JoAnn Wilson, Thatcher’s former wife, was shot and beaten to death on January 21, 1983 in her garage of her Regina home. Colin Thatcher was convicted of murdering his ex-wife in 1984. This crime was reported by CBC’s The National as being the most notorious crime in Saskatchewan History. Thatcher’s trial was a national sensation.
There were many things used as key evidence in Thatcher’s conviction. During their investigation after the killing the police found a Shell Oil credit card receipt laying in the snow after eight feet from the garage. The signature appeared to be Colin Thatcher. The owner of the Shell was able to confirm Thatcher purchased gas in Caron, Saskatchewan on January 18, 1983. According to expert police testimony, which JoAnn Wilson was probably struck in the head with a .38 special plus P, aluminum jacketed, 95 grain bullet manufactured by Winchester. The murder weapon was never found. The proprietor of a gun shop in Palm Springs, California, Ronald Williams, testified that on January 29, 1982 he sold Colin Thatcher a .357 calibre Ruger revolver. Thatcher picked up the gun, holster, and ammunition on February 20, 1982. The witness also identified the holster found by the witness, Guillaum, as being consistent with the holster he sold to Colin Thatcher. The crown also called Lynn Mendell, of Palm Springs, California, a former girlfriend of Thatcher. She described the bitterness Thatcher expressed about Wilson, and how he maintained many times that he wanted to kill her or arrange someone to do it for him. Mendell testified that this was on his mind all the time. She also stated that Thatcher told her he had met with someone in Saskatchewan who he wanted to hire to kill JoAnn Wilson. He eventually told her that the plan fell through but he would have to go about it one way or another. These conversations occurred in late 1980 and early 1981. Mendell told the court in May of 1981 that after Wilson was shot Thatcher came down to Palm Springs. He told her he got someone to rent him a car, he wore a disguise and that he staked out an area but didn’t gauge the thickness of the glass. This left the bullet deflecting and striking JoAnn Wilson in the shoulder. Lynn Mendell also testified that she knew Thatcher had a handgun in Palm Springs that he packed in a Barbie Doll shower box with newspaper. A box matching this description was found by the Regina City Police in a Thatcher’s home in Moose Jaw. On the day of the killing, Ms. Mendell said she received two calls from Thatcher, one early and another later in the evening.
During the first call Colin Thatcher told her:
Well, I’m going out now. This might be the night, stick around.
During the later call he said:
Oh, my God, I’ve just been called…Apparently JoAnn has been shot in her home and has been killed.
Thatcher, according to Ms. Mendell, came to Palm Springs a few days after the fatal shooting. She said to him:
Well, you really did it, didn’t you.
She said he scowled, nodded, pointed to the walls, and told her not to talk there. Later, when they were outside the condominium, he was alleged to have said:
I have to admit it is a strange feeling to have blown your wife away.
Next witness called to testify was Gary Anderson who was under an agreement of immunity from prosecution. He testified he had met Thatcher in the fall of 1980 and Thatcher asked him if he would be interested in killing JoAnn Wilson for a fee of $50,000. Anderson said he knew of someone else who might be interested in the job, Charlie Wilde. Wilde and Thatcher met but Thatcher told him he would handle it after he got back from the states. Anderson also testified that Thatcher got him to purchase a .303 Lee Enfield rifle and ammunition. On May 16 or 17, 1981 he also rented a car at Thatcher’s request. Under Thatcher’s given instructions Anderson left it a prearranged location and waited to here if she had been shot. After hearing he retrieved the car, cleaned it out and returned it to the rental dealer. They met again in the fall of 1982 and Anderson asked Thatcher how he could of missed. Thatcher purchased another gun a .357 Magnum Special and asked Anderson to put a silencer on it. The gun was returned to Thatcher on the afternoon of January 21, 1983. Earlier that morning Thatcher asked Anderson to get him a car. He followed directions again and when he read in the newspaper that JoAnn Wilson had been killed he went to retrieve the car. He again cleaned out the car and noticed that the clothing he removed Thatcher had been wearing the day before. On May 1, 1984 they met again but this time Anderson had been provided a body pack tape recorder. Here’s a brief extract from the conversation:
Anderson: Umm, I got rid of the ah stuff outta’ the car.
