Tuesday, August 05, 2008

From The Law And Order Files IV

There's been quite a bit of press over the last few days in Saskatoon about an odd abduction. The victim is not a person but Tickles, a Royal Python owned the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Zoo. Sometime Saturday afternoon someone smashed in the lid of Tickles' cage and made off with the 5 foot long, 12 pound creature. It's quite the act of nerve when you consider that this occured during visiting hours, with perhaps one thousand visitors on hand. Although Tickles is a calm snake used to being around people and was recently fed police are asking anyone who might come across him to be cautious, as he could injure someone if provoked. Why the snake was stolen is currently unknown, although the thief or thieves might have had a buyer interested in exotic pets.

One of the most famous crimes of the 1970s is back in the news. A Spokane, Washington lawyer, Galen Cook, claims he has determined the identity of D.B. Cooper. In November of 1971 a man using that name hijacked a Boeing 727 by threatening to blow it up. He demanded 200 thousand dollars and parchute equipment. Cooper released the passengers after the money was provided during a Seattle refueling stop, and shortly after the plane took off again jumped from the rear of the 727, never to be seen again. The story generated lots of popular attention, including movies, songs, and other references in pop culture. Cook claims Cooper is actually one William "Wolfgang" Gossett, a resident of Utah. Gossett's son Kirk, currently an Arizona corrections officer, claims his father had the parachuting skills to pull off the caper. Cook also claims that the money from the heist was deposited in a Vancouver financial institution, which he declines to name.

Unfortunately there are a couple of problems with the story, most notably that Gossett died in 2003, which the cynical side of me thinks is rather convenient for Cook, who plans to release a book soon. There's also the fact that the only money found to date from the 200 grand was 6 thousand dollars in waterlogged and useless condition found along the Columbia River in 1980. None of the other bills, whose numbers are know to the authorities, have ever turned up. It seems odd that Gossett would go to the trouble of such a risky operation and then never spend any of the money that presumably is locked in a Vancouver safety deposit box. Personally I think the default position of the FBI is the correct one, that Cooper, whoever he was, didn't survive that jump.

The RCMP hasn't been having the greatest PR lately, and a news story about their activities in the 1970s isn't likely to help. Recently released documents regarding activities of the RCMP Security Service reveal that popular singer Rita MacNeil was one of dozens of women monitored in the early 1970s over concerns about Communist infiltration of the women's movement. MacNeil was part of the Toronto Women's Caucus at the time, and was described in an RCMP memo as "one who composes and sings women's lib songs." MacNeil finds the whole thing amusing, noting she nor any of the other women involved in the group ever discussed Communism. And this wasteful spying on legitimate political activity is pretty tame compared to some of the other things the RCMP Security Service got up to at the time, such as illegal seizure of documents from Quebec political groups and stealing dynamite to frame the FLQ with. Revelation of these activities eventually led to the disbandment of the Security Service and the creation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in January of 1984.

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