“During those seven years Olson’s prison style changed. To some he was known as ‘Bobo,’ a man who viciously ‘muscled’ or buggered young inmates. To others he became knows as ‘The Senator.’ This was because he honed his cell-room lawyer’s skills, by writing incessantly to both federal and provincial politicians with a barrage of complaints about prison conditions. He was also a `stoolie’, a person who would inform on anyone for any reason. This trait made him unpopular with both inmates and guards and he eventually needed protective custody.”
Olson was moved to the Super Maximum Unit (SMU), commonly known as the Penthouse, the “rat and rapo” unit, where the most despised cons were housed. It was here that he met accused child-killer Gary Francis Marcoux
Olson was arrested for impaired driving and for contributing to juvenile delinquency. He crashed his car with his 16-year-old female passenger in
Agassiz, a farming hamlet in the Valley about an hour from Vancouver. Olson had picked her up in the Cottonwood Avenue and North Road area of
Coquitlam, Daryn Johnsrude and Olson’s neighborhood
Although the young girl could not be convinced that Olson was a sex offender, she did tell the police that he had offered her a job, had bought her drinks and given her pills. She palmed one of the tiny emerald knock-out pills, later giving it to the police. The laboratory identified it as chloral hydrate, commonly known as knock-out drops or a Mickey Finn
A serial killer was on the loose and the people in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley region of British Columbia were gripped with fear. In the short time span, from November 1980 to July 1981, a number of children had gone missing, and were later found dead. Parents in suburban Vancouver complained that the police were not treating reports of the missing youths seriously enough. The 200 Mounties in the Surrey detachment processed roughly 2000 missing-person cases and investigated some 18,000 criminal code offenses in those two years. Many of the juveniles turned out to be runaways, congregating on the Granville Street area downtown, while some stayed with friends or out partying past their curfew, without informing their parents. The police figured, “They’d turn up” -- and for the most part they did.
Under surveillance, Olson was not easy to follow. The “watchers” claimed that he would stop in the middle of the street, make sudden inexplicable U-turns, and go down one-way alleys, stop, and reverse. He also had a habit of continually changing rental cars: a Pinto, a Mustang, a Bobcat, a Lynx, a Honda, a panel truck, a Citation, an Escort, an Omega, and an Acadian. Olson drove incessantly. At one point, he traveled over 20,000 kilometers in three months in 14 different rental cars. In mid-July he drove an Escort 5,569 kilometers in just two weeks.
Olson took the ferry over to the Vancouver Island and, after burglarizing two Victoria residences, made his way up north towards Nanaimo, an old coal-mining town. He pulled over to the side of the road to pick up two young women hitchhiking. Hitchhiking was a popular mode of travel for the young in 1981.
Roughly three hours later, writes Ian Mulgrew in Final Payoff, the car was weaving across the highway on the other, sparsely populated side of the massive island. Occasionally, it hit the soft shoulder. At the bottom of Hydro Hill, just before the turn-off for Long Beach, the car slowed. It turned onto a dirt-logging road, kicking up a cloud of dust and gravel.
Moments later, two local RCMP squad cars pulled to a stop across the entrance to the road, blocking the car’s retreat and disgorging the uniformed Mounties. They had been summoned by the helicopter crew.
Two police officers followed the car’s path, picking their way through the Douglas fir and spruce that lined either side of the isolated track. In the distance, they could see three people standing outside the car passing a bottle, and they could hear Olson. They moved closer. He was telling one of the women to take a walk. He began to yell. The police decided it was time to move.
Olson spotted the police emerging from the undergrowth and sprinted back to the car. He threw the vehicle into gear and roared back the way he had come, but he was arrested at the roadblock. The women were confused, but safe. Olson said they had only stopped so he could relieve himself.
Police charged him with impaired and dangerous driving, impounded his car, and took him to local lock-up. The police searched his rented car and found a green address book with the name of the 14-year-old New Westminster girl—Judy
By now, Olson had killed 10 children in southern British Columbia and, by the time he was finished, 11 would be dead. It was not the largest body count in the occurrence of multiple murders in Canada --- in 1949, all 23 passengers aboard a Dakota were killed by Montreal jeweler Joseph
Guay, for the sole purpose of killing his wife --- but the Olson murders caused the greatest terror and horror.
“When he was arrested, only three bodies had been discovered and identified. The police did not yet know how many children had been murdered.
August 6, 1981
“The 6th was a momentous day,” Northorp declared. “It was the beginning of the events that have probably taken Olson off the streets of Canada for the rest of his life.” It was also the beginning of several days of methodical police work. The surveillance team went into high gear.
