Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Clifford Olson


January 11- 14, 1982

Mugshot of Olson
Mugshot of Olson

I dont have the words to describe the enormity of your crimes and the heartbreak and anguish you have caused so many people, declared Justice Harry McKay, Olsons trial judge. No punishment a civilized country could give you could come close to being adequate....You should never be granted parole for the remainder of your day. It would be foolhardy to let you at large. (Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976)

The trial came to a quick conclusion on the third day when Olson changed his plea to guilty within only a few hours of the court proceedings. Speculation was that with the tapes of Olson talking in his high-pitched whine, it was obvious even to him that he was coming off as a weak individual and not very bright. In any case, this did not meet up to his own illusions of being the big, powerful, elusive serial killer that was portrayed in the media.

Crown Prosecutor John Hall told reporters of the Vancouver Sun that it was the saddest and most bizarre case he had ever seen. When asked about Olsons motives, he answered, Who knows about these things? Its difficult to look into peoples minds. He is insane in the broad sense but not in the legal sense. He is an inadequate psychopath. He could go to church and beat his breast and say, `I love my wife and I love my kid. But he cant. He may believe he has some real feeling but its all surface. He doesnt have a conscience.

With Olson behind bars, the parents of the murdered children wrote to Federal Solicitor General Kaplan:

We are suffering further injury at present from the knowledge that Clifford Olson has benefited financially from the murder of our children. This is further aggravated by the fact that Mr. Olson may benefit yet again through publication of his disgusting, wicked, perverted story. Clifford Olson derives obvious personal delight at the publicity that has been given him and knows no moral boundary that will prevent him from collecting financially, either directly or indirectly, for the sale of his memoirs.

Although the plea was backed up with some one hundred thousand signatures, it did not make a difference. The bureaucratic wheels turned a blind eye to the families plight. The federal government even withheld family allowance checks, creating further hardship when the children were presumed missing.

Growing public support however bolstered the families. Roughly 60% of those surveyed, some 600 eligible voters chosen at random, agreed. After a long battle, unable to get satisfaction from the government, seven of the families decided to sue, naming Olson, his wife Joan, his lawyer Shantz, and McNeney, the lawyer looking after the cash deal. Two lawyers took the case, waiving their fees.

There was further outrage when on November 16, 1981, the RCMP secretly flew Olson back to B.C. which was arranged after Maile filed an affidavit in the B.C. Supreme Court that Olson would provide the whereabouts of more bodies. But he was escorted back to Kingston Pen empty-handed.

The fall of 1984

Finally after almost three years, while Joan Olson and lawyers forestalled the legal examination of their conduct, the Supreme Court of British Columbia examined the cash-for-bodies deal to make a decision about the $100,000.

No sympathy was shown to Joan Olson or to her baby. It was an ordeal for her and for her young son to be called names from horror movies Rosemarys Baby and Demon Seed. When the jeering went on in the courtroom, Mr. Justice William Trainor of the B.C. Supreme Court chided the spectators..

At one point Joan stated emphatically, trembling all the while: It floors me that anyone would think that I had anything to do with it. I cried, I cried a lot about it at first. I dont know how to explain it ... I really dont think too much about them now. Im glad the children are buried. She had nightmares about the ghost of Simon Partington begging for her help. Her life had been a living hell of alcoholic beatings and abuse: Oh, I hate him, she said. I hated him for the night he held a knife to my throat. He terrorized me, scared me, beat me. There was no one I could turn to.

However her feelings toward Olson were not all negative: Hes a real charmer. He has a way with words and Ive yet to see a woman that hasnt been attracted to him. I dont know what it is really. I like to say it was his brown eyes, but it couldnt have been that.

Although Justice Trainor ruled that Shantz, McNeney and the Olsons had to return the $100,000 plus interest, and that they should pay the legal costs, on March 11, 1996, the B.C. Court of Appeal reversed Trainors decision saying he had erred. A few months later, five and a half years after the first youngster was murdered, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to listen to the parents appeal.

Joan and her child could keep the money. I think that money was given to me in good faith, she once told the camera. I dont have any guilty conscience. I can look at myself in the mirror and say, `Youre a good person dont be ashamed.

When asked how it was for her three-year-old son, she said: Its really strange. He knows who his father is. He picked it up from the TV. I just cant believe it. I just explained it to him that his dad was a bad person and he has to spend the rest of his life in jail and that we are never going to see him and he accepted that. Whether he will later on I dont know.


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