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Pinkerton's and the Hunt for Simon Gunanoot

Double Murder, Secret Agents and an Elusive Outlaw

Geoff Mynett

An intriguing and riveting true crime tale of alleged murderer Simon Gunanoot, evading and outwitting the infamous Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency.

Pinkerton’s and the Hunt for Simon Gunanoot throws new light on the extensive manhunt for an accused murderer in northern British Columbia in the early 1900s. After a double murder in 1906, Gitxsan trapper and storekeeper Simon Gunanoot fled into the wilderness with his family. Despite lack of proof, the police pursued Gunanoot for nearly three years, sending search parties and police operatives into the wilds of northern BC. The hunt was covered by numerous newspapers at the time, describing a melodramatic cat-and-mouse chase—a not-entirely-accurate account. Frustrated by Gunanoot’s ability to evade capture, the Attorney General of BC asked Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency in Seattle to assist in the pursuit.

In May 1909, two Pinkerton’s operatives disguised as prospectors were sent to Hazelton, BC, to find and apprehend Gunanoot. From 1909–1910, they delivered regular reports to Pinkerton’s office in Seattle detailing their progress. Many of these confidential reports, written around campfires on the treks in the wilderness, provided a vivid picture of life in the frontier town, relations of the settlers and prospectors, and of the conflicting loyalties and tensions in both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

One of the most famous fugitives in BC history, Gunanoot’s story has taken on the status of legend. Pinkerton’s and the Hunt for Simon Gunanoot is a fascinating tale of turn-of-the-century crime-solving techniques, rural politics and backwoods survival, based on never-before published, firsthand accounts of the two undercover operatives.