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ARCHIVED - " Without Fear, Favour or Affection:" The Men of the North West Mounted Police

Fighting Crime

Biography: Alick Pennycuick


Described by one writer as the Sherlock Holmes of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP), Alick Pennycuick had what can only be described as a mixed career with the police. Born in India in December 1867 and educated in England, he immigrated to Canada and engaged with the NWMP on February 22, 1893, regimental number 2868. He served in Depot Division until volunteering for the Yukon in March 1898.

On Christmas Day, 1899, George O'Brien and an accomplice murdered three men, Fred Clayson, Lawrence Olsen and Lynn Relfe near Minto, Yukon. O'Brien was known to police, but it was Constable Pennycuick who scoured the killer's camp for several days in search of evidence. From January until May 1900, Pennycuick was relentless in his determination to collect as much evidence as he could to ensure that O'Brien was convicted of his crime. As a result, O'Brien was convicted of murder and hanged at Dawson on August 23, 1900.

By this time, Pennycuick had taken his discharge from the Mounted Police. He returned to the Prairies and was re-engaged at Regina on July 21. With his reputation for hard work and success, he was often assigned detective duties. He was promoted to corporal on November 13, 1903, at Calgary, Alberta.

Pennycuick was instrumental in the arrest of murderer Ernest Cashel in 1903. Promoted to the rank of sergeant in October 1904, he later served at Fort Saskatchewan, Lethbridge, and Little Bow. He took his discharge on August 15, 1907, and assumed the position of Chief of Police at Fernie, B.C. With a change of mind, he resigned and tried to re-engage with the Mounted Police, but was turned down.

Alick Pennycuick, the "Sherlock Holmes" of the NWMP, died of pneumonia at Cranbrook, B.C., on September 25, 1908.