Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Aug. 11, 2008)


Bus horror brings out the crazies


  By John Martin

Official reaction to the horrific murder aboard a Greyhound bus has been bizarre, yet not unpredictable. An unprovoked attack on a sleeping passenger followed by his decapitation and now reports of cannibalism is bound to provoke some strange response. It sounds like a scene straight out of a low budget slasher film rather than something that could actually happen on a late night trip between Edmonton and Winnipeg.

Immediately, as might be expected in these hyper-vigilant times, calls for enhanced security aboard Greyhound were made by a range of commentators, most of whom know even less about transit security procedures than they do about bus travel. Some suggested passengers be patted down and searched, similar to airport security measures. Others proposed armed security personnel aboard the buses. There are also reports that more than one opposition MP has publicly mused about a knife registry. If true, this confirms the notion that you needn’t be the sharpest knife in the drawer to sit in parliament in this country.

I essentially lived on Greyhound buses for about ten months many years ago. Ninety-nine dollars used to buy a thirty-day pass that allowed unlimited travel throughout North America in any direction whatsoever. I’d spend the day exploring whatever city or town I woke up in and catch some shut-eye on whatever bus was heading out at the end of a long day. Most times I wasn’t even interested in where it was going or would end up eight hours later. Everything was much more spontaneous that way.

There were always a handful of young adults at the back of the bus; some travelling in search of work and others no doubt running away from something. But during all the stories and lies told over thousands and thousands of miles I never saw a single incident even the least bit threatening. Other than keeping your wallet nice and close at night, there was never the slightest thought that something could go wrong.

What happened to Tim Mclean Jr. is without precedent in Greyhound’s 95 years of operation. The grisly details of his murder have prompted headlines around the world. A notoriously demented US based church group attempted to picket his funeral to make some strange statement about Canadian’s liberal policies and life styles. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a terrorist organization in every sense of the word, tried to run a newspaper advertisement comparing Mclean’s beheading to a typical meat processing facility. The Internet is still abuzz with several subplots and wars of words. One shameless Facebook member who goes by the name of Tara even posted, "I think that Mr. Harper needs to do some explaining!!!!"

It’s highly unlikely we’ll ever understand why Tim Mclean, a mere 22 years old, was senselessly murdered and in such a horrific fashion. But the litany of twisted reactions from crazies and nutcases in the aftermath is equally bizarre and suggests Greyhound security procedures are the least of our worries.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008