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Father of 1970s Calgary murder victim predicted his daughter’s murder would be solved. Now it has been

In the months after his 19-year-old daughter was murdered in Calgary in February 1977, Nova Scotian Dr. Jim MacLean predicted the case would be solved.

“It may take two or three years but I’m confident that the murderer will be behind bars,” he said in the July 27, 1977, edition of The Albertan newspaper.

“I know the man will be found. It’s all a matter of time.”

Dr. Jim MacLean died in 2000. But his prediction has finally come true.

On Friday, RCMP announced that Barbara Jean MacLean’s death and that of three other women in Calgary in 1976 were at the hands of one man, an American named Gary Allen Srery. The violent drifter and sex offender lived in Alberta and B.C. from the mid-1970s until 2003, when he was deported. He died in an Idaho prison in 2011.

Photographs of four young women.
Alberta RCMP said Friday the same killer is responsible for the deaths in the 1970s of Eva Violet Dvorak, Patricia Marie McQueen, Melissa Ann Rehorek and Barbara Jean MacLean. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Srery was identified as the killer through DNA evidence and genealogy.

“Srery’s criminality spanned decades, over multiple jurisdictions, under numerous aliases, and the Alberta RCMP believe there may be more victims,” says an RCMP statement.

The families of the four victims asked not to be contacted, according to the statement, but the force provided statements from them.

“The pain of losing Barbara so tragically has been a constant presence in our lives, but recent developments have finally brought us answers to questions that we’ve had to live with all these years,” said the MacLean family statement.

It called MacLean “a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and niece.”

Newspaper records from 1977 say MacLean was friendly, outgoing and trusting.

MacLean was ‘full of life and smart as hell,’ said brother

MacLean had only been in Calgary for around six months before her death. She lived with her two brothers. She worked at a restaurant and later at a bank.

“She was … full of life and smart as hell and just excited to be away from home for the first time,” brother Jim MacLean told the Calgary Herald in the Feb. 28, 1977, edition.

Her father said there were a few reasons why she had left their home community of Inverness, N.S.

“Inverness is a run-down former mining town and there aren’t many opportunities for a young girl fresh out of high school,” he said in the Feb. 28, 1977, edition of the Edmonton Journal.

“She also wanted to get away from mom and dad and stand on her own two feet.”

He said his daughter was homesick and had plans to go home for a two-week visit in early March.

Old photograph of long-haired, bearded man with a purple sweater and a pipe
Through the use of DNA evidence and genealogy, Gary Allen Srery was identified as the killer of the four Calgary women. He was a transient who lived between Canada and the United States, often changing his appearance and relying on aliases to disguise his identity. (Alberta RCMP)

A Feb. 28, 1977, Calgary Herald article said she planned to return home and go to university in the next year.

“There is absolutely no reason for this to happen,” brother Bobby MacLean told the Edmonton Journal.

“She didn’t have any enemies. I just can’t seem to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

RCMP say Srery was a predator who stalked his victims from behind the wheel, targeting young women and girls before discarding their bodies on the roadside.

WATCH | Painstaking investigation leads to killer: 

Alberta RCMP have solved four historical homicides dating to the 1970s

2 days ago

Duration 5:38

A painstaking investigation led to Gary Allen Srery, now deceased, being identified as the killer of four young victims in Calgary in the 1970s, RCMP said Friday. The victims are Eva Dvorak and Patricia McQueen, both 14, Melissa Rehorek, 20, and Barbara MacLean, 19.

A March 26, 1977, Calgary Herald article noted that Calgary RCMP and city police believed MacLean’s killer was also responsible for three other women’s deaths. Of those deaths, only one — Melissa Ann Rehorek — was confirmed to be because of Srery.

In the July 27, 1977, Albertan article, Dr. Jim MacLean expressed frustration with police’s handling of the case.

“We’ve called the RCMP in Calgary several times but we don’t know anymore now than we did the day she died,” he said. “We haven’t called for a while because it keeps things too stirred up. This has been a terribly painful experience for my wife and I. I wish it was over.”

Family thanks police for ‘relentless pursuit’ of justice

Dr. Jim MacLean died at the age of 79. Besides being a family doctor and surgeon, he also served separate stints as a Tory MLA in 1963-1974 and 1984-1988.

The MacLean family statement thanked police for their “relentless pursuit” of justice.

“This breakthrough reaffirms our belief in the power of perseverance and the importance of embracing scientific advancements in law enforcement,” it said.

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