The Greyhound bus left Edmonton at one minute past midnight on Wednesday morning, bound for a destination located two provinces, 20 hours and more than 1,300 kilometres away. More than 30 passengers were aboard Route 1628 including a pair of French tourists, a six year-old boy, and an elderly woman with her daughter.
Among them was an aboriginal man in his early twenties, listening to headphones and headed home to Winnipeg.
Through the day and into the evening, the bus pushed along the Trans-Canada -- through Lloydminister, Saskatoon and Gilbert Plains - as passengers read books, listened to music and watched TV. Somewhere around Brandon, nearly 18 hours into the trip, a new passenger boarded the bus. He was bald, aged about 40, wearing sunglasses, approximately six feet tall and 200 pounds. Witnesses say he stowed his luggage and sat at the front of the bus without speaking to anyone.
About a half hour later, the bus stopped for a smoke break. The bald man stepped off for a cigarette and reportedly chatted calmly with a female passenger.
When the bald man returned to the bus, he moved to the back, tossed his bags in an overhead bin and sat down beside the aboriginal man with the headphones, who had fallen asleep with his head against the window. Passengers say the two men never spoke to one another.
Twenty minutes later, at roughly 8:30 p.m. central time, and as some of the passengers watched the movie Zorro, there was a noise that some described as a terrible "yowl." Others said it was a "blood-curdling scream."
Garnet Caton, who was sitting directly in front of the victim, told reporters he initially thought a fist fight had broken out. "Arms were flailing and stuff like that, but then I saw the guy had a knife - a big frickin' Rambo knife, a hunting knife and it was covered in blood," Mr. Caton told the CBC.
"Everybody else started screaming," an elderly woman said. "They had terror in their eyes."
Mr. Caton ran to the front of the bus and screamed at the driver to stop. The bus pulled to the side of the highway about 20 kilometres east of Portage la Prairie. Some passengers needed to be roused from sleep or shock, but within seconds they were all on their feet and pushing towards the front, knocking one woman over as they fled the attacker, who stabbed his victim in the chest, neck, arms, legs and stomach.
Witnesses say the man stabbed his victim between 40 and 50 times before he was done.
Passengers stumbled from the bus into the prairie evening that offered little shelter. "There was nowhere to go," a passenger told reporters.
"Some people were puking, some people were crying, other people were in shock . . . everybody was running, screaming off the bus," Mr. Caton said.
The crowd eventually huddled outside at the tail of the bus. Mr. Caton, the bus driver and a truck driver who had seen the commotion returned to the bus to survey the scene, armed with a crowbar and hammer from the trucker's vehicle.
The trio saw the attacker on top of his victim, clearly working to remove the man's head and "gutting him like an animal," according to Mr. Caton.
Within moments, the bald man noticed the three men watching him and started to move towards the front of the bus. The three men fled, closing the door just as the man reached them. Mr. Caton held the door shut while the driver attempted to use a control panel to close it and the man slashed at them through a remaining crack. "We were telling him, ‘Stay put, stay put, stay there, don't try to come out," Mr. Caton said.
But with one strong heave, the man pushed the door open, forcing Mr. Caton and the two others to flee behind the bus. They then worked their way around the far side, glancing underneath to see if they could spot the attacker's feet on the other side.
Determining the attacker was back on the bus, the men ran and pushed the door closed, then sat there to hold it shut. The bald man made several attempts to open the door and then moved to the driver's seat, where he seemed to attempt to start the vehicle. Somehow, the driver managed to disable the vehicle.
While the attacked was now trapped on the bus and unable to flee, he was not done taunting his fellow passengers. He returned to the back of the bus where his victim's body was located. "He came very calmly towards us with the knife in one hand, the head in the other," Mr. Caton said. "The three of us were just standing there in shock and he just calmly looked at us with sunglasses on and dropped the head in front of us like it was no big deal."
In a separate interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, Mr. Caton said: "When we saw the head, we knew he was dead."
Police arrived at the bus about 10 minutes after the incident began, according to witnesses. The attacker mocked police as they closed the highway in both directions and surrounded the bus. RCMP officers led the passengers on to school buses where they waited for the standoff to end. From their seats, they could see the attacker dangling his victim's head from his hand. "He picked the head up, looked at the cops, dropped the head and walked back to the body," Cody Olmstead, who was seated three seats in front of the incident, told the Free Press.
"When attempts were made to have him exit and surrender to police were unsuccessful, additional resources including the RCMP emergency response team and negotiator team were called in to assist," Staff Sergeant Steve Colwell told a press conference yesterday afternoon.
At 1:30 a.m. - three hours after the stand-off began and more than a day since the Greyhound first left Edmonton - the man attempted to flee the bus by jumping from a broken window. He was quickly arrested but had not been interviewed or charged by late yesterday afternoon, Staff Sgt. Colwell said.
Meanwhile, the passengers were taken to Brandon to be interviewed by police and spend the night in a hotel. Eighteen hours later, most were back on the road, headed the places they were headed before everything occurred. "Every time I closed my eyes I'd see this man in the window with some guy's head I had just smoked a cigarette with," Mr. Olmstead told reporters.
So many random killings these days. Really creeps me out