counts of first-degree murder.
Serving life for strangling a Parkdale man dead after a tryst in 2001, the P.E.I. native and career criminal was arrested by Toronto Police while awaiting trial for a Windsor woman's murder.
"I've waited a long time," said Cornish, 68. "This is the best birthday present."
For most of her 35 years, daughter Darlene Thurrott used her Newfoundland-born mom's maiden name.
Regularly smoking crack, working the streets eight years after spiralling from her first-born being murdered and her other children by three different men either given up for adoption or taken from her, she married veteran thief Billy MacNeill on Aug. 1, 1997.
To finance their new life, he committed another burglary. A Don Jail guard told MacNeill -- recently freed from jail in Kingston -- of his wife's murder.
Her daughter had a rough life after being sexually abused by her mom's boyfriend, Cornish said.
"She was hooked on crack," she said. "That's why she was living the life she was."
But Cornish said her daughter tried to break free, living in B.C. social housing until a boyfriend fetched her back east.
In Toronto again, Darlene MacNeill phoned Cornish one month before her murder, proudly declaring "you're going to be so proud of me, mom, I'm in rehab."
Then "some guy" gave her money, bankrolling her return to drugs, Cornish said. "When they're into that, they don't have any control.
"It makes them more vulnerable ... unable to defend themselves," she said.
Whoever raped and killed the three women, then dumped their partially clothed bodies into the water is a "monster ... an animal," Cornish sobbed.
She moved to Vancouver Island 16 years ago "and I love it."
Helping raise Darlene's teenaged son -- now visiting his dad in Ontario -- she was alone when a police inspector tipped her last week to MacDonald's arrest.
On Jan. 29, 2009, Cornish lost Daphne, Darlene's twin, years after a blood transfusion her mother is convinced contained an eventually fatal hepatitis virus.
Cornish also misses her first granddaughter, Darla Rhoda Thurrott, who was 10 when strangled in her bed on March 17, 1989 by a family friend, Timothy Robert Rees.
To say the least, "it's been a rough life," Cornish whispered.
But when Peter Dale MacDonald goes on trial, accused in the homicides of her daughter, Middleton and Coote, she said she plans to be in court.
Cornish plans to be holding the photo of her family, when they were all together.