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Wilbert Colin THATCHER

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Canadian politician
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 21, 1983
Date of arrest: May 7, 1984
Date of birth: August 25, 1938
Victim profile: JoAnn Wilson (his ex-wife)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment with no eligibility for parole for 25 years, 1984. Parole on December 4, 2006
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Wilbert Colin Thatcher (born 25 August 1938 in Toronto) is a former Canadian politician convicted of the murder of ex-wife, JoAnn Wilson.

Colin Thatcher was the son of Wilbert Ross Thatcher, premier of Saskatchewan from 1964 to 1971. After his father's death in 1971, Thatcher cultivated his own interest in politics. In 1975 he won the provincial riding of Thunder Creek on the Liberal Party ticket, but two years into his term he crossed the floor to the Conservatives.

The move was widely denounced by the Liberals, and also privately by his wife JoAnn, to whom Thatcher had been married since 1962. JoAnn felt disgraced by Thatcher's lack of respect for his former friends and colleagues, and their marriage began to disintegrate.

Thatcher began a number of extramarital relationships which he made little effort to hide from public scrutiny. When confronted by these indiscretions by JoAnn, Thatcher is reported to have verbally and physically abused her.

Thatcher's dalliances did not adversely affect his popularity as a politician, and in 1978 he was re-elected to the Legislative Assembly. His marriage, however, did not fare so well, and in 1980, after nearly a year of legal battling, the couple divorced.

JoAnn was awarded custody of two of their three children (two sons and one daughter), plus $820,000 for her share of the marital property; the amount was one of the highest ever awarded by a Canadian divorce court. Thatcher formally contested the settlement and ignored its custody terms, at one point flying to JoAnn's new home in Brampton to kidnap the two younger children Regan and Stephanie.

After JoAnn was shot and injured by an unidentified assailant the following year, she gave up her claim to custody of her son Regan (but retained custody of her daughter Stephanie) and settled for about half of her original court award. Many people suspected Thatcher was behind the shooting, though police never charged anyone for the incident.

Again, Thatcher's political life was largely unaffected, and he won his third straight term as MLA in 1982. This term he was appointed to the provincial cabinet as Minister of Energy and Mines. However, following public criticism and disputes with then-premier Grant Devine, he resigned from the post the following year.

Four days later, on 21 January 1983, JoAnn was found bludgeoned and shot to death in the garage of her Regina home. Again, rumours abounded that Thatcher was in some way involved, though he was not formally charged until 7 May 1984 after a lengthy police investigation. Four key pieces of evidence eventually lead to Thatcher's arrest:

  • A gasoline receipt dated 17 January, apparently with Thatcher's name on it, was found near the murder scene.

  • Neighbours reported seeing a suspicious car around the time of the shooting; a car with a matching description and licence plate was subsequently found on Thatcher's property.

  • The ammunition used in the shooting was not commonly available on the Canadian market. However, the bullet and the type of gun thought to be used in the murder match those Thatcher had previously purchased on a trip to Florida.

  • Most damningly, a man named Gary Anderson confessed to police that he had been approached by Thatcher for help in the murder. Police convinced Anderson to wear a wire and visit Thatcher; in the conversation that was recorded Thatcher made several suspicious statements which implied he was involved in the crime.

Thatcher was tried for the murder of his ex-wife in Saskatoon in the autumn of 1984. He was convicted, and was given a sentence of 25 years to life. He appealed the verdict, but the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal rejected the plea in 1986.

Subsequent requests to the Supreme Court of Canada and the national Minister of Justice for a review of his case were also denied. A request for an early parole hearing was rejected in 2000, though the jury of a later hearing in 2003 decided that he was eligible to apply. After doing so, the National Parole Board rejected his bid for early release on 31 March 2004.

On 17 March 2006 he was granted the right to a series of 72 hour passes for unescorted visits with his family. On 19 May 2006 he was granted day parole. He will be released to a halfway house in Regina, where he will be able to come and go during the day and have some overnight leaves. He must report romantic relationships to his parole officer and continue with counselling.

Throughout his trial and his appeals, Thatcher has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

The Tragically Hip song "Wheat Kings" references Thatcher.

Biographies

  • Bird, Heather. Not Above The Law: The Tragic Story of JoAnn Wilson and Colin Thatcher. Toronto: Key Porter Books Limited, 1985.

  • Mankiewicz, Francis, director. Love and Hate: The Story of Colin and Joanne Thatcher. (Television movie.) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1989.

  • Siggins, Maggie. A Canadian Tragedy, JoAnn & Colin Thatcher: A Story of Love and Hate. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2001.

  • Thatcher, Colin. Backrooms: A Story of Politics. Douglas & McIntyre, 1985.

  • Wilson, Garrett & Lesley Wilson. Deny, Deny, Deny: The Rise and Fall of Colin Thatcher. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company, 1986.
     

 
 

Wilbert Colin Thatcher (born August 25, 1938 in Toronto) was a Canadian politician convicted for the murder of his ex-wife, JoAnn Wilson. Thatcher has always insisted he is innocent.

Political life

Colin Thatcher is the son of Wilbert Ross Thatcher, premier of Saskatchewan from 1964 to 1971. Ross Thatcher began his political career with the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation but switched to the Liberal Party when the Liberals became more popular than the CCF. Colin began studying agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan.

After one year, he transferred to Iowa State University from which he graduated with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Agriculture; he then went to work on his father's ranch in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. After his father's death in 1971, Thatcher cultivated his own interest in politics.

