True Crime Reads: Journey for Justice: How Project Angel Cracked the Candace Derksen Case

For my journalism course, I recently read Mike McIntyre’s true crime book Journey for Justice: How Project Angel Cracked the Candace Derksen Case. The novel is based on the 1984 Winnipeg murder case of Candace Dersken, a disappearance that captivated the nation.

For my journalism course, I recently read Mike McIntyre’s true crime book Journey For Justice: How Project Angel Cracked the Candace Derksen Case. The novel is based on the 1984 Winnipeg murder case of Candace Dersken, a disappearance that captivated the nation.

For those unfamiliar with Candace’s story, she was a thirteen-year-old girl who went missing walking home from school on Nov. 30, 1984. When days had passed and the police had come no closer to finding her, Candace’s parents, Cliff and Wilma Derksen appealed to the media to find their child. This plea would stir a nation, the coverage of Candace’s disappearance spreading throughout the country.

However, the outcome would not be a happy one. Her frozen body was discovered on Jan. 17, 1985 in a tool shed at Alsip’s Industrial Products within yards of her home. Her hands and feet were bound behind her back. The official cause of death was found to be hypothermia.

McIntyre’s text chronicles the events of the day Candace went missing, up until Mark Grant, a schizophrenic repeat sex offender, was charged with her murder in May of 2011.

I had personally never read true crime books until this experience. As a former English major, I found it difficult to navigate the tone: a mixture of literary and poetic language, paired with meat and potatoes, journalistic facts. I had trouble trusting McIntyre’s insights into the Derksen’s lives and mentalities through the case. However, it was very clear that Wilma and McIntyre were very close and that she had entrusted details of her experience and her pain with him. This sincerity did at times resonate greatly with me.

However, McIntyre, a crime reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, is clearly a seasoned pro when it comes to legal-minded journalism. He explains complex court proceedings, statures, and legal jargon in an accessible, clear manner. This text gave me what I feel is an authentic understanding of the court proceedings surrounding Mark Grant. This was the book’s true strength.

There is stark comparison between McIntyre’s work for the Winnipeg Free Press and for this novel. The format of this book allows McIntyre the space to explore the psyche of the people he might represent in one of his Free Press articles in just a quote or two.

Our class also had the distinct pleasure of having McIntyre and Candace’s mother, Wilma Derksen in to speak to us about their experiences. Each spoke to the experience of collaborating, the horrific events of Candace’s murder, and what as journalists we may take from this book. I felt that McIntyre gave us budding journalists excellent tips on how to maintain integrity while gaining a subject’s trust. McIntyre was generous with his time and advice. Hearing his accounts of covering such a prolific case in Manitoba history inspired me greatly.

Hearing from Wilma was another experience entirely. Modest, kind, yet full of passion, Wilma’s strength and ability to reflect maturely on such a horrific experience is truly inspirational to behold. As a Creative Communications grad herself, Wilma was able to tailor her speech to give us an understanding of what it is to be on the other side of the questions, of the camera. We understood what it was like to be the object of the insatiable appetites of countless journalists, cameramen, investigators, and prosecutors. I very much enjoyed her words.

For those unfamiliar with Candace’s story, she was a thirteen-year-old girl who went missing walking home from school on Nov. 30, 1984. When days had passed and the police had come no closer to finding her, Candace’s parents, Cliff and Wilma Derksen appealed to the media to find their child. This plea would stir a nation, the coverage of Candace’s disappearance spreading throughout the country.

However, the outcome would not be a happy one. Her frozen body was discovered on Jan. 17, 1985 in a tool shed at Alsip’s Industrial Products within yards of her home. Her hands and feet were bound behind her back. The official cause of death was found to be hypothermia.

McIntyre’s text chronicles the events of the day Candace went missing, up until Mark Grant, a schizophrenic repeat sex offender, was charged with her murder in May of 2011.

I had personally never read true crime books until this experience. As a former English major, I found it difficult to navigate the tone: a mixture of literary and poetic language, paired with meat and potatoes, journalistic facts. I had trouble trusting McIntyre’s insights into the Derksen’s lives and mentalities through the case. However, it was very clear that Wilma and McIntyre were very close and that she had entrusted details of her experience and her pain with him. This sincerity did at times resonate greatly with me.

However, McIntyre, a crime reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, is clearly a seasoned pro when it comes to legal-minded journalism. He explains complex court proceedings, statures, and legal jargon in an accessible, clear manner. This text gave me what I feel is an authentic understanding of the court proceedings surrounding Mark Grant. This was the book’s true strength.

There is stark comparison between McIntyre’s work for the Winnipeg Free Press and for this novel. The format of this book allows McIntyre the space to explore the psyche of the people he might represent in one of his Free Press articles in just a quote or two.

Our class also had the distinct pleasure of having McIntyre and Candace’s mother, Wilma Derksen in to speak to us about their experiences. Each spoke to the experience of collaborating, the horrific events of Candace’s murder, and what as journalists we may take from this book. I felt that McIntyre gave us budding journalists excellent tips on how to maintain integrity while gaining a subject’s trust. McIntyre was generous with his time and advice. Hearing his accounts of covering such a prolific case in Manitoba history inspired me greatly.

Hearing from Wilma was another experience entirely. Modest, kind, yet full of passion, Wilma’s strength and ability to reflect maturely on such a horrific experience is truly inspirational to behold. As a Creative Communications grad herself, Wilma was able to tailor her speech to give us an understanding of what it is to be on the other side of the questions, of the camera. We understood what it was like to be the object of the insatiable appetites of countless journalists, cameramen, investigators, and prosecutors. I very much enjoyed her words.

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