“Who are you going to call!”
The story begins at 2:30pm August 6th 1976 at a viewpoint near Tunnel Mountain campground in the Canadian Rockies. They had stopped briefly to let Mickey out for a run before they pressed on back to Calgary. That’s when the man with the gun took command of the Winnebago.
My Sister and I compiled this story from the information our parents gave us after a harrowing kidnapping they encountered while camping. I have never published this story to the public until now. I hope you enjoy it.
“Who are you going to call!”
By Pamela Grant & Ray Whyte
“Take my hand Mina; I don’t want you to slip on the stairs. Come on Mickey get in the RV, that’s enough sniffing said Bill” The crisp sound of “clip clack” was heard behind Bill and then the jabbing jolt of a small cold steel object was pressed onto his back. Bill stiffened; he recognized that sound far too well. You see in his younger days as a drill instructor in the “Black Watch” guns were the tools of his trade. Then from behind him came a shaky voice of a man holding a hunting rifle, “get in, and shut the door or you’re a dead man.”
That summer day was, what could be classed, as an extreme adventure for our parents, Bill and Mina Whyte. “They had been kidnapped at gun point”.
Mom and Dad have since passed on to a better camp. We kids had encouraged mom to share this tale with others, for she was an incredible writer. Mom just couldn’t bear to live through the details another time. So it has never been heard outside our family, until now.
I recently came across the letters and articles associated with this event. My sister Pam and I decided it would be a good read as well as to document it for the great grandchildren that have never heard the story. So we got together to recall all the details. This is a story of fear, compassion and patience. Most of all the professionalism, and tremendous courage of our protectors;
“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police”.
It was August 1976 when Bill, Mina, and their faithful white miniature poodle Mickey, along with Jockey the yellow canary, decided that a weekend trip would be nice. They lived in Calgary at the time and their faithful “Winnebago Indian” would keep them comfortable on their way to the Rockies and back.
The story begins at 2:30pm August 6th 1976 at a viewpoint near Tunnel Mountain campground in the Canadian Rockies. They had stopped briefly to let Mickey out for a run before they pressed on back to Calgary. That’s when the man with the gun took command of the Winnebago. He was only 19 and very desperate (we will call him Bob, not his real name). Bob had escaped from a Kingston Ontario prison work crew. He had used a stolen car to get this far. The rifle and knives he had were from a cabin he had broken into.
He told Bill to sit in the driver’s seat, Mina to sit on the double bench passenger seat. Mickey took up his spot beside Mina and Jockey the canary was in his little traveling cage on the large flat dashboard. Mom said they got so many laughs and comments from people about the traveling bird. She also said he never stopped singing at the top of his lungs throughout this entire four hour ordeal. He just loved it when people were around.
At this point the young man sat at the dinette behind the driver’s seat and laid the hunting rifle on the table pointing at dad’s back. He had tucked himself into the back corner of the dinette against the wall making it impossible for anyone to see him, the tinted one way glass provided the perfect cover from outside eyes. “Get moving was his next command.” Dad reluctantly started the Winnebago and pulled out passing a truck with a camper that was parked in front of them at the view point. Little did dad know, the man in the cab of that camper was about to start the rollercoaster ride they were about to take. He saved their lives.
The man in the truck camper (name withheld) was leaning back in his seat resting, waiting for his wife and children to finish the hike they were on. (Mom and Dad went to visit this family after their adventure. They also lived in Calgary and this is what he related to them.)
“I was resting in the cab when I heard the distinctive sound of a rifle bolt being cocked and made ready to fire. This startled me. I looked in the passenger rearview mirror just in time to see a man climbing the steps of the motor home parked behind me. He had a rifle. My heart started to pound with panic, you know when you get a scare and you don’t know what to do but you know you should do something. I started the truck and pulled out onto the highway. I had to get to the nearest phone and knew there was a campground not too far away. I pulled up to the camp registration office and could hardly keep my thoughts straight I was so shaken by what I had seen. I gave them the description of the vehicle and direction of travel and the fact that the man I saw was armed. The rangers said they would contact the RCMP right away. It wasn’t until my racing pulse came close to normal that I remembered, oh my goodness, I left the family back at the viewpoint. These were the days well before cell phones and texting, so I hurried back and parked before they even knew I was gone. Boy did I have a story to tell!”
The Winnebago was now rolling down the TransCanada hwy heading west away from Banff Alberta. Their captor asked Mina if they had any food. He hadn’t eaten in quite some time. Dad said they could make him a sandwich but they would have to stop for safety reasons. Bob agreed and dad found the next pullout, hoping to alert someone to their predicament. Mom made him a ham sandwich which he quickly ate complaining about the excessive amount of mayo running down his arm. This lightened the atmosphere somewhat, when mom explained that this was a long running family complaint; she always used too much mayo. The brief stop offered no relief for their situation though.
