A Dead Man’s Prints, RCMP request to fingerprint Wiebo Ludwig’s corpse refused by Byron Christopher, September 14, 2012, The Dominion
HYTHE, AB—The day after controversial eco-activist Wiebo Ludwig died, the RCMP wanted to open his coffin and take his fingerprints one final time. His family refused. The media-savvy reverend was seen as an “eco-warrior” by his supporters; to his foes he was an “eco-terrorist.” He was best known for his run-ins with the oil and gas industry—and the police—because of his objection to poisonous leaks. The Dutch-born preacher died from cancer of the esophagus on April 9 at his log cabin near Hythe, in northwestern Alberta. Ludwig was 70. The ink had barely dried on his death certificate when his casket was carried to a small cemetery in woods nearby and placed in an above ground concrete crypt. The previous fall I’d walked with Wiebo on a path that curves through the graveyard. At one point he stopped and, pointing with his cane, said, “This is where I’m going.”
Richard Boonstra, Ludwig’s long-time friend and a resident at Trickle Creek, called the RCMP’s request to fingerprint his corpse “odd,” “invasive” and “a terrible disrespect and interference” with human remains. Boonstra suspects the Mounties wanted to see for themselves that Wiebo Ludwig was actually dead. The request showed authorities’ discomfort with Ludwig, according to Boonstra, because, he said, Ludwig had embarrassed the “establishment.”
Doris Stapleton of RCMP Media Relations says “a fingerprint is the best way to positively identify someone, and if that person has a criminal record the fingerprints are sent to Ottawa so they’re able to take the record off CPIC.” CPIC is the Canadian Police Information Center where criminal history files are kept. The family’s attorney, Paul Moreau of Edmonton, informed the RCMP “that wouldn’t be happening.” The Mounties dropped the matter, and the heavy top covering the crypt was never raised. Moreau, a veteran criminal defence lawyer, says it was the first time he’s heard of police lifting prints off convicted criminals to close a file.
The request to fingerprint a dead and buried man came as news to recently retired correctional officer Rick Dyhm. In his 34 years as a guard at federal prisons—where numerous inmates have died—Dyhm says police never showed up to take prints off a dead inmate. In 2001, an Edmonton judge handed Ludwig a 28-month prison sentence after finding him guilty of oilfield vandalism. He was found guilty of attempting to possess explosives and “public mischief” over $5,000 after two gas well-heads nearby Trickle Creek were damaged. One had been dynamited; the other encased in concrete. Ludwig was released after serving two-thirds of his sentence. What precipitated the vandalism was a series of sour gas leaks that poisoned people and animals at Trickle Creek. The Ludwigs say when they complained to the authorities, nothing was done. The leaks continued and the people of Trickle Creek put duct tape around their doors and windows to try and keep the toxic gas at bay.
In January 2010, about 200 RCMP officers raided Trickle Creek to search for evidence in the bombing of a gas pipeline near Tom’s Lake, BC, about an hour’s drive from Ludwig’s farm. Mounties told reporters they had proof—DNA evidence—that Wiebo Ludwig was connected to the bombings. Ludwig was tricked into thinking he was just meeting with Mounties in nearby Grande Prairie, but was arrested and locked up for 24 hours. He was never charged with the Tom’s Lake bombings. Boonstra finds it odd the Mounties didn’t get around to meet with Ludwig in his final days. If police believed Ludwig shot Willis—or was behind the BC bombings—Boonstra wonders why investigators wouldn’t want to see him in the hope they might get a deathbed confession. [Emphasis added]