What an incredibly sad time in our province’s history. At nine years of age, I have some fairly vivid memories of the absolute shockwaves that pulsed through rural Saskatchewan in August of 1967. Nine members of the Peterson family were dead, the killer still at large.
Fear gripped the countryside. Loaded guns sat propped beside doors never before locked. Four days would pass before the RCMP could make an arrest — twenty-one year old Victor Ernest Hoffman of Leask, Saskatchewan. It would eventually be learned that Hoffman had absolutely no connection to the Petersons, and that they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and would spend most of the rest of his life in mental institutions in Ontario. He died in 2004.
Four year old Phyllis Peterson, sleeping between two of her sisters, was the only survivor of the atrocity, and was raised by the oldest sibling, who was married and living away from home.
Peter Tadman wrote a very comprehensive account of the ordeal. It is titled simply, ‘Shell Lake Massacre’.