Friday, April 6, 2012

Duncan MacPherson: A Frozen Mystery

The other night, I read an amazing article by Bruce Arthur of the National Post titled Acron Eger's Shadow. It's a great piece that took months of interviews to write and discusses the disappearance of British Columbian highschool basketball star Acron Eger, who went missing on a boat with his family while vacationing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It happened in 1989, and Eger and his family have never been found or any trace of what might have happened to them. Rumours of kidnapping, pirates and a capsized boat were told, but the mystery remains unsolved. In an odd twist, the following night after reading Arthur's article, I saw a documentary titled The Iceman on CBC's the fifth estate that told the story of Duncan MacPherson, a Canadian hockey player who disappeared in the Austrian Alps in 1989, and was found 14 years later.

It was a really interesting story and one I had never heard before about MacPherson who was a former first round pick of the New York Islanders in 1984 simply disappearing off the map in the same year as Eger. MacPherson was a solid WHL defenceman for the Saskatoon Blades and was considered one of the hardest hitters in hockey with a style likened to old time hockey. While he never did play an NHL game, he did tough it out in the American Hockey League for two and a half years before moving onto the IHL. When his contract with the Isles was up and no offers on the table, MacPherson decided to become a player-coach in Scotland for the Dundee Tigers.

On his way to Scotland however, MacPherson decided to do some travelling in Germany and Austria. It was in Austria that he would decide to learn how to snowboard and following his first lesson he would stay on the slopes to practice on his own, and would never be seen again. Many bizarre scenarios developed about his disappearance, mostly in part to the ski resort asserting that their equipment was returned. There were reports of Duncan being approached to become a spy with the CIA or KGB, and assumptions he had hit his head and was suffering from amnesia while living a new life in Europe. How he simply vanished remained a mystery, as the Austrian authorities botched the investigation with most of the investigation work being done by MacPherson's parents. While the case was surrounded in mystery, it wouldn't be until Duncan's reappearance that many more questions were raised as MacPherson's body was found encased in glacier ice with several broken bones, a crushed leg and shredded snowboard.

There are many details of the case that show mismanagement and poor police work ranging from lying about an autopsy being performed, improper crime scene management and shoddy evidence collection. The final word from Austrian authorities before closing the case would be that Duncan died from multiple traumas from a fall into a crevasse, and that is was simply an accident with no third party involvement. Some external experts with no knowledge of the case have looked at the evidence and believe MacPherson's injuries and snowboard damage were the result of a snow groomer passing over part of his body. There are also some suggestions of his body being moved and the disappearance/death being covered up to protect the tourist industry. While these are speculations, there is no denying the case was poorly managed and there is more to Duncan's death that was hidden from the public. 

Duncan MacPherson was once a promising hockey prospect who sought an international hockey opportunity that never developed due to tragic circumstances. The story is a bizarre one plagued with conflicting statements, lies, and  mismanagement by Austrian authorities, but the question his family still wants to know is how did Duncan die?

You can watch the full documentary online, just click the little grey camera on the right side of the CBC documentary page. Here's a little preview for the book Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery:

66 comments:

  1. For further information on the story, visit the website:coldalongtime.com

    Duncan MacPherson's mother

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for the link, Lynda.

    If anyone is interested in buying the book, Cold A Long Time, it's encouraged you purchase it from this website directly from the author as he donates 25% of the proceeds to Lynda and Bob MacPherson, who spent most of their retirement savings on their long search for their son.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for sharing this story

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  4. Check out this cool video about the book, narrated by actor Bill Paxton
    http://vimeo.com/41506266

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