Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Clifford Olson


The Mounties already had Olson in their sights in early July as a prime suspect while they were probing the Ada Court disappearance. He was a suspect of the basis of his previous record of assaults and sex crimes, said Det. Dennis Tarr, Delta municipal police fraud investigator. He was a good suspect. The probabilities were certainly there.

6th Thursday, July 2, 1981 Simon Partington

Simon Partington, victim
Simon Partington,

It was the disappearance of a nine-year-old Surrey boy, Simon Partington that was the turning point in The Case of the Missing Lower Mainland Children. The police could hardly list him as a runaway, given his young age and angelic-looking face. Police were sure that the slight, 4-foot-2-inch, 80-pound boy had been abducted.

At about 10:30 a.m., after Simons usual big breakfast of cornflakes, he dressed in blue jeans and a blue T-shirt, hopped on his bike, with his brand new orange Snoopy book in the bikes basket, and headed for a friends house. He never arrived. He disappeared only a few blocks from where Christine Weller was last seen alive. One of his school projects, a story he wrote called The Hungry Tiger and the Gullible Duck, foreshadowed his untimely death.

An emotional public outcry spurred the police into high gear. The Mounties launched the biggest manhunt in Canadian history. At its height, as many as 200 officers worked on the case. The police had to admit that Simon was the victim of foul play, and the media began to note that news editors had underplayed the spate of earlier disappearances in Vancouvers suburbs. It was the tragic disappearance of this charming child that ultimately symbolized the horror of the series of child slayings.

Olson did not appear phased by all the media attention. Five days after killing the nine-year-old, he picked up a 16-year-old girl and her friend. After the usual offer of a window-washing job at $10 an hour, he persuaded one of the girls to go with him alone. Olson plied her with liquor and fondled her. When the girl resisted, Olson stopped. Later, when he was charged with indecent assault on this girl, the police still did not tie him to Partingtons disappearance or the murders of Johnsrude and Weller.

Still, the death of Simon Partington just didnt seem to fit a pattern. Crown prosecutor John Hall later remarked: It just doesnt fit, it doesnt fit still. I never could figure that one out.

The reticence of police departments to link cases of serial murder is very common. Several reasons are generally offered for this linkage blindness: over dependence on generalized patterns and profiles provided by experts, the tendency to assume that most missing children are runaways, and concern that recognizing that a serial killer is at work in the community will have serious negative affects on police department resources, budgets and media scrutiny. Linkage blindness has allowed serial killers to go on murdering months and sometimes years longer because it has delayed alerting the public to the danger of an active serial predator and the mobilization of police resources to catch the murderer.



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