Canadian Taxi Driver Homicides: Glenda Ferster Previous page    Next page • Driver Profiles

Glenda Ferster

Calgary, Alberta / February 23, 1977

Glenda Ferster, 21, picked up a man at the Calgary airport at about 8:30 or 9:00 o'clock on the morning of Wednesday, February 23, 1977. On the trip downtown he asked Ferster how much it would cost for a ride to Banff and she gave him an estimate of $52. She told him to leave a message for her with one of the Yellow Taxi dispatchers when he wanted a cab for the trip. The dispatcher in question was her fiance.

At about 11 a.m. the man called the cab office. Ms. Ferster's fiance passed on the message and at about 11:20 a.m. she picked her killer at the Hudson's Bay store. Before she left she called her fiance and told him that she was on her way to Banff. Nothing more was known of her until her body was found seven days later.

The killer, described as "extremely dangerous and violent" and "criminally insane", was an inmate of the Alberta Hospital near Edmonton. In 1972 he had been found not guilty of rape, attempted murder and other charges by reason of insanity following attacks on two Calgary women and a young girl. One young woman was raped and had her throat slashed in a city park. At his trial a psychiatrist testified that no hospital in Alberta could hold the man and that it was imperative that he be kept at a secure institution.

Nevertheless, he was deemed to have made "remarkable progress" and was allowed out on unsupervised day passes four times. On the fourth occasion he left the hospital at about 6 a.m. on February 23, ostensibly to look for work in Edmonton. Instead he took a plane to Calgary where he found Ms. Ferster on the airport taxi stand. Authorities later learned that he had $500 on him when he left the hospital.

Her killer was the only witness to Ms. Ferster's last hours. In his confession he said that on the way out of Calgary they stopped at an A&W and picked up some root beer and hamburgers. Later he told Ms. Ferster that he was actually only going as far as Exshaw, and in the course of looking for Exshaw they had to stop and turn around. At that point he put a knife to Ms. Ferster's throat and ordered her to drive down a dirt road where he raped her.

The killer then tied Ms. Ferster's hands and feet with pantyhose and shoelaces and drove the cab to a point about seven miles east of Canmore on a gravel road leading to the Exshaw garbage dump. Here he stopped and forced her to sit down in a clearing about 100 yards from the road and told her not to move until he drove away.

According to his confession he retrieved Ms. Ferster's cigarettes from the car at her request but while he was gone she managed to loosen her bonds. When he checked to see if her hands were still tied, "she jumped up and started fighting," grabbing him by the hair and kicking at him. He threw her down, choked her and beat her to death with a rock. He then stuffed her pantyhose down her throat and drove away. He abandoned the cab in Canmore and hitchhiked to Vancouver.

Ms. Ferster's cab was found the same night parked in a service station lot in Canmore. By this time Calgary police knew about the killer's escape from the Alberta Hospital and were worried about a possible connection with Ms. Ferster's disappearance, although there was nothing specific to link the two.

The RCMP launched a search of the Canmore area, using Parks Canada personnel and a helicopter to search all nearby fields and the banks of the Bow River. But three days later the RCMP called off the search, saying that they had received information that Ms. Ferster was seen driving alone east of Canmore in her cab Wednesday afternoon. "In light of this and other information we are hopeful that she decided to abandon the taxi and decided to leave without revealing her whereabouts," said an RCMP news release.

It seems probable that someone saw the killer driving the cab to Canmore and mistook him for Ms. Ferster. The man had a slight build and pale complexion and his blonde hair was long enough to cover his ears, so at first glance he might have appeared to be a woman.

Unfortunately, the premature abandonment of the search left the impression that the RCMP did not take Ms. Ferster's disappearance seriously. Earlier, an RCMP spokesman had flatly denied any connection between Ms. Ferster and the killer's escape, even though the Calgary police were concerned enough about the possibility to investigate it. The Calgary police had also found nothing in Ms. Ferster's background to suggest that she would disappear voluntarily. [Next column]

Glenda Ferster. (Source: Calgary Herald, March 2, 1977, p. 1)

Although the RCMP must have believed the source of their information to be reliable, something happened over the weekend to make them change their minds. On Tuesday, March 1 they announced that the lead had been false and reopened the search. Fifty Calgary cab drivers came to help, fanning out along the back roads surrounding Canmore. Within two hours one of them found Ms. Ferster's body in the roadside clearing where the killer had left her. The quick discovery was a further black eye for the RCMP, whose "intensive ground search" over two days had turned up nothing.

Ms. Ferster's frozen body was lying face down in the snow, fully dressed in her taxi driver uniform. The autopsy revealed that she had died instantly due to brain damage from skull fractures and asphyxiation.

The search for the killer now intensified. On March 2, the day after Ms. Ferster's body was found, a Canada-wide warrant was issued for his arrest. Additional urgency arose from the strangling death of a 19-year-old Calgary woman on the previous Saturday. Ms. Ferster's killer was considered a possible suspect in her death as well, although this proved not to be the case.

On March 4 two Victoria BC patrol officers found Ms. Ferster's killer sitting on a downtown bench placidly smoking a pipe. They arrested him without incident. He was later charged with breaking into a South Vancouver home at about 5 a.m. and forcing a pregnant woman to perform an indecent act.

As a result of the killer's arrest the Alberta government temporarily suspended the issuing of day passes for criminally insane inmates of provincial institutions pending an inquiry. Dr. James D. Earp was commissioned to investigate Alberta Hospital but with the murder case before the courts he was prevented from reporting on the specific circumstances leading up to the killer's release. Nevertheless his report, released in October, 1977, pointed out that the Alberta Hospital and the policies and procedures governing its operations were not adequate for the secure, long-term incarceration of dangerous patients.

In the days following the killer's arrest, the Calgary branch of the Church of Scientology circulated a petition among cab drivers calling for a public investigation into the practice of psychiatry.

A memorial service for Ms. Ferster on March 7 in Calgary. About 500 people attended, and uniformed Yellow Cab drivers acted as pall bearers. Her body was then taken to her home town of Grandview Flats BC for her funeral the next day.

The killer was found guilty of first degree murder despite a defence of insanity. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years.

In 1980 the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the guilty verdict but replaced the first degree murder conviction with a conviction for second degree murder.