August 7 to 11, 1981
Solving a murder usually boils down to a lucky break. Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was arrested by two vice cops concerned about license plates. He was driving a car with stolen plates, was arrested, and later confessed to 13 murders --this after some 250 detectives had been deployed and almost $8 million dollars had been spent on the investigation. There was also evidence that Sutcliffe had been questioned nine times by the English police and was even arrested once with his hammer, his favorite weapon, but somehow happened to escape detection.
The extensive national coverage of the missing children was likened by some members of the media to the Yorkshire Ripper case in Great Britain and the Atlanta child killings. U.S. Human Resources Minister Grace McCarthy claimed: “We have our own little Atlanta going on.
“I feel the police, in total, did a tremendous job,” Northrop concluded. “All you have to do is compare the length of time it took the police in other jurisdictions to solve their serial killings. Twenty-nine blacks, twenty-seven male and two female, ranging in age from seven to twenty-eight years, were murdered in Atlanta, Georgia, from July 1979 until May 1981. In 1981 only two of the cases were close to being cleared when Wayne Williams was indicted for the two latest murders, both of adults.”
Also in both jurisdictions all of the victims’ bodies had been found. Not so in the Olson case, eliminating the chance of securing leads or even knowing if one person was responsible. “The fact that known and suspected victims were both male and female,” said
Northorp, “was in itself most unusual and further complicated matters,” ignoring the fact that the Atlanta child murders also involved victims of both sexes and a wide range of ages, including young adults.
“We didn’t interview Olson until his arrest on the 12th of August,” said
Maile, “because we didn’t have anything.”
August 12, 1981
“I had no idea this would be the day when the big break would come,” declared
Northorp, “nor did Olson have any idea this would be his last day as a free man.” The decision was made to arrest Olson on Vancouver Island, then commence intensive interrogation.
August 18, 1981
Olson was charged with the first-degree murder of Judy Kozma, which ultimately resulted in a full confession.
August 21, 1981
Supt. Bruce Northorp had been heading the task force for three weeks with no real guidelines to follow. He had to assemble some 150 officers who were at that time working the case, digest all the information accumulated before he took the assignment, plan strategy, deal with the media, and a myriad of other details. He was shocked at the turn of events. “At 8:35 a.m. I got a real jolt,” said
Northorp. “I learned for the first time of the $100,000 deal put forward by Olson.”
The “Cash-for-bodies” Deal
“I’ll give you eleven bodies for $100,000. The first one will be a freebie,” Olson offered the police.
“I felt the intense pressure over the ensuing hours,” said Northorp. “We were so close [to breaking the case]. But could Olson really be so stupid as to enter into an agreement that would likely result in his spending the balance of his days in prison?” Still, there was no concrete evidence that the missing children and the murders were related.
The bodies of Weller, Johnsrude, King, and Kozma had been recovered. Olson proposed a schedule to recover the missing bodies of the dead children, one at a time, in a specific order and then money would be placed in an account:
Chartrand at Whistler
Daignault at Surrey
Carson at Chilliwack
Four locations where evidence would be found
Court at Agassiz
Wolfsteiner at Chilliwack
Partington at Richmond
German girl at an unspecified location “You’ll get statements with the bodies,” said Olson. “I’ll give you all the evidence, the things only the killer would know.”
As Olson led police to further bodies, Northop said in his co-authored book Where Shadows Linger, “I was convinced Olson’s admission to two more murders was merely a ploy, bearing in mind his many escapes from custody, tight security was laid on. Olson was to be taken in a car with three unarmed police officers, with one handcuffed to him. The car was to be escorted by two other cars, with two officers in each, armed with revolvers, rifles, and shotguns. District Two was alerted that Olson might be taken their way, and I arranged for the use of a police aircraft. If escape was on his mind, he would not succeed.”
In the year 2000, in a Vancouver Sun article called “Ex-Mounties Deny Olson Case was Botched,” two retired RCMP officers, Fred Maile and Ed
Drozda, among other disclaimers, said there is no truth to allegations in Where Shadows Linger: The Untold Story of the RCMP’s Olson Murders Investigation, that flaws in the investigation may have allowed Olson to claim seven more victims before he was finally caught. Drozda said, “Hindsight plays such a large part. It is so wonderful with all the information before you to say, `Oh wow, look at this.’ At the time you are putting together a puzzle and these pieces somewhere along the way have to fit. It’s not only surfacing someone who is a suspect but also in putting the evidence together to take it to court and get a conviction.”
Maile’s boss, Staff Sergeant Arnie Nylund, commented in Where Shadows Linger, “Fred seemed to know what he was doing, and I had never seen anything to indicate otherwise. It is easy to view these things in hindsight and draw conclusions. We had other suspects that looked better than Olson. Don’t forget, it was not apparent a serial killer was on the loose. Up until then the guys were busy working on a number of other homicides not related to these cases at all. After Olson was in jail we had all kinds of second-guessers. We did the best we could with what we had. I have nothing but respect for the guys and how they did it. It was terrible, just terrible for those members who accompanied Olson when they were recovering those bodies. It was so bad I had to send one man home. He just couldn’t take it anymore.”
