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. Dear Monsieur Vidocq, Thank you so much for your passionate interest in my book, and thank you for reading it with so much care and thought.

    I would like to make two critical observations about your generous review:

    1). I was unable to find evidence that the man responsible for Duncan’s violent death intended to kill him. Had the culprit been tried under Austrian law, it almost would have almost certainly been for the crime of “Fahrlässige Tötung”–i.e., “negligent homicide.”

    2). According to an experienced trauma surgeon who analyzed the evidence, Duncan’s severed hands and forearms strongly indicate that he reached out to protect himself from the machine, which indicates that he was conscious at the moment he interacted with the machine.

    Thanks again for the favorable review! -John Leake

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for the comment!

    Re 1) Agreed, but I’d like to get some opinions of prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers on this. I agree there is no evidence anyone set out to kill Duncan but it is clear there was gross negligence possibly murder in the 3rd degree.

    Re 2) As much as I realize that the trauma surgeon might be right my heart wishes to believe that Duncan was unconscious … I’m only human.

    Much appreciate our collaboration, V

  3. Bones DLC says:

    Duncan MacPherson’s case is definitely interesting given the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, combined with the evidence of his car, rental equipment, and the treatment of his body after death. A postmortem exam would have answered all the questions tied to his death and there is no way to definitively determine what he died from without an autopsy, or an intact body. I find it curious that his body was cremated. Looking at the patterns of trauma on the bone and hand, provided by Mr. Leake’s site, the fractures of the leg immediately attracted my attention. It almost looks as if the lower limb had been crushed in life and fractured in multiple places. In persons I’ve seen that have suffered falls, the fracture pattern has been either an oblique or spiral break, usually in one location and can affect both the tibia and fibula, not multiple locations on the leg, as Duncan has.

    Some of the injury patterns on the upper limbs are suspect and Mr. Leake has clearly done his research by consulting with Dr. Gollogy. I think what may be the most informative is evidence from the clothing. If Duncan’s clothes have evidence of shredding and tearing, consistent with sharp force trauma, then it seems unlikely that his death was the result of a simple fall, but may have had other contributing factors. Again, since I have not seen the body or the scene, I cannot be certain. I would agree that the injury patterns on the lower limb occur in areas usually associated with parry fractures, breaks in bone that happen when an individual is trying to shield their face or body from trauma.

    I’d also agree that the snowboard does look like it has been damaged by a tiller. There was a case in the Western United States of a boy being injured by a snow tiller. I am curious to know if x-rays or any evidence of the pattern of trauma produced on his body would be available for review. This would allow for a comparison of MacPherson’s limbs to a known case of tiller injury. There is also the possibility of doing experimental work, such as taking a pig carcass and exposing it to a tiller to see if the fracture patterns are the same.

    I find it unsettling that a proper autopsy was not done on an individual missing as long as Duncan had been. I only wish the family may find the answers they seek.

  4. Thank you, Dr. Bones!

    What do you make of the cable? See here: Also, after all these years and with little evidence left, can we still establish whether Duncan was alive when he was hit by a machine? It would be great if you can join us for #cclivechat on Sept 7 when John is my guest.

    Thanks, V

  5. Many thanks for your comments, Dr. Bones. Indeed, Duncan’s left leg has been chopped into pieces, and it is cleanly amputated above the knee. He was a 6’1″ pro hockey player who weighed 200 pounds; consider the amount of cutting force required to sever his femur plus his massive thigh muscles and tendons. Also, please note that his left hip displays no deceleration trauma as one would expect if his lower leg was destroyed upon impact from a high velocity fall. Consider also that his right leg is completely uninjured, indicating that the destructive force was applied only to his left leg.

    His left foot has been amputated, and the left side of the heel has a large gouge that it approximately the same size and shape as a tiller tine. His left knee and tibia also bear a crescent-shaped cut that matches the crescent-shaped cuts on his snowboard, which were clearly made from a rotating instrument.

    Both of his hands have been severed–the shafts of the Proximal phalanges and Metacarpals cut all the way through–just as both of his forearms have been severed. And just as there is no deceleration trauma to his left hip, both of his shoulders are in good shape, indicating that the force was applied only to his lower arms and hands. Both his left foot and his right hand display avulsed tendons, indicating they were struck by an instrument that cut them and pulled on them at the same time–i.e., a relatively dull metal tine rotatating at a very high speed.

    As for why no autopsy was performed: The forensic doctor who handled the case is corrupt, as I document in my book and on my website.


  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 […]

Speak Your Mind


10 + = 15

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.