Anderson: You kinda’ give me a scare there with, I found the stuff laying and then I wondered what the hell, I didn’t know where the hell you, what the hell you’d done with the gun. (Sighs).
Thatcher: Listen, don’t even talk…
Thatcher: …like that. Don’t. Don’t, don’t even…Walk out this way a little (unintelligible).
Thatcher: No. There are, there are no loose ends at all. And ah…
Thatcher: …y’know, they’ve gone at every which direction. Umm, is there any way a loose end from a couple years ago can ever resurface?
Thatcher: From some of ahh, some of the guys tha, th, that ah, discussing some business with. Is there any way can ever be a problem surface from them?
Anderson: Mmm, y’mean the, from Vancouver and Winnipeg? Ahh. I ah located one of ’em.
Thatcher: The one that I met or the other one?
Anderson: Ahh, the other one.
Anderson: Well. It’s up to you.
Thatcher: Is he in, or, he’s not in jail now is he, or in any trouble?
Anderson: Not to my knowledge.
Thatcher: Okay an’ just remember there are no er, no problems an’ there won’t be unless they trip over something an’ I got no intention of giving them anything to trip on.
Thatcher: There’s no loose ends like, y’know, there’s nothin’ for them t’ find. Y’know.
Anderson: It’s all been…
Anderson: …taken care of.
Thatcher: Sure. Heavens yes. Heavens yes. I’m ahh, but still don’t trust the bastards for bugs. Me, I don’t know whether there’s any possibility that that, ‘ts why when we talk ah, just assume the bastards are listening.
In November 1984 Thatcher was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Five years later Thatcher asks federal justice minister to review his case. His request was turned down in April 1994. In August 1999 a judge rules that a jury will hear Thatcher’s bid for early parole eligibility under the so called faint hope clause. The jury in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan rejected Thatcher’s bid for early parole in November 2000. He again applies for a faint-hope hearing in January 2003. Thatcher gets approved by a judge for a second faint-hope hearing in March 14, 2003. On October 8th, 2003 the moose Jaw jury grants Thatcher the right to apply for early parole. On December 5th, 2003 the Saskatchewan Crown seeks leave to appeal the jury verdict to the Supreme Court of Canada. But a parole board in Mission, B.C. denies Thatcher’s bid for an early release on March 31, 2004 saying he’s still a risk to the community. The supreme court rejects Saskatchewan’s bid to have Thatcher’s early parole eligibility overturned on April 1, 2004. Thatcher is granted a 72 hour unescorted pass from the prison to spend Christmas with his three children and their spouses and grandchildren. On March 17, 2006 a parole board grants Thatcher a series of 72 hour passes from the Rockwood Institution near Winnipeg saying that he doesn’t pose any danger to the community. In November 2006 Thatcher was granted full parole with the condition that he must report all romantic relationships to authorities. As well as undergo psychological counselling as another condition of his early release.
He is the son of W. Ross Thatcher, premier of Saskatchewan from 1964 to 1971. Colin began studying agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. After one year, he transferred to Iowa State University where he met JoAnn Geiger. In 1962, Thatcher and Geiger married. Thatcher graduated from Iowa State with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Agriculture; he then went to work on his father’s ranch in Moose Jaw. After his father’s death in 1971, Thatcher cultivated his own interest in politics. In 1975 he won the provincial riding of Thunder Creek as a Liberal, but defected to the Progressive Conservatives two years later when voter popularity shifted from the Liberals to the Conservatives. The move was denounced by the Liberals, and also privately by his wife JoAnn.
Colin Thatcher is 77 years old now. He remarried while in prison and has been divorced since being released.