Excerpt from "In The Mind of A Mountie" by T.M. 'Scotty' Gardiner
Chapter 125: One Long Distance Interrogation
The urgent alert bulletin was issued by Calgary Sub-division. It would be around 1978, and the bulletin had a request for special attention by our Force in British Columbia.
A passenger car had been rented in Lake Louise and by rental agreement was dropped off at the company's Calgary office. Two young women employed by the rental company in the Lake Louse office were assigned to drive to Calgary to bring back the dropped-off vehicle. Driving together the two women arrived at Calgary whereupon they completed whatever was necessary and departed on their return trip to Lake Louise. It was evening, their route was fixed, it would be the Trans-Canada Highway.
The woman driving the rented vehicle began her journey a few minutes before the other driver. This 'lead time' was such the second driver never did get the first car in view, that is she never saw it in motion. To her disbelief she came upon it at about the mid-point between Calgary and Lake Louise. The car was abandoned on the shoulder of the highway, one door was open and her fellow-employee's purse was on the ground beside the car. Fearing for the worst the woman reported her findings to the police.
From their initial enquiries the on-scene investigators obtained a reasonable description of a suspect car. From the examination of the scene, evidence made it apparent this young woman had stopped, or had been stopped and then forcefully removed from the rental car. There was a glaring need for urgency. With the indicated westbound route of any vehicle involved, all Detachments within British Columbia were activated, but with emphasis on those adjacent to the Alberta border.
A period of two to three days elapsed without significant developments. Then from Calgary Sub-division came a bulletin to say the missing woman's undergarments had been recovered -- information that was later to be proved incorrect! What followed shortly after that were reports of the sighting of the suspect vehicle in locations in the Nelson and Kelowna Sub-divisions.
I believe it was on the fourth day following the woman's disappearance the suspect vehicle was located in the Golden area. The driver, a young man, was alone. He denied all knowledge of the woman's disappearance. He offered unconvincing alibis that consumed investigative time, time that the investigators knew was crucial if the woman was to be found alive.
Because there was involvement of areas in both Nelson and Kelowna Sub-divisions, I assigned Supt. Joe Collins from Kelowna to be the on-site commander. While still denying any involvement with the woman's disappearance, the suspect confirmed who he was and that he was from my previous command area, Sydney in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
I did not know the suspect nor could I recall his family by name. But I had a thought! Still applying urgency I telephoned to Sydney Detachment and gave the particulars of our investigation and of the suspect.
"With a young woman's life in the balance, would you contact the suspect's family and see if a family member will assist us? What I plan is to have our investigators on one phone place questions to a family member and by a separate telephone line have the family member place the questions to the suspect. Any answers can then be given back to our investigators by their independent line."
"I will do that right away, Sir," came the reply. [This direct, rapid way to have work done, RCMP member to fellow RCMP member, regardless of location, confirms the value of Canada's National Police Force.] I relayed my plan to Supt. Collins and asked he make preparations in the hope that a family member would cooperate.
Cooperate the family did. Within a matter of about two hours, a sister of the suspect, with full knowledge and in full agreement with the purpose for family participation, sat at the prepared line and spoke with her brother. Questions flowed eastwards from policeman to policeman on one line, where they were passed to the sister who directed them back westwards to her brother on the separate line. Answers went eastwards to the sister, over to the policeman and back westwards to the investigators in Golden.
The result was devastating. The suspect admitted he shot the young woman and dumped her body in a wooded location to which he agreed to lead our investigators. That he did. With obvious nervousness he wished only to point to where the body was and not approach it. The investigators, now knowing an innocent young life had been senselessly taken, made sure the suspect approached the body.
Motivation for such a killing escapes normal understanding. The suspect claimed he never intended to kill the woman, only hold her captive for his pleasure. He claimed he had taken the woman into the woodland area when he heard an aircraft overhead. Fearing it was a search plane which might see him he told the woman to walk ahead but crouch over. When in that position he discharged a rifle and shot her up through the back, dumped the body over some rocks and left. Without any independent evidence this explanation may or may not be true, it had to be accepted. A tragic case of an innocent life cruelly taken; a conviction and long term imprisonment followed.
The long distance interrogation I arranged was motivated by urgency as a possible way to save a life. That exchange of conversation from Golden, B.C. to Sydney, N.S. qualifies as the longest in distance interrogation I was ever involved with.
At the conclusion of this investigation I sought clarification for the incorrect report from Calgary Sub-division that the woman's undergarments had been found. Clearly I hit a sensitive chord: Calgary endeavoured to place the error with the British Columbia investigators. For that I submitted a strong, critical rebuttal which I terminated with the only quote from scripture I ever submitted in police reporting: "Read John, Chapter 8, Verse 7."
Copyright 2010, T.M. Gardiner
Read some bonus material not included in Scotty's memoir.