Clifford Robert Olson, Jr. haunted the dreams of my parents and the parents of many British Columbia children and teens, I’m sure.
The now-convicted serial killer exacted his reign of terror in a series of vicious murders from November of 1980 to July of 1981. He confessed to murdering two children and nine youths.
Olson’s presence and the lack of any clear pattern changed the way Vancouverites lived. Doors were locked habitually, parents gripped their children firmly during even the most mundane trips to the grocery store, people looked over their shoulders regularly.
And now Olson, now 71 years old, is days away from death.
Sharon Rosenfeldt, whose son Daryn Todd Johnsrude was among the killer’s victims, received a phone call from the commissioner of Correctional Services Canada, Don Head. "He has cancer that has metastasized, which means that … he is expected to die within the next few days," she told CBC News.
Olson was transferred from a maximum security prison in Quebec to a Laval hospital.
Interestingly, Olson was born into the newspapers as one of the celebrated New Year’s babies. He was born on January 1, 1940 at 10:10 at night. His parents, Clifford and Leona, lived in the Canadian prairies before moving to Vancouver.
Olson was far from a good student and he skipped classes many times. By age 15, he’d failed his classes many times. By grade eight, he was already seeing the inside of a jail cell. From age 17 to 24, Clifford Olson, Jr. racked up some 83 convictions for a variety of offenses ranging from forgery to possession of firearms.
Throughout his youth and early adulthood, Olson was put in prison a number of times. He also escaped frequently.
Then, in November of 1980, 12-year-old Christine Anne Weller went missing. The Surrey, B. C. girl was found on Christmas Day that year. She had been strangled, stabbed and tortured.
In April of 1981, Colleen Marian Daignault, a 13-year-old girl from Surrey, went missing. In September of that year, her skeletal remains were found in a forest. Her sister, Coreen, was called to identify the body just three days shy of what would have been Colleen’s birthday.
Daryn Todd Johnsrude also went missing in April of 1981. He was visiting his mother in Vancouver as a birthday present. The Saskatchewan native’s body was found in May 1981 seven miles east of Mission. According to the coroner, Johnsrude died of repeated hammer blows to the head. At the time, police did not link the murder of Johnsrude to the killings and disappearances of Daignault and Weller.