Archive dive: The 1987 murder of a UVic student who vanished on her morning run

CHEK

It’s a murder that’s haunted many on the South Island for decades – a young woman out for a jog, vanished into thin air. Nearly forty years later, Marguerite Telesford body’s never been found. Her killer was sentenced to life in prison for her second-degree murder, but as of March, he’s been granted day parole.

Digging through CHEK’s archives we found the community’s reaction to the young woman’s death, the massive searches to find her, and the questions that linger.

Disappearing on her morning run

Marguerite Telesford ran every morning before going to the University of Victoria where she was studying to become a teacher. On that run along Blenkinsop in 1987, Telesford disappeared.

“Someone must be aware of something strange,” Telesford’s foster mom Norma Cowell told CHEK News on Jan. 23, 1987.

Almost immediately, the search for Telesford began. It started with scouring the Blenkinsop and the Elk and Beaver Lake area for any sign of hope.

“Oh just anything that might help us find her just anything. We want to know where she is,” Cowell told CHEK News.

On the side of the road, a pool of blood was found and reports of gunshots from neighbours.

“Between seven and eight, [I heard] two shots,” the neighbour said.

A massive search for evidence

Police’s first theory? There was a struggle. And Telesford’s body was removed in a car. The search from air and ground turned up blood stained earmuffs and a black hair, but no Telesford.

“We’ll just keep searching, we’ll just keep hoping and keep praying that maybe we’ll turn something up and hopefully solve it,” said one of the searchers.

With each passing day, the gets colder, the hundreds of volunteer searchers now trying to find her body.

“In our hearts we can’t part with her. We can’t give up hope,” said Norma and Bill Cowell.

After nearly two months of looking her search is called off failing to develop any leads.

A suspect is identified, charged, convicted

Police were unable to link the blood definitively to Telesford because a lack of her medical records. The big break in the case? Convicts, paid by police, started to speak.

They implicated a 25-year-old man named Scott Ian Mackay who had prior convictions for impaired driving, assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement including two offences involving sex workers which he was on bail for.

Mackay’s car was then searched

“We definitely believe the vehicle was involved in the murder of Marguerite Telesford,” said the Saanich Police Chief when MacKay was arrested.

“They located a pompom stuck under the truck, the pompom had a black hair on it,” said criminal lawyer Michael Mulligan in 2024.

That pompom matched the bloody earmuffs Telesford had been wearing on her run.

Mackay was eventually convicted for her murder, sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 15 years.

“If you take a position that you’re innocent, your chance of parole is nearly zero. This man has come around to a halfway point where he accepts this but he maintains he has no memory of committing this offence. And that’s why he’s been in prison for 37 years,” said Mulligan.

Killer, now on day parole

After nearly 40 years behind bars MacKay has been approved for day parole with strict conditions, amoung them a curfew, and an order to have no contact with sex workers.

Telesford’s body was never found.

“There was such an open wound for people in our community who were affected by the marguerite Telesford murder,” said one person at her memorial.

A wound that 40 years later has never fully closed.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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