Until last week, those who lived near Owen Dulmage’s red brick bungalow in a quiet Ottawa neighborhood believed that its 75-year-old occupant was simply a grumpy recluse. They recalled how Dulmage, with an angry shake of his thinning white hair, rebuffed their offers to mow his unkempt lawn, and his curt dismissiveness as he disappeared, arms laden with bags of computer discs and equipment, into the home where he had lived for 33 years. Many knew that Dulmage’s mother, who had for many years shared the house with her son—a former federal civil servant and onetime boy scout leader— died in 1994. But such was Dulmage’s aloofness that only a few realized he had moved into an Ottawa senior citizens home soon after being struck by a bus last year. “He was difficult to get to know,” said one acquaintance. “But I thought he was just a nice old man, if you could get past the peculiarities.”
point, when you look at the photos, you
Imagine the shock then when Ottawa police cordoned off the Dulmage home last week and carted away boxes filled with what police said were photographs of naked and bound boys, allegedly abducted during a period that spans more than four decades, and 8-mm films. Charged on Tuesday with the kidnapping and forcible confinement in 1960 of Michael Helferty—now a 50-year-old Belleville, Ont., insurance salesman—Dulmage is also under investigation by Ottawa police for other assaults and abductions involving boys between the ages of 13 and 16. The alleged crimes took place in eastern and southern Ontario and Quebec, and date as far back as the late 1940s.
Examples from some of the evidence collected last week are chilling: a book titled They Asked For Death; photographs that show boys wearing paper-bag hoods and bound hand and foot; others showing boys strung by a rope and pulley from rafters or tree limbs; and, in one black-and-white shot, a youngster crouched naked and bound on a tarpaulin. Said Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Richard Murphy: “The fact that some people are quite limp in the various positions makes you wonder what went on, and where these people are today. At this
can’t tell if they are alive or not.”
It was, in fact, a horrifying personal flashback that brought Dulmage to police attention. In 1960, Helferty was the subject of one of the largest searches in the history of Picton, a small resort town near Kingston, Ont. The 13-year-old boy, with 50 cents in his pocket, vanished while hitchhiking a
short distance to a popular beach. The hunt, which involved hundreds of friends, neighbors and boy scouts, ended five days later when the dazed Helferty was found walking along the highway, one kilometre from his parents’ home, wearing a bathing suit under his clothes and, inexplicably, newly washed socks.
The boy’s spotty recollections—that a man had picked him up in a car and kept him in chains in a downtown Ottawa house— prompted at least one theory at the time, in a magazine devoted to the paranormal, that he had been abducted by a UFO. But last July, Helferty, now married with two children, approached Ottawa police with further de-
tails. That account, combined with recent evidence from a Quebec man who says he was also abducted in the late 1940s, led to Dulmage’s arrest. “People may now understand why I insist that I drive my kids to school and pick them up at the end of the day,” Helferty told Maclean ’s. “If they are gone for a minute longer than expected, I worry.”
Some observers say the case may develop into Ontario’s worst string of serial kidnappings. But to neighbors and acquaintances, Dulmage was known merely as an eccentric, with a talent for playing the stock markets. For many years, he held a string of respectable jobs. Between 1939 and 1950, Dulmage worked as a clerk with the federal department of transport, at a television and radio sales and service company from 1954 to 1957 and, before he was fired in the late 1960s, as a quality engineer at an Ottawa computer firm that manufactured aircraft navigational equipment.
But for much of that period, police say, Dulmage may have been engaged in a series of gruesome kidnappings. In 1940, he volunteered as an assistant cub master working with boys under 10. He later became a scout master in charge of teenagers. That job ended in 1951, with his conviction for the kidnapping and torture of a 13-year-old Kingston, Ont., boy, Teddy Wainwright. In a sensational trial, Dulmage admitted that he knocked the boy out and then took him to his Ottawa home, where he suspended the trussed youngster from the rafters, poured hot wax onto his eyelids to seal his eyes closed, and carved the initials TW into his thigh. The assault was only discovered because Dulmage drove his car into a ditch on the way back to Kingston—enw abling Wainwright to tell his story to I the police after both had been taken I to hospital. Dulmage received only a I one-year sentence.
I There is no such clear-cut evi| dence in the case of the photos dis° covered last week in Dulmage’s home. And, without the testimony of the victims, much of the mystery may never be solved. In Helferty’s case, the town of Picton no longer has a police detachment, while the local chief of police at the time of the kidnapping is now 88. Ottawa police admit they have no idea where to find 40-year-old files on abductions, or how to locate missing victims: most computer files began only in the 1970s. More disturbing, Ottawa police are unsure of who—or how many individuals—they are looking for. The faces of only 10 boys in the hundreds of grainy photographs seized from Dulmage’s Ottawa home are visible. The rest, like unwanted memories, are shrouded in secrecy.
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