Mad Trapper not a Canadian, scientific tests discover

Mad Trapper not a Canadian, scientific tests discover

Last Updated: Friday, February 20, 2009 | 5:23 PM CT

The infamous Mad Trapper was, among other things, an American or Scandinavian who was in his 30s when police shot him dead nearly 80 years ago, according to scientific analysis of the Arctic outlaw's remains.

DNA analysis has shed new light on the identity of the Mad Trapper, also known as Albert Johnson, who rose to infamy in the early 1930s for killing an RCMP officer, sparking a five-week manhunt through the northern wilderness before he was shot dead.

The scientific testing was done for Myth Merchant Films, an Edmonton-based film company that has produced a television documentary about exhuming and analyzing Johnson's remains.
Hunt for the Mad Trapper is scheduled to air May 21 at 8 p.m. ET on Discovery Channel Canada.

"Albert Johnson grew up in the northern United States or northern Scandinavia," producer Carrie Gour told CBC News, adding that scientists found this out by analyzing isotopes in Johnson's teeth.
News of Johnson's nationality may disappoint dozens of Canadians who had submitted their DNA for testing, hoping that they may be related to the Mad Trapper.

"We got a lot of people who thought that Albert was a long-lost uncle and in a few cases, a father," Gour said.

Gour said the analysis also determined that Johnson was in his 30s when he died. More details about the outlaw will be revealed when the documentary airs in May, she added.

Since Johnson was buried in Aklavik, N.W.T., in 1932, his identity had largely been a mystery. Previous attempts by others to exhume his remains were rejected by hamlet officials in Aklavik, who have said the dead should be respected.

In 2007, the hamlet granted Myth Merchant permission after Gour and her team promised to conduct the exhumation in a culturally respectful way.

But some elders in the area say they're still not comfortable with scientists poking and prodding at the dead.

"When you bury someone, you just leave it there," said Inuvik resident Winston Moses, whose father John was one of the RCMP special constables who tracked down Johnson.

"You respect [it]. Even the dead people get respect."

Others say they hope Hunt for the Mad Trapper will bring publicity and tourists to Aklavik, a community of 600.

"There's going to be some really stunning visuals and a re-creation of the manhunt," said Inuvik resident Dennis Allen, who helped the filmmakers obtain permission to dig up the remains.

"I think that people are going to really understand now what Aklavik is about and where it is on the map."