“It’s not an investigation you like to talk about too much because of the nature of what he was doing. I mean he was killing children,” Maile told the Vancouver Sun. “To me, if there was ever an image of the devil, it was Clifford Olson.”
The Deal Exposed
The secret deal had been cut in 1981, but was exposed to the media a year later.
“Olson Was Paid to Locate Bodies” was just one of the bold front-page headlines on January 14, 1982 in the Vancouver Sun. On January 15th the Sun headline read: “Olson Deal Greeted by Disgust.” The police had not disclosed the cash deal for fear of prejudicing Olson’s right to a fair trial. At some point the Attorney General of British Columbia, the federal Solicitor General, the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP in Ottawa, as well as the Prime Minister of Canada would be drawn into the controversy.
Many thought it repugnant that Olson was profiting from his crimes. “I found it unthinkable he should be paid to provide evidence,” said Supt. Bruce
Northorp, the head of the task force. “The proposition to pay Olson’s wife was simply splitting hairs. She was not separated from him, and Olson stood to gain even if monies were paid to his wife. The situation may have been different if she were separated and were supplying information as to past criminal activity. That was not the case.”
Northorp had to admit though that he felt a tremendous sense of relief that the killings were solved and no more children would die. When asked what evidence had been found, Northorp replied, “I won’t go into detail. Essentially, they were items, which could be established as belonging to each of the four victims, whose bodies had been found without Olson’s assistance, thus establishing he was the killer. Only the killer would have knowledge of where these articles had been hidden.”
The Attorney General of British Columbia, Allan Williams, also wondered how such an appalling deal had been made. Yet the good news was, in exchange for $100,000, the Attorney General could guarantee a first-degree murder conviction, ease the anxiety of the parents of the missing children, subdue the terror in British Columbia, and end an expensive police investigation. There was no hard evidence and Olson, an experienced criminal, was unlikely to talk without it. The day before Clifford Olson was charged with the death of Judy
Kozma, he had a two-hour visit with his wife Joan and their infant son. “I could not stop crying during those two hours,” wrote Olson in a letter February 5th, 1982, to Genevieve Westcott, a CBC television reporter in Vancouver, as to why he pleaded guilty.
“I told my wife that I was responsible for the deaths of the children and that I could not live with myself nor have any peace of mind until I confess to what I had done and give back the bodies to their families for a proper Christian burial.
“My wife told me that if I told police (R.C.M.P.) what I did, they would lock me up in jail for the rest of my life and I would in all probability be killed in jail. She said what would she tell our son when he grew up and everyone was teasing him at school for what his father had done. I told her it will be up to me to tell my son what has happened. I knew in my heart that I must give up my wife and son for the rest of my life. . My son will have to [sic] father to call Daddy and he will grow up knowing his father for the sins he has done. And my wife will always bear my mistake for the rest of her life. She told me that I must do what is right and that she will always love me and that someday we would be n [sic] heaven together praising the Lord together.”
Olson may have been trying to bolster his own image because he also was heard to say: “If I gave a shit about the parents I wouldn’t have killed the kid.”
Thursday, July 30, 1981
Meanwhile Const. Fred Maile of the RCMP Serious Crimes Unit had a simple strategy. His idea was to surreptitiously tape a conversation with Olson insinuating some kind of a reward. The idea was, if Olson was the murderer, and he thought he could make some money from that fact, he might go back to the crime scenes in order to retrieve some physical evidence. If he was not the murderer or knew who the murderer was then maybe he would tell them.
Olson met Detective Tarr at a White Spot Restaurant, and then was joined by RCMP’s Corporal Maile and Corporal
Drozda. The hidden microphones transmitted the conversation to a Mountie in a car in the parking lot. Final Payoff describes this tense 30 minutes:
“Quite a few homicides around here, right?” Maile began. “And we understand that you might be able to help us. We’re prepared to compensate you for whatever you’re able to tell us or help us. But we have to know if you are able to help us.
“He stopped and blew on his coffee. All eyes were on Olson. For a while he said nothing.
“Finally, Olson said he wanted to be hired at a salary of $3,000 a month. In exchange, he claimed he would provide information about the disappearances.”
Olson’s eyes lit up at the idea that they were coming to him for information. He spent much of the time bragging about testifying in Marcoux’s conviction of “that Jeannie,” promising to get back to them if he found out anything.
With a casual, “Well, I’ll get back to you if I find out anything,” the officers watched the killer leave the restaurant and amble out into the sunshine. No one followed the man suspected of murdering several children.