Murdered: Duncan MacPherson

The case of Duncan MacPherson (February 3, 1966 – August 9, 1989) started as a missing person case. After reading John Leake‘s book it is clear at least to me that it was murder or manslaughter (3rd degree).

You do not have to lie in wait or have done meticulous planning. Your state of mind, the knowledge that your actions will result in death due to the heavy machinery you are handling, require no prior formed intention to kill. Just knowing that you are handling a machine that can cause death in a second should put you on alert from the moment you mount it.

Not checking whether someone is still alive and choosing not to seek help just to save your own skin … well, that tells me you accepted his death as mere collateral damage, a mere inconvenience that might tarnish your reputation or that of the ski resort.

You did not set out to kill but you did it anyway. You see, there is this distinct moment of cooling down after the act. You climbed off the machine and saw what you had done. You, whether with others or alone, pried the victim loose and shoved him in a crevasse in hopes that the glacier would never give up your secret.

But it did.

Duncan MacPherson was the beloved son of Bob and Lynda MacPherson and brother to Derrick. He was excited to start a new career and was full of life.

The author’s website is full of documentation, clips, and more. WARNING: that website is not for the faint hearted as it includes graphic photography of Duncan’s mangled body. You view it at your own risk.

Leake describes in excruciating detail how the MacPhersons were railroaded from the start by local police officers, scientists, and consulate personnel. For example, after Duncan’s remains were found the area was not cordoned off, there was no coroner present while Duncan’s remains were extracted from the ice, and there is no documentation how exactly his body was extracted (by whom, who supervised, in which order where things done, what items were found, etc). If it had, we would have had a clue from day one: a cable.

Back to the book.

Psychic Carole Wilson told the MacPhersons to look for the left side of Duncan’s head and to pay attention to his left leg. She was right.

Duncan was most likely in shock after having hurt himself badly. The strong professional hockey player was a beginner at snowboarding and he had inappropriate equipment: the board was not suitable for a beginner, the boots and binders did not match, the binders were not adjusted for Duncan’s height and the clips projected over the edge of the snowboard causing him to scrap ice with every bend.

Duncan most likely broke his left leg and possibly twisted his knee. Hurting badly, he took off his left ski boot to comfort his injured leg and foot.

Everything hinted at Duncan’s intention for a short trip, just read what he left behind in his car. He was also dressed in a cotton sweatshirt underneath a jacket that is not weather appropriate if you intend to stay on the ski piste for a prolonged period of time.

He possibly tried to massage his foot and had his arms and hands extended when he lost consciousness. He faced the slope with his back to the oncoming tractor pulling the grooming tiller. The tiller is wider than the tractor so you need to be aware of the space you need to pass anything or anyone.

For whatever reason the driver did not see Duncan who had lost consciousness and was curled up with his hands trying to hold his left leg together. The tiller drove over his left leg and extended arms and hit the left side of his head. When the driver finally realized what he had done, the cover up started.

This book is a MUST READ for forensic pathology students, scientists, law enforcement officers, and anyone interested in glacier accidents. In fact, everyone should read this book. Then, if you have questions for the author join John and I for a themed #cclivechat about this case on September 7, 2012, from noon-1pm EST.

R.I.P Duncan MacPherson



  1. […] in the frigid temperatures. At some point, a tiller, which grooms the snow, ran over his body, killing him. Some doctors suggest that MacPherson was actually conscious upon impact, claiming his arms were […]