By Stephen Metelsky
April 7, 2020
It was a particularly warm day on July 16th in North Vancouver, British Columbia. It was 1976 and Rhona Margaret Duncan, 16 years of age at the time, was excited to be off for the summer holidays to enjoy time with her friends.
That evening Rhona attended a house party with several of her friends on East Queens Avenue in North Vancouver, B.C. The party was an opportunity for Rhona and her larger circle of friends to get together. The house was full that evening, with 60 teenagers in attendance.
At 1:00am Rhona and her boyfriend, Shawn Mapoles, decided to leave and walk home. They were accompanied by Rhona’s best friend, Marion Bogues and her boyfriend – Owen Parry. The four teens walked together down the dark avenue, all headed home for the evening. They split into pairs when the two boys reached their homes first. Rhona and Marion continued together.
They would reach Marion’s home first, where the best friends embraced and parted ways, leaving Rhona to continue the rest of her walk home alone. She still had five blocks to walk until she arrived there. It was now 2:45am.
At 3:00am a neighbor, who lived three doors down from the Duncan family, heard a commotion outside. It was the loud, audible sounds of a male and female arguing. She was concerned enough that she woke up her husband.
The husband decided to inquire further. Once he was outside, the neighbor detected the argument was emanating from the back of a residence a few doors down. He could still hear the male and female arguing.
“What’s going on here?”
The neighbor yelled from his backyard towards the source of the loud argument. He didn’t get a reply and it quickly became quiet. He waited for a while in his yard, listening to see if the arguing would continue. The arguing had ceased, so the neighbor retreated to his residence.
9:00am the next morning the body of Rhona Margaret Duncan was discovered. Her partially clad body was found in some tall brush close to a neighbor’s garage. Rhona had been murdered. Police were immediately called, and the crime scene was taped off around this normally quiet, serene neighborhood.
A forensic post-mortem examination was conducted. The results concluded the cause of death had been manual strangulation. Duncan had also been sexually assaulted by this unknown perpetrator.
Police worked veraciously to investigate this tragic murder in North Vancouver that shocked this quiet community. Several interviews were conducted with all of Duncan’s close friends and outer social circle, along with several polygraph tests – yet, the case remained unsolved. The file grew colder as the years passed by.
Fast forward to 1998 – twenty-two years after Rhona Margaret Duncan’s murder. Although the case remained cold and unsolved, advancements in science and forensic examination had advanced significantly.
The original R.C.M.P investigators were able to recover DNA evidence from the crime scene, investigative due diligence that would pay off, some twenty years later. There was no way to test for DNA evidence back in the 1970’s. The technology just wasn’t available back then.
When investigators tested the DNA evidence in the 1990’s, they received a break in the cold case. A DNA profile was established – DNA that was linked to Duncan’s unknown attacker, and killer.
During the initial investigation R.C.M.P investigators had an exhaustive list of 172 males, comprised of Duncan’s friends, some acquaintances, persons of interest and suspects. Now that a DNA profile had been identified, police obtained DNA samples from all these males in the hopes one would match with the DNA left behind by Duncan’s killer. None of the samples matched.
Police were able to remove several ‘higher-priority’ subjects from their initial persons of interest list – confident none of them were responsible for the heinous murder. Some of the other subjects have either died or police were unable to locate them.
File # 1976-18404. The Duncan homicide is an open, cold case.
For additional information about this crime and other unsolved cases, please visit the R.C.M.P webpage:
If you have information or a tip about the unsolved homicide of Rhona Margaret DUNCAN, contact Sgt. Gary Webb of the North Vancouver Detachment – Serious Crime Section at 604-983-7417.
If you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Stephen G. Metelsky, M.A. is a professor and writer with over 20 years experience as a police (ret.) sergeant. Stephen is a cold case columnist with Canada’s Blue Line magazine and has covered true & organized crime stories for various newspapers affiliated with Metroland Media Group & Postmedia Network Inc.