By this time the RCMP had set their wheels in motion to bring the abduction under control. Unmarked and marked cars had been dispatched. It wasn’t long and without dad’s knowing, that unmarked vehicles had caught up to them and were shadowing the motor home. They had followed them, passed them, and turned around and saw them from the front numerous time with different vehicles. They were trying desperately to assess the situation.
Back in the motor home, mom was devising a plan of her own. Dad was helplessly stuck in the driver’s seat. Mom went to work. She told Bob that she had a weak heart and the stress was taking its toll on her. She asked if she could go to the rear bedroom and lie down before she had a heart attack. After some time he agreed, threatening dad if she tried anything stupid. She was in the bedroom out of Bob’s vision so she began to throw anything she could find out the side window in front of traffic. There wasn’t much ammunition, a scarf, a handful of candies, and then the bowl they were in. The car behind them must have thought there were some crazy kids in that unit. They found out later from the RCMP that she had a pretty good aim. The officer in the unmarked truck behind them had to dodge the sweet summer hail flying out of the rear window.
It was now time to bring in the marked cars. Suddenly they made their presence known without provoking the situation. RCMP appeared to be everywhere but not after them. Their plan worked. The appearance of the police made Bob very nervous as you can imagine. He asked dad to get off the TransCanada hwy. There is not a lot of choice, so at the next exit dad turned off and went onto the Bow Valley Pkwy Hwy 1A which runs parallel to Hwy 1. It is a quiet road with far less tourists. The trap had been set; they just had to wait for the prey.
Back in the motor home, Bob was beginning to calm down from his recent scare. They came over a small rise in the road and then down into a long dip. Too late, they had entered the trap.
Two police cars make up an impossible road block to get through. As dad pulled to within 20 meters of the cars, two more cars closed the trap from behind. What now, a shoot out?
Bob went berserk, but never moved from his protected position in the dinette seat. “What’s going on? You tell them to move those cars or someone’s going to get hurt.” Dad said “it’s time to give up son; they won’t let you get out of here alive if you start shooting.” Dad still confined to the driver’s seat tried to diffuse the situation by keeping as calm as he could under the circumstances. He heard a muted sound outside his driver’s window. He slowly moved only his eyes so Bob wouldn’t notice. Oh my goodness, there was an RCMP officer with his hand-gun drawn right under his window half crouched in the front wheel well. He was just out of Bob’s line of sight. Funny things go through your head dad told me later. “I was worried they would shoot up my pride and joy RV.” Talk bantered back and forth with dad leaning out the window passing messages back and forth to an officer across the road. All the time the officer below him was within reaching distance. Finally dad convinced Bob to release mom and the dog. He had some compassion and didn’t want her to die of a heart attack. Bob watched, then became angry when he saw mom sitting in the back of a far off patrol car. “Aren’t they going to take her to the hospital, I thought she was sick. You tricked me.” Dad calmed him again by saying “all the police want is for no one to get hurt including you.” Mom was fine and hoping for an academy award nomination at least. She told us later that when she got out of the motor home, she could see armed officers everywhere; it seemed there was a sharp shooter behind every tree. In an interview later, the police said they had brought a swat team in from Edmonton.
At this time Bob began to see the impossible situation he was in and demanded a pizza if they wanted to negotiate any further. The RCMP officer that had been handling the negotiations said he would agree if Bob would let him come in and talk. To dad’s amazement, the police officer laid down his weapon and came up the steps and sat in the dinette across from Bob. The rifle still lay on the table. Quite some time had passed during this tete a tete. Bob was getting upset again, “where the H is my pizza”? The officer said he would order it for sure if he could put the rifle outside. Bob agreed but would not give up his knives, he wanted that pizza. Sometime later the pizza arrived. Here they were in the middle of no-where, dad, the officer and Bob all enjoying a pizza together. After they ate, Bob surrendered his knives and was sheepishly taken away in hand cuffs. The angels accompanied them this day! Bob made a simple request, “can I talk to lady in the patrol car”. Stopping outside the patrol car window he said to mom, “I’m sorry ma’am, I didn’t want to hurt you, thanks for feeding me; but you put way too much mayo on your sandwiches.” Mom said, “I know, good luck son”
News Paper headline.
“Banff abduction attempt fails”
As a post script, our RCMP has been scoffed at lately for incidents perpetrated by a few errant officers. These officers broke under the pressure of the job and did not start out bad. I don’t know how they do it every day. The next ticket you get for breaking the law, thank the officer for doing such a good job. After all, when your loved ones are in danger, who are you going to call!
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