|Clifford Olson in his cell at Ste. Anne-des-Plaines penitentiary in January 2003. (Toronto Sun file photo)
This is the third of a three-part series from the newly published Predator: The Life and Crimes of Serial Killer Clifford Olson, by award-winning Canadian journalist Peter Worthington.
Olson died in prison a year ago, on Sept. 30, 2011. The details of Olson's murders have never made public — until now.
Predator is published by Kobo and excerpted by Sun Media and Huffington Post. A percentage of the proceeds from the book will go Childfind.
The vodka bottle was nearly empty. Olson drained it and threw the bottle from the car window. Terri's glasses were on the front seat. He picked them up and fondled them as he drove. They certainly were thick. He thought what a nuisance it would be to have to wear glasses. But Terri did look pretty good in them. Oh well. He chucked them out the window as well. In the side mirror he saw them bounce and shatter.
This job done, he opened a beer, took a long swig, and started the drive back to Coquitlam. On the way he felt curiously relaxed and at peace with himself. Yet he wondered. "What's wrong with me? Why am I doing this? I didn't have to kill her."
No point worrying about it now. Perhaps he should take his wife out to dinner — she deserved a night on the town. They both did. Cheer themselves up, get out of the rut.
These thoughts didn't last long. As he approached Coquitlam, he spotted a self-car wash, and drove in to clean the car more thoroughly. Then he went home. Before going to bed, he put the blanket in the apartment washing machine.
That night, Clifford Olson slept deeply, peacefully, without a care in the world.
* * *
Until the day of his death from cancer in a Quebec hospital on Sept. 30, 2011, Clifford Olson, was without sympathy, empathy, remorse or love; a person dominated by "appetites and immediate wants, with no sense of responsibility," loyalty, ethics or morals. All his emotions were learned, or imitated. None were natural or genuine.
Repeated psychological assessments in a series of prisons ranging from Oakalla in B.C., Kingston Pen, Saskatchewan's Prince Albert and Ste-Anne-des- Plaines in Quebec (where he contracted colon cancer) determined he was a homicidal psychopath with narcissistic delusions, sexual obsession, a pedophile and possibly a necrophiliac.
Olson knew right from wrong, but didn't care. He had no inhibiting mechanism that prevented him from doing wrong. He did what he thought he could get away with — a psychopath's psychopath. When his trial for murdering 11 young people began in Vancouver in 1982 — before he changed his plea to guilty — Olson's lawyer, Robert Shantz, had three psychiatrists examine him independently: Dr. Tony Marcus, head of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of B.C.; Dr. Basil Orchard of Toronto's Clarke Institute of Psychiatry; Dr. J. Aboleda- Florez, professor of psychiatry at the University of Calgary and director of forensic services at Calgary General Hospital.
Aboleda concluded that Olson's "anti-social personality disorder and psychopathic personality" did not suffice to explain his rampage. He was a "pathological liar" with an "unquenchable thirst for recognition and grandeur," but was not psychotic or mentally impaired; he "chose to preserve his identity through his badness."
Orchard found no evidence of anxiety, stress, remorse or guilt. On the contrary, Olson enjoyed recollecting his cons, crimes and manipulations. He saw himself as a leader, did not have delusions, and had the ability to use abstract thought.
Despite frequent misuse of words, Olson had an excellent memory, a pleasing manner, and surprisingly good judgment on immediate matters.
He was: "A classical picture of a severe psychopath ... characterized by his inability to delay any gratification of his desires, his inability to learn from experience or punishment, his inability to have any meaningful relationships, his lack of moral sense, his inability to experience guilt, his inability to perceive others as anything more than objects to manipulate for his own gratification, his chronic conflict with society and the law, his lack of ability to be loyal to any one person, code or creed, and his total preoccupation with his own desires, to the exclusion of all else."
Marcus spent the most time with Olson and was categorical and colourful in his assessment. He found Olson "so callous and amoral, it is frightening." To him, Olson was a rare specimen: "A truly amoral individual for whom opportunity, the con, gain, advantage are the only reasons for his operating behaviour ... the type of individual who holds allegiance to no one, who would be both feared and at the same time despised by both the authority and the underworld."
To Marcus, Olson showed few neurotic traits: "There were no illusions, delusions, hallucinations," Marcus reported. He added that Olson personified "the quintessence of the incorrigible, amoral, anti-social psychopath who does indeed know that he has done wrong and does appreciate the nature and quality of the act, though he cannot respond to these acts with the feelings that a normal individual would show." His professed concern for his victims, his declared sympathy for the grieving families, and his sometimes tearful regard for his wife and child "are without depth."
Marcus succinctly summed up Olson: " ... The perpetration of such horror, of such dimension, in such a macabre and horrendous way, is so alien that even people who have met individuals who are called psychopathic or anti-social, cannot bring themselves to believe that there may be individuals of this gross nature. It is too impossible to accept ... "
When asked his opinion about psychiatrists who examined him, albeit superficially, Olson was scathing: "They're all goofs — they're the ones who need treatment, not me. They only know what I tell them."
An essential reality of the Olson case is that not one of the various authorities I consulted on serial killers knew of a case where such killings started at Olson's age of 40 — the inference being that psychopathic serial killing starts much earlier. Between 1957 and 1980, Olson was out of prison for only three periods of any length — 1964, 1972-73, 1978. Possibly his first "kill" was in 1964, then probably in 1972-73, and almost certainly in 1978. In all, Olson variously claimed 50 murder victims — mostly transients or young people, more than half of them in seven states: Washington, Oregon, California, Illinois, New York, Louisiana, Florida. He later upped his claim to more than 100 victims. A lot of them obvious lies, which may have been an instinctive reaction to camouflage the truth. Actual murders hidden among false claims.
Of his 71 years of life, some 50 of them were spent in prison, which was an environment in which he was comfortable and functional. In Kingston pen I brought noted U.S. torts lawyer Melvin Belli to see him. Olson persuaded Belli to become his lawyer and get him immunity if he identified the Seattle Green River killer of 50 prostitutes.
In prison he tampered with one-cent stamps to increase their postage value, which got him a warning of prosecution from Canada Post. He sent porn pictures and letters to politicians. He wrangled close to $1,200 a month in old age pension payments from the Canadian government. He sent letters to U.S. presidents and prime ministers, and claimed advance knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attack on America.
Until the day of his death, Olson's beat went relentlessly on.
In a way, Olson made victims of everyone: Shantz, who was expected to become a judge until he met Olson; the late RCMP officer Fred Maile, whose marriage was shattered, then patched up, due to the stress of dealing with Olson — on retirement he went into private security business; Olson's wife, Joan, who has since salvaged her life and remarried, and whose whereabouts are secret; Olson's son, Stephen, who by age nine knew his father was the most hated man in Canada; Olson's two brothers and sister who have had to endure the shame; politicians who became casualties of his manipulations; untold numbers of young people and their parents; do-gooders who trusted him; even custodial officials who succumbed to his conmanship. And then the families and friends of his young victims.
In the meantime, serial killing continues to expand as the fastest growing crime phenomenon--testament to a throw-away society of easily recruited, disposable victims, often eager to follow their destroyer.
This, then, is the legacy of Clifford Robert Olson, proud of his trade, relishing his reputation, eager for more: the smiling monster of our nightmares.