The chronology of events
13th May 2009
This is the timescale of the series of events as reported by Canadian TV and compiled with infomation PlanetSKI has received from Lynda MacPherson.
For an overview of the story of Duncan MacPherson’s disappreance and the parents long quest to find answers, see this related story on PlanetSKI.
August 4, 1988: Yin Chung Chiu, a student from Hong Kong, falls into a crevasse on the Stubai glacier ski slope. He is rescued from the crevasse in critical condition and dies five days later.
August 2, 1989: Duncan leaves for Europe, heading first to Nuremberg, Germany, to visit his old friend, George Pesut.
August 4, 1989: Duncan calls home to say he has arrived in Nuremberg. This is the last time the MacPhersons hear from their son.
August 7, 1989: Wanting to spend a few days traveling around Europe, Duncan borrows George Pesut’s car and leaves Nuremberg. He drives to Fussen, Germany, where he spends the night at the apartment of his friend, Roger Kortko.
August 8, 1989: Duncan leaves Fussen, Germany, and drives to Innsbruck, Austria, where he checks into a youth hostel. This is the last date any of his friends see him alive.
August 9, 1989:
10:30 am – 11:00 am: Duncan arrives at the snowboarding school at the top of the Stubai glacier ski resort and asks Walter Hinterhölzl for a private snowboard lesson. Hinterhölzl takes Duncan to the rental shop located at the glacier where, he says, Duncan rented a Duret snowboard from Seppi Repetschnig, an employee at the rental shop. The board is rented for the whole day.
12:45 pm: Duncan’s snowboard lesson ends. He and Hinterhölzl have lunch on the mountain.
1:30 pm: Duncan makes arrangements to have a second lesson with Hinterhölzl on the following day, then heads back out on the slope to practice on his own.
2:30 pm: Duncan is seen snowboarding in the practice area. This is the last time he is seen alive.
August 10, 1989: Duncan fails to show up for his second lesson with Hinterhölzl.
August 12, 1989: The day Duncan is supposed to arrive in Dundee, Scotland, to begin work as am ice-hockey player-coach for the Dundee Tigers.
August 13, 1989: According to an employee of the ski resort, a mesh safety fence was installed on this day in the crevasse area where Duncan fell in. Authorities would later claim the fence had already been in place at the time of Duncan’s disappearance.
August 15, 1989: George Pesut returns to Nuremberg after attending a wedding and is surprised to see that Duncan has not returned the car he lent him. He is also surprised to see Duncan’s luggage still in the apartment.
August 16, 1989: A player-coach with the Dundee Tigers calls Duncan’s parents, Bob and Lynda MacPherson, to say Duncan has not shown up in the UK. The MacPhersons call George Pesut who tells them Duncan has not returned with his car and he is concerned.
August 17, 1989: George Pesut reports Duncan missing to the West German police in Nuremberg.
August 19, 1989: Bob and Lynda call the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and ask them to file a missing persons report in Europe. RCMP say they do not deal with missing person reports on weekends. The MacPhersons leave information about Duncan and the missing car with the Canadian Embassies in Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland, and ask that the information be distributed to the police in their jurisdictions.
August 21, 1989: Bob and Lynda file a missing person report with the RCMP in Saskatoon.
August 22, 1989: Interpol Ottawa files the missing person bulletin for Duncan with Interpol Austria and several other countries.
August 27, 1989: The MacPhersons, their son Derrick and Duncan’s girlfriend fly to Europe to search for Duncan. In their luggage are 2000 missing persons posters in English, German and Italian.
August 30, 1989: The MacPherson entourage meets George Pesut in Nuremberg. He tells them he does not think the police are taking the disappearance seriously.
August 31, 1989: The MacPhersons arrive in Innsbruck and start searching in the Austrian Alps.
September 1, 1989: Bob and Lynda report Duncan missing to the Austrian police. Despite the Interpol missing persons report filed over a week earlier, local police departments have not received the bulletin and are unaware of Duncan’s disappearance.
September 6, 1989: Police in Innsbruck remove the information provided by the MacPhersons from their police computers. They say this was done because “the previous bulletin had brought no results.”
September 14, 1989: Interpol Austria distributes to Austrian police information about Duncan that had been sent by Interpol Ottawa. Bob and Lynda ask Innsbruck police to conduct a search of hotel and hostel registrations in the Innsbruck area. They are told that it is impossible to conduct such a search.
