Sunday, February 05, 2012


I have here, in my hot little fin, a library copy of Where Shadows Linger by Leslie Holmes and Bruce Northorp, copyrighted in 2000 to the first-named author and published by Heritage House, Surrey, British Columbia. (Click on the title of this blog entry to order your own copy from Amazon. No Discordian will regret the purchase. No, I promise this time.)

WHAT AN AMAZING DOCUMENT. Superficially this book is about the hunt for Canadian serial killer Cliff Olson, pictured above, but the REAL story in here is about the power of bureaucracy to devastate lives. In The Principia Discordia they treat that as a big joke, but here is THE REAL THING, and that joke is nothing to smile at, my friend, because it's on you.

While Cliffie, as he was known to his friends (gulp), was out bludgeoning teenagers to death, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were closing in on him, faster than any other serial-murder case I've ever heard about. It was really impressive, the way they fingered the guy. Oh, you hear all the time about the police in this or that town discovering all 17 murders at once, like the time the plumber found someone's fingers in the drain and called the authorities in Kentish Town, breaking the Dennis Nilsen case wide open just like that. This was entirely different.

No, sir -- this time they were starting from scratch. Dead kids were turning up, and some of them were apparently stepping off the face of the earth and NOT turning up, and I'm truly impressed at how quickly they put it all together, zeroing in on the right suspect without so much as a positive DNA test or an FBI profile to guide them.

(The only good thing about Clifford Olson was his near-total inability to conceal his activities from the police.)

One thing held up the works, though, and according to the authors, it still torments every officer on the case, from that day to this: THE BUREAUCRACY. An arbitrary decision by one judge let Olson go free; he decided that because the woman Olson had raped was a hooker, she couldn't BE raped, so there was no case. Because of the rules of the justice system in Canada, there was no appealing this utterly wrong decision. Just days later, Olson killed the first child, adding it to his longstanding repetoire of theft, break-ins, and serial rape.

A sharp-eyed Mountie connected the kidnapping and attempted rape of one teenager with a dead teen who'd turned up, and yet another who'd disappeared entirely. He saw quickly that all of these events transpired virtually on Olson's front doorstep. This is the earliest example of geographic profiling that I'm aware of, and it really pulled things together for this officer, named Kettles.

What buggered things up for him? THE BUREAUCRACY. He made every effort, but could not get his findings through to the people who could make the arrest happen. Twenty years later, when this book was being written, just raising the subject reduced him to tears. While waiting to be interviewed for the book, 20 years after the Mounties got their man, he started thinking about it again and stopped eating and sleeping. Kettles blames himself for the 7 kids who were killed after he solved the murder of Daryn Johnsrude. BETTER TO BLAME THE BUREAUCRACY, MY FRIEND.

(Or, hey, just blame Olson.)

The book is not about the grim and gory parts of the investigation. It's not about the 11 devastated families. It's not about crime-scene analysis, and it's not even that much about the devoted gumshoes on the case. It's about how it took so much hassle to organize a tail on their suspect that by the time they got one going, he had just killed another child. Why was it such a problem? Because attaching a "birddog" beeper to his car would constitute not only an invasion of the suspect's privacy, but also a theft of the electricity from his car to make the beeper work. I kid you not. There are 231 pages of this kind of insanity in here.  Plus appendices.

It's VERY educational. You should read it.

And let me say this: If the Mounties can get their man under conditions like these, think how they'd rock the house if someone streamlined their operation a little.


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