James Phillip Muratt is back in custody today after triggering one of the biggest manhunts in the north in several years.
On Thursday [June 30th], ten members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police closed in on an embankment overlooking the confluence of the Liard and Dease Rivers, opposite the village of Lower Post, B.C. to capture the 27-year-old native who had escaped from a prison farm at Chilliwack, B.C. on June. He was reported to be hiding out in a tent with another man and his wife and three children. The detachment at Watson Lake received
information on June 16 that he had come into the area, but were unable to pinpoint his whereabouts until Wednesday.
All indications were that Muratt was armed and dangerous. He had made statements that he was prepared to "take a few policemen with him, if he had to go". In view of the fact that he was unlawfully at large, the R.C.M.P. organized to go after
Members from the detachments at Fort Nelson, Fort St. John and Dawson Creek assisted police from Whitehorse, Teslin and Watson Lake, under the command of Inspector L. Pantry, Commanding Officer of the Yukon Sub Division. A dogmaster and a police dog from Peace River were also on the scene.
Two helicopters air-lifted the ten men to approximately five miles from the locations of the bluff at 11,30 p.m. Thursday. They made their way through the bush to behind the tent where they encountered another family and a number of horses and dogs
at 3.15 a.m. Another hour and a quarter went by while five members of the force encircled
the tent, causing some dogs to start barking, but otherwise encountering no difficulty.
Constable G.A. Loeppky of Whitehorse opened the tent flap and found Muratt asleep. He was arrested at 4.15 a.m. Friday. Police found a loaded rifle and a
30:30 unloaded rifle.
The R.C.M.P, boat was contacted by walkie-talkie and Muratt was taken across the river to Watson Lake. He was brought to Whitehorse under escort Friday, and is now awaiting transportation back to Chilliwack.
Inspector L. Pantry said today, "It was an operation of complete surprise. I think he realized that the police knew he was around, but he didn't know that we knew where."
The Inspector gave a great deal of the credit for the successful manhunt to Cpl.M. Dwernichuk in charge of the Watson Lake detachment. "He did all the research, and gained the necessary information" he said. "His knowledge of the area simplified
the whole thing."
James Muratt had originally worked as a game guide in the Lower Post area. He has a long record of crimes, including assaults with weapons and thefts. He had served three months of a one year sentence in Chilliwack for three charges of breaking and entering at Dawson Creek, when he escaped and made his way to Lower Post.