Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Clifford Olson

The Watchers

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 cars retreat and disgorging the uniformed Mounties. They had been summoned by the helicopter crew.

Two police officers followed the cars 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 girlJudy Kozma.

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.