In the late 1960s, Kimberley was a one-company town located in the East Kootenays. The population was around 7,000, and most worked in Cominco’s iron and fertilizer plants or in the mines. Robin Porter was the superintendent of Cominco, and he was in the process of moving his family, including wife Patricia and son Philip, to Trail, where he would take over an even more impressive role heading up the multi-million dollar Fording Coal Company.
The Porters lived in a large white company house that sat on four acres on Giegerich Road in Townsite, a short walk through a wooded area from the town centre. At around 1 p.m. on June 26, 1969, Patricia asked Philip to go to the grocery store to pick up some supplies. Philip was 16 and had an intellectual disability, and when he hadn’t returned by 5 p.m., Patricia called around to his friends. No one had seen him, and Patricia phoned the police to report him missing. They immediately put out a missing persons bulletin on the local radio station.
While police were searching for Philip, Patricia received a strange phone call from a man demanding $100,000 for the safe return of her son. He said if she told police, her son was dead. He’d be in touch with further instructions.
The search for Philip continued into the next day, with 1,500 volunteers, an RCMP plane, and a tracking dog. Retired RCMP Sergeant Fred Bodnaruk was the lead investigator on Philip’s case. He said: “Kimberley was a hundred-year-old mining town, and there are deep tunnels and shafts that can be 1,140 feet deep. A lot of the locals believe if you want to get rid of somebody, you throw them down a mine shaft. We went through all of them with a camera and a probe.”
And then on July 17, three weeks after Philip was last seen, the Porters received a ransom note in the mail. It was typed on cheap paper in capital letters without punctuation or sentence breaks, signed “The Syndicate.”
BOY ALIVE WELL MISSES MOTHER SMARTEN UP IF YOU WANT HIM BACK ALIVE YOU WERE TOLD NOT TO CALL COPS JUNE 26 DUMB PLAY YOUR PART FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS EXACTLY OR YOU WILL NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN TRUST US AS NO ONE WILL EVER FIND HIM …
Robin Porter raised the $100,000 and waited for the next note to arrive. It came a week later with instructions on where to leave the money. Police had staked out the area and were able to arrest the extortionist—Earl Bennett, a 52-year-old disgruntled Cominco employee.
Bennett received jail time for extortion but was found not guilty of kidnapping and murder.
Philip is still missing.
- For more information: Cold Case Canada Podcast Kidnapped: The Philip Porter Story
Eve Lazarus is a reporter and author, and she hosts and produces the Cold Case Canada true crime podcast. This is an excerpt from Eve’s latest book Cold Case BC: The Stories Behind the Province’s Most Intriguing Murder and Missing Person Cases.