The Toronto police professional standards unit will be examining how it handled the disappearance of Tess Richey, the force said Monday.

The 22-year-old woman, whose body was found last week in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood and has since been deemed a homicide, had been reported missing four days earlier. The announcement comes on the heels of media reports that it was Richey's own mother that found the body.

"No mother should find their own child," Richey's mother Christine Hermeston wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post. "Not one cop searched the area where she was last seen and had they immediately checked after given the address she may have been still alive, there may have still been a chance."

Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash would not confirm whether Hermeston found Richey, saying that is part of what is being examined by professional standards investigators.

For William Ayers, who owns the business next door, the image of 22-year-old Richey – lying face-down in her clothes, at the bottom of concrete stairs in an alley – is still clear in his mind. "We didn't know if she was passed out, sleeping, or dead," he told the Star.

Police searching for man seen with Tess Richey near Church and Wellesley before her death

Moments before, he'd been helping a customer in his shop. But then two women outside screamed. "Call the police!"

Ayers and his customer rushed outside. There was a body in the alley, they were frantically told. The group tried to rouse the woman, with no response. Police arrived on-scene minutes later.

"Then we found out it was Tess," Ayers said, his voice soft.

Police believe Richey was in the presence of a man shortly before her death, alone somewhere on Church St. between or around Wellesley St. and Dundonald St. from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

The man has been described as white and somewhere between 5-foot-7 and 6 feet tall, with a slim build and light-coloured short hair. Homicide investigators ask anyone with information to contact them at 416-808-7400.

Pugash did not provide any additional information on the professional standards unit, but added that the homicide investigation is ongoing and police are working hard to determine what happened. It is not unusual to have a missing person's case turn into a homicide investigation, he said.

Meanwhile, a memorial is growing in the alley. Hand-written messages, photos, flowers, stuffed animals and jackets cover a large pile of stones. A bright card serves as an aching reminder that Richey's 23rd birthday would have been last week.

Unlit tea lights mix in with gravel and browning leaves, and line the way down the stairs. At the very bottom on a concrete landing, there was a single white rose, a single bouquet, and a single burning candle.

Mere metres away is a missing persons poster for Andrew Kinsman – a 49-year-old member of the local LGBTQ community in the area, who was last seen in June. Toronto Police announced a month later that there would be a 'dedicated team' working to solve the disappearance of Kinsman – and 44-year-old Selim Esen, who was last seen in April.

Pugash says he spoke with the task force involved on Monday afternoon, and they have no evidence yet to believe those two disappearances – or any of the others around Church and Wellesley this year – are connected.