January 20, 2012

Duncan MacPherson: Cold Case

There was a time when Duncan MacPherson was a promising young NHL defense prospect. The New York Islanders drafted the Saskatoon stand out in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft in 1984.

Injuries decimated MacPherson's career almost before it started. He never played a NHL game, and was released from his contract at the age of 23.

In 1989 MacPherson decided to pursue a job as a player-coach with a team in Dundee, Scotland. Before starting with the team he headed to Europe seeking adventure and enjoying life.

MacPherson was scheduled to arrive in Dundee on August 12th, but mysteriously failed to show up. Six weeks later the car he had borrowed was found in the parking lot of the Stubaier Gletscher resort in the Stubai Alps in Austria, where he had rented a snowboard.

His disappearance was famously detailed in the CBC news show The Fifth Estate (click to watch full documentary). Authorities and family searched desperately for hints as to what had happened to MacPherson, but nothing was found. The Austrian authorities had handled the case suspiciously, adding wild theories to the drama. They had told the family that MacPherson had indeed returned the rented ski equipment, and therefore it seemed unlikely he would have gotten lost on the slopes.

Rumors swirled that he was contacted by the CIA about working as a spy, and may have faked his death.

Over 14 years after his disappearance his body was found by another skier. His body was fully encased by ice. The ski equipment was with the body. But the authorities continued to bungle the case. The body retrieval was sloppy and the autopsy somehow went missing.

As a result, MacPherson's death remains mysterious. Is this really a case, as the authorities insist, of a adventurous skier losing his life in an out-of-bounds accident? Or is there something more sinister behind the story and being covered up by authorities, as the family can not help but wonder? The MacPherson family may never really know.

The case is the focus of John Leak's new book, Cold a Long Time: An Alpine Mystery. You can also watch the full  The Fifth Estate documentary.


Ajlounyinjurylaw said...

One folly after another. Incredible.

SirSilly said...

I am the author of "Cold a Long Time: An Alpine Mystery," about Duncan's tragic death and why it was covered up. In the end, we did discover the shocking truth of what happened to Duncan, and I present all of the evidence in my book. For more information about the book, please visit:

Anonymous said...

Check out this cool video about the book, narrated by actor Bill Paxton: http://vimeo.com/41506266

Anonymous said...

I just watched the Fifth Estate story on Duncan and will certainly read "Cold a Long Time"...What a tragic story. Shame on the Austrians responsible for the anguish suffered by that young man's family. Shame on that town and the tourist industry that values dollars over truth and the well-being of the tourists. SHAME!

Anonymous said...

Why cover up a supposed accident? Would have been easy enough for the ski company to hoist blame on the snowcat driver and move on. No need for a 20yr cover up. Although I think the author of "Cold a Long Time" came as close as anyone ever will too the truth I don't think this is the end of the story. Shame, shame, shame on the Austrian supposed police who bungled this from day one. And shame on every single person who lied, covered up or in any way ignored evidence in this case. I am simply disgusted by each and every one of them. Simply to keep their employer happy they ruined the lives of an entire family. I applaud Lynda and Bob for their strength and hope to God someday, somehow, those responsible will be forced to come forward if not pay for their part in Duncans death.