Canadian police recovered two missing boys early Wednesday at the farm hideout of a convicted pedophile, ending a case that sparked angry complaints that the public does not have enough information about sex offenders living in their midst.
Peter Whitmore, 35, of Toronto, was arrested at the farm in the western province of Saskatchewan following a 10-hour standoff broadcast live on national TV. The boys, ages 10 and 14, were physically unharmed, police said.
Whitmore — who has a profile on Canada’s national sex offender registry — has been convicted four times for abduction and sexual abuse since 1993 and was released in June 2005 after a three-year jail term.
Police say he picked up the 14-year-old several weeks ago in the neighboring province of Manitoba and took him on a road trip west into Saskatchewan, where he allegedly kidnapped the 10-year-old.
Though details were sketchy, Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the teenager apparently befriended the younger boy and the two went for a bike ride Sunday. The boy’s parents reported him missing when he didn’t come home.
A tip, a description, a vehicle
Police got a tip Tuesday from someone who reported seeing a van that matched the description of Whitmore’s 1988 blue Dodge Caravan with wood paneling and an Alberta license plate.
When police arrived at the farm, the boy ran out from some brush. Police then surrounded the farm and negotiated with Whitmore to free the 14-year-old. The teenager emerged from the farmhouse minutes later. Police then engaged in lengthy negotiations leading to Whitmore’s surrender.
During the standoff, police blocked roads around the farm and at least 20 police cars converged on the area — along with TV news crews.
Afterward, the father of the 10-year-old told reporters he was not surprised his son managed to escape, and that the boy was “doing as well as can be expected.”
Shaking and crying, Lyle Miller said his son is “a very strong little boy and he will get better.” He was too overcome with emotion to finish the news conference, held outside the local police station.
Suspect to court Thursday
Whitmore was to appear in provincial court in Regina on Thursday. He is charged with one count of abduction, though authorities were determining whether additional charges would be filed.
The search for the boys triggered a national outcry, and Justice Minister Vic Toews said he would like to see a broadening of the dangerous offender designation, which could allow judges to impose longer or tougher sentences.
Toews also said he wants the national sex offender registry to work better. “We have to examine to what extent we should be releasing more information to the public,” he said.
Canada’s newly elected Conservative government has vowed to introduce tougher criminal penalties. Among their plans are bills to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16; install a mandatory DNA databank for convicted sex offenders; remove the possibility of house arrest for sex offenders; and crack down on child pornographers.