New book traces the trail of Shuswap’s elusive Bushman

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you’re a certain age, you might remember the story of John Bjornstrom, aka the Bushman of the Shuswap, a fugitive from justice who made headlines in the early 2000s hidden away in the surrounding countryside of British Columbia. Shuswap Lake. Now, 20 years later, someone has finally written this story down on paper.

That someone is Paul McKendrick, author of The Bushmen’s Lair: In the Footsteps of the Shuswap Fugitive. Like many first-time authors, he was motivated to tell the story because it was a book he wanted to read.

“I had a little more time, so I thought, ‘Well, if no one else writes it, then maybe I will have to because it’s the only way I can. read it, ”he said. .

McKendrick tells a story that is part of the runaway story. It not only traces the footsteps of the Bushman, but also delves into how Bjornstrom became a fugitive in the first place.

“He had been involved in private investigations for a few years when he met David Walsh, the president of Bre-X, during a chance meeting at a Calgary bar.”

Much has been written about the Bre-X mining scandal over the years, but suffice it to say that Bjornstrom may have known too much about shady events and decided to condemn it. The Calgary-based company collapsed after the discovery of a fraud at its mine in Indonesia that wiped out an estimated $ 3 billion in investor money in 1997. Walsh died the following year of an apparent brain aneurysm. .

Bjornstrom escaped from Kamloops prison and was on the run for two years before being captured in November 2001 after a massive manhunt. In 2004, he was sentenced to house arrest for 23 months after pleading guilty to 10 counts, including a break and enter.

He survived by stealing food and belongings from dozens of cabins in the woods around Shuswap Lake, where he repeatedly escaped the RCMP, but spoke to multiple media about his underground camp.

“I managed to look at the cave in person,” McKendrick says. “It was quite large, almost a thousand square feet, and it was equipped with custom shelves and furniture.”

But don’t try to look for it now.

“There is nothing left there. The authorities blew it up because they perceived it to be a security hazard, so you couldn’t find it without someone showing you where it is. But there is really nothing more to see there.

McKendrick fills in the Bushman’s backstory with help from Bjornstrom’s sister and court transcripts, coming away with a different impression of him than he started out with. And he thinks you do too.

“You know, if there’s empathy that can go out of the story, then I think it helps me feel like it was a worthy endeavor.”

Bjornstorm died in 2018 at the age of 58.

The Bushman’s Lair: In the Footsteps of the Shuswap Fugitive is available from Harbor Publishing.

– With files from the Canadian Press.

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