In 1975 he won the provincial riding of Thunder Creek on the Liberal Party ticket but defected to the Progressive Conservatives two years later when the Conservatives became more popular than the Liberals. The move was denounced by the Liberals, and also privately by his wife JoAnn, to whom Thatcher had been married since 1962.

Marital issues

JoAnn felt disgraced by Thatcher's behaviour and their marriage began to disintegrate. Thatcher began a number of extramarital relationships which he made little effort to hide from public scrutiny. When confronted by these indiscretions by JoAnn, Thatcher is reported to have verbally and physically abused her. Thatcher's dalliances did not adversely affect his popularity as a politician, and in 1978 he was re-elected to the Legislative Assembly.

Divorce

His marriage, however, did not fare so well, and in 1980, after nearly a year of legal battling, the couple divorced. JoAnn was awarded custody of two of their three children, plus $820,000 for her share of the marital property; the amount was one of the highest ever awarded by a Canadian divorce court. Thatcher formally contested the settlement and ignored its custody terms, at one point flying to JoAnn's new home in Brampton to kidnap the children.

JoAnn married Tony Wilson soon afterward, but she had to endure almost constant harassment from her ex-husband. After JoAnn was shot and injured by an unidentified assailant the following year, thought to be Thatcher, she gave up her claim to custody of Regan, the middle child, and settled for about half of her original court award. JoAnn and Tony believed that Thatcher was behind the shooting, but never pressed charges.

Again, Thatcher's political life was largely unaffected, and he won his third straight term as MLA at the 1982 election. The Saskatchewan Tories won a majority government in that election, and Thatcher was appointed to the provincial cabinet as Minister of Energy and Mines. However, following public criticism and disputes with then-premier Grant Devine, he resigned from the post the following year.

Murder

Four days after Colin's resignation, on 21 January 1983, JoAnn was found bludgeoned and shot to death in the garage of her Regina home. Again, rumours abounded that Thatcher was in some way involved, though he was not formally charged until 7 May 1984, after a lengthy police investigation.

Evidence

Four key pieces of evidence eventually led to Thatcher's arrest:

  • A credit card receipt dated 17 January, four days before the murder, with Thatcher's name and signature on it, was found near the murder scene.

  • Neighbours reported seeing a suspicious car, an orange Ford Mustang, parked outside the Wilson residence around the time of the murder. The car's licence plates were illegible because they were covered with mud. When a neighbour tried to wipe off the mud, she was only able to uncover the numbers "292" before the car pulled away. A car with a matching description and licence plate was subsequently found on Thatcher's property; it was traced to the Saskatchewan government loaned vehicles parking lot.

  • The ammunition (.357 Magnum) and the type of gun (Ruger Security Six) thought to be used in the murder match those Thatcher had previously purchased on a trip to Florida.

  • Most damningly, a man named Garry Anderson confessed to police that he had been approached by Thatcher for help in the murder. He resembled the man neighbours described as sitting in the orange Ford Mustang while it was parked outside the Wilson residence. He also named two other men Cody Crutcher and Charlie Wilde as participants with him in the plot. The three men told police that: a) it was Anderson whom neighbours had seen sitting in the Ford Mustang outside the Wilson residence, b) there was a disguise in the Mustang back seat, and c) it was Colin Thatcher wearing the disguise who actually committed the murder. Police convinced Anderson to wear a wire and meet with Thatcher to try to elicit a confession or reveal details of the murder. During the recorded conversation, Thatcher made several statements that implied he was involved in the crime. Though Anderson made several attempts to elicit an incriminating statement, Thatcher did not confess directly. However, he did tell Anderson repeatedly to deny any direct accusations or indirect allegations. His responses and evasiveness, in addition to other evidence, convinced police that he was the mastermind.

Conviction

Thatcher was tried in Saskatoon for the murder of his ex-wife in the autumn of 1984. In addition to the evidence presented, he insisted on testifying so that he could try and explain the recorded conversation between Gary Anderson and him. His explanation of every detail and potential misunderstanding seemed so rehearsed and unbelievable that it proved more harmful than helpful.

He was found guilty, and was given a sentence of life imprisonment with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. He appealed the verdict, but the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal rejected the plea in 1986. Subsequent requests to the Supreme Court of Canada and the national Minister of Justice for a review of his case were also denied. A request for an early parole hearing was rejected in 2000, though the jury of a later hearing in 2003 decided that he was eligible to apply. He did so, and on 31 March 2004 the National Parole Board rejected his bid for early release. Throughout his trial and his appeals, Thatcher has steadfastly maintained his innocence, which he admits is probably the reason he was not paroled until late 2006.

Parole

On December 18, 2006, he made his first public appearance since being paroled two weeks before, when he appeared at the Saskatchewan Legislature for a ceremony honouring former Premiers of the province. Thatcher spoke with the media about the accomplishments of his late father, but refused to discuss the murder of his ex-wife.

Thatcher has written a 440-page book about his case, entitled Final Appeal: Anatomy of a Frame. It was released by ECW Press on September 1, 2009.

On April 21, 2010, Thatcher agreed to relinquish any profits related to the sale of his book, beginning with his $5,000 advance from his publisher. Thatcher has also instructed the publisher of his book to forward any further royalties from its sale to the Saskatchewan government.

Wikipedia.org 

 

 
 
 
 
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