September 18, 1989: Innsbruck police begin searching hotels and hostels for Duncan’s registration.
September 20, 1989: At Bob and Lynda’s request, Austrian television station ORF broadcasts a missing persons bulletin about Duncan that shows a picture of the car he was driving. An employee of the Stubai glacier ski resort contacts police after seeing the bulletin. He tells them the car they are looking for is in the parking lot at the Stubai glacier ski resort.
September 21, 1989: Police set up a large-scale search of the Stubai glacier area.
September 22, 1989: Walter Hinterhölzl sees the missing persons poster that Bob and Lynda have taped to their car window and immediately recognizes the photo. He finds Bob and Lynda and tells them that he gave Duncan a snowboard lesson on August 9 and that Duncan had rented a snowboard and clothing from the rental shop on the mountain. He is then interviewed by police. He also tells Bob and Lynda the name of the hostel in Innsbruck where Duncan said he was staying.
September 23, 1989: Police question the rental shop manager. He claims that all rental equipment has been returned and that the shop is not missing any gear, implying that Duncan returned his rented snowboard and boots.
September 23 – 25, 1989: Police and alpine rescue volunteers conduct large scale searches for Duncan in the glacier area.
September 25, 1989: Innsbruck police tell Bob and Lynda that Duncan had not registered as a guest at any hotel or hostel in Tyrol at any time in August 1989.
Bob and Lynda go to the youth hostel in Innsbruck where Walter Hinterhölzl said Duncan was staying. The clerk at the registration desk provides a copy of Duncan’s registration for the night of August 8 . The registration showed Duncan’s signature. When the MacPhersons tell police they are wrong in saying that Duncan didn’t stay at a hostel in the area, the police officer becomes angry and refuses to discuss it.
September 29, 1989: Lynda and German-speaking friend Felicity Lamb visit the rental shop. They are told that the shop is not missing any equipment, which means that Duncan must have returned his snowboard. When they ask to see the equipment logbook, which would show Duncan’s equipment rental, they are told that a new book has just been started and the old one has been thrown away.
October 4, 1989: Secretary of State for External Affairs, Joe Clark, writes to MP Ray Funk about the Austrian investigation, stating that “I am completely satisfied with the efforts undertaken by the Austrians and feel that everything that can be done has been done.” Clark also denies the MacPherson’s request to use DND helicopters to fly search teams to the Stubai glacier.
October 8, 1989: Canadian search team arrives in Austria to help in the search, funded by the MacPhersons themselves. The team is headed by Michael Doyle from British Columbia.
October 13/14, 1989: Large-scale searches are conducted involving Austrian and Canadian search teams.
October 14, 1989: Search operations are stopped when it is concluded a search is futile. The MacPhersons leave for home, as does the Canadian search team.
January 14, 1990: Final detailed incident report on the search for Duncan is submitted to the provincial court in Innsbruck.
July 1990: Bob and Lynda return to Austria and discuss their misgivings about the 1989 investigation into Duncan’s disappearance with the public prosecutor in Austria. He decides to open another investigation into the disappearance.
While visiting the Stubai glacier ski resort, Bob and Lynda see a woman fall through a snow-bridge in the same crevasse area where Duncan’s body would eventually be found. The woman is caught by her partner.
August 13, 1990: In a statement to police, the rental shop clerk says that he cannot recall if Duncan rented a snowboard from his shop. He also repeats his statement that no snowboards are missing.
August 23, 1993: The German television program “Bitte Melde Dich” airs a programme about the disappearance of Duncan, asking for any information regarding his whereabouts.
February 9, 1994: The MacPhersons are informed in a phone call from Germany that Duncan may have been found. A man claiming to have amnesia and going by the name of Mark Schoffman has been found and is described as fitting Duncan’s description. He turns out not to be Duncan MacPherson.
Lindsay Hiseler of External Affairs sends a telex from Ottawa to Austria stating that Austrian authorities have not addressed the family’s concerns.
July 18, 2003:
3:00 pm: Duncan MacPherson’s body is discovered on a ski slope on the Stubai glacier. The body is only partly exposed; the majority is still encased in glacier ice. The death certificate says he died from multiple trauma after a fall into a crevasse.
3:15 pm: An employee of the ski resort notifies police of the discovery of the body.
