CANADA

The most difficult deaths of all

MALCOLM GRAY September 14 1981
CANADA

The most difficult deaths of all

MALCOLM GRAY September 14 1981

The most difficult deaths of all

Vancouver

Months of living in fear and hope ended last week as the families of four of the young victims of British Columbia’s worst mass killing buried their dead. Nine of 11 missing children have been found murdered and, as grieving friends and relatives gathered at churches around Vancouver, police continued to search for the bodies of 13-year-old Colleen Daignault and 16-year-old Sandra Lynn Wolfsteiner. The youngest of the victims, nine-year-old Simon Partington, was buried near a cedar tree in a children’s graveyard. A wreath of blue and white flowers rested on the small white coffin. Police and volunteers had searched for him for almost two months before his naked and decomposed body was found in a shallow grave in a peat bog between two arms of the Fraser River.

Two other bodies have been found in that wild and lonely area overgrown by blueberry bushes. The body of Christine Weller, 12, was discovered there last Christmas Day by a man walking his dog. Then on Aug. 28, one day after Simon’s body was found, RCMP officers saw a foot sticking out from the dirt a few metres away. They uncovered the nude body of 18-year-old Sigrun Arnd of Weinhelm, West Germany, who had been on holiday in Vancouver with a nine-member group before she disappeared in July.

Then events moved quickly with the discovery of five bodies within 72 hours.

Clifford Olson, a 41-year-old construction worker who had been charged earlier with the murder of Judy Kozma, 14, has now been accused of killing nine children ranging in age from nine to 18. Olson, who is married and has an infant child, is currently undergoing psychiatric assessment in a forensic psychiatric centre and will appear in court in Chilliwack on Sept. 18. Olson’s trial may not be held there; his lawyer, Robert Shantz, said it is almost certain that he will ask for a change of venue outside the lower mainland.

As the massive investigative force working on the dead and missing children was dismantled, many of the police involved tried to offer what comfort

they could to the victims’ relatives. Wayne Barnes, the RCMP constable who first worked on the disappearance of Ada Court, 13, sang two songs at her funeral last week, one of them a ballad entitled Joy Comes in the Morning. “We have tremendous empathy with the parents,” said RCMP Superintendent Bruce Northorp. “In my experience as a policeman, the most difficult deaths to accept are those of infants and young children. You don’t turn off your mind when you go off duty. Most of us are married and have families—and you take this sort of thing home with you.” MALCOLM GRAY