Reporter recalls ‘horrible, fearful’ time as serial-killer Clifford Olson dies in prison
Though it was three decades ago, Richmond’s Bob Ransford still recalls how he was the first reporter on the scene where serial killer Clifford Robert Olson pointed Richmond Mounties to the spot he’d dumped the bodies of two of his teenage victims.
Last Friday, Olson, 71, died in a Quebec prison.
News of Olson’s death brought Ransford back to his teenage days, when he was working as a reporter for the Richmond News.
At the time, he’d been in the habit of regularly carrying around a police scanner which he dutifully monitored day and night.
On one August morning in 1981, after hearing odd chatter over his police scanner, he knew something was up.
“I could tell something strange was going on,” he said, recalling how the police switched their conversation to a different channel, and then began speaking in code.
Ransford had come to know the undercover police officers by the sound of their voice, and followed one after he pulled out of the detachment to a remote scene in East Richmond.
Ransford believes Olson, a former Richmond resident who went to school here until Grade 8, had just been escorted to the site.
At the scene, along River Road, past No. 8 Road, and not far from the CN Rail bridge over the Fraser River, a number of other unmarked police cars had gathered.
About a 10-minute trek from where Ransford could park his car, along a sawdust pathway, Ransford saw the site where Olson had apparently taken investigators: a ditch between a bog forest and the rail line, where he’d dumped the remains of Surrey’s Simon Partington, 9, and West Germany’s Sigrun Charlotte Elisabeth Arnd. The body of Surrey’s Christine Weller, 12, had been discovered within a mile of that same spot on Christmas Day in 1980.
“It was a horribly fearful time then,” Ransford said. In the weeks prior to the discovery of the remains in East Richmond, RCMP had been trying to allay the fears of the public.
“It brought back that unsettling feeling of what a horrible time that was.”
Olson changed people’s perceptions of how safe their community truly was.
He pled guilty to 11 counts of murder, and was handed 11 consecutive life sentences.
He reached a deal with police, who agreed to pay $100,000 to his wife after he pled guilty and pointed investigators to the location of the bodies they hadn’t yet found.