3:35 pm: A police helicopter heads to the site to take pictures. The pilot, the only police presence at the scene, then leaves the body’s recovery in the hands of employees of the ski resort, and leaves.
5:00 pm: A police officer arrives at the ski resort and waits in the parking area at the base of the mountain.
Employees of the Stubai glacier ski resort chisel the body, snowboard and one boot out of the ice. There is no police presence at the scene during the body’s recovery and the site is not secured.
6:20 pm: Duncan MacPherson’s body and the items found with him are flown to the parking lot at the base of the mountain and handed over to the undertaker and the waiting police officer. Duncan’s identification is found in a clothing pocket. The serial number is missing from the snowboard.
A Request for Notification of Next of Kin is sent to Ottawa. It states that the body was found 120m east of the Eisjoch ski lift. However, a police report made by the officer who photographed the scene states the body was found 35 m east of the lift.
7:00 pm: The body is transported to a funeral chapel in Neustift, a village near the glacier.
8:40 pm: Only hours after the body’s recovery, the Prosecutor releases the body for burial.
9:00 pm: The district physician finishes examining the body and concludes multiple trauma as the cause of death. At this point the body is still fully frozen. The clothes are not removed from the body and no internal examinations are made. The undertaker takes the body to a funeral home.
July 19, 2003: Austrian press release says Duncan plunged with his snowboard into the free skiing area outside of the official ski run. It repeats the assertion that the body was located 120 m east of the Eisjoch ski lift.
The snowboard is found with MacPherson’s body.
Walter Hinterhölzl believes it was rented at the resort shop, even though, for years, they claimed that the board had been returned.
3:00 am (local time): Bob and Lynda are notified of the death of Duncan. They immediately make arrangements to travel to Austria.
21 July, 2003: At the funeral home, police officers examine Duncan’s frozen body and the artifacts found with it. The body was still frozen to the coffin, so that clothes could not be removed and the body could not be turned over for a full examination.
July 22, 2003: Four days after the discovery of the body, police officers conduct an investigation of the death site. The site had not been cordoned off or secured in the intervening days.
Duncan’s remains are transferred from the funeral home to the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Innsbruck for identification. Forensic pathologist Dr. Walter Rabl is asked to do an examination for identification purposes only. Police officers ask to have Duncan’s jaws removed, they say, for identification purposes. Dr. Rabl refuses to carry out the procedure. Instead, he uses dental records to positively identify the body. He does not conduct an autopsy, since the prosecutor did not request one.
July 23, 2003: Police interview two ski resort workers about the discovery of the body.
Bob and Lynda ask the Prosecutor to conduct an autopsy. Their request is refused.
July 28, 2003: Bob and Lynda go to the death scene. There they discover shards of Duncan’s bones, pieces of his clothing, and a piece of the snowboard with the missing serial number.
July 30, 2003: The district physician signs the Report of Death. He indicates on the form that an autopsy has been performed, even though none has been. He lists the cause of death as multiple traumas after fall into crevasse.
August 4, 2003: Duncan’s body is cremated in Austria.
October, 2003: Bob and Lynda receive the police report and learn for the first time of another fatal accident (see August 4, 1988) that occurred near the same location where Duncan died, just one year before Duncan went missing. Over the years, the MacPhersons had repeatedly asked for information about other accidents, but were never told of any other similar ones.
October 6, 2003: Austrian authorities close the investigation into the death of Duncan MacPherson, with the findings that the death was an accident and no third party was involved.
September 27, 2004: Dr. Bernhard Knapp of the District Administration Office in Innsbruck police tells the Canadian Embassy that Austrian police “regard this matter as concluded, we shall no longer be in contact with the family MacPherson.”
May 15, 2006: Bob and Lynda file an appeal with the Austrian Minister of Justice over the closing of the Duncan MacPherson file.
July 18, 2006: The statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit in the death of Duncan MacPherson expires.
September 5, 2006: The Austrian Minister of Justice sends a letter to Bob and Lynda denying their request.
The Austrian authorities have maintained all along they did everything possible to discover what happened to Duncan and to assist the parents in what was a very difficult investigation. The whole case has recently been taken to the European Court of Human Rights and the court found that the rights and freedoms of Duncan MacPherson had not been violated. In other words everything that could have been done by the authorities had been done.