A Vancouver couple is warning Whistler tourists to be on alert after a man broke into their hotel room on Jan. 25 while they were sleeping.
Ron, who only wanted to be identified by his first name for safety reasons, said he and his girlfriend had turned in early after a long day of skiing when his girlfriend was woken up around 12:30 a.m. by the light on her cellphone. When she saw a man holding the device, she screamed, waking Ron. “When she woke up screaming and I saw a silhouette, my first thought was there was somebody stabbing her,” he said.
The stranger dashed out of the bedroom, into the living room and out the patio door. Terrified, the couple immediately called the police. The thief made off with both of their phones.
Surveying the room, Ron noticed a stack of items — including his laptop, Gucci sunglasses and new gloves — on a kitchen chair by the patio door that he suspected the man had planned to grab on his way out. It was later determined that the suspect likely entered through the patio door, which Ron insisted neither of them opened. A block of wood that could have served to boost the suspect up was also discovered below the patio.
Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair said that after arriving at the scene in the 4300-block of Northlands Boulevard, police swept the area in hopes of locating the suspect. “Police located an HDMI adapter in the snow and it’s been seized for fingerprints,” he said. “There were some footsteps as well.”
Ron said he was frustrated when police stuck to their investigation protocol and wouldn’t let him use the Internet to attempt to track down the phones and, potentially, the suspect. The investigation is ongoing and LeClair said they still hope to find the suspect. An employee of the hotel told police they saw a man in a grey hoody with white lines along the arms flee from the hotel and run towards the Village, but there’s no video surveillance for a better description.
After the ordeal, the front desk clerk moved the couple to another room on the third floor. Ron said he was startled to discover that not only was the patio door in that room unlocked, but it was also left slightly ajar. “At that point we said, ‘We’re not staying here. We’ve got to go,’” he said.
The couple hasn’t been able to sleep well since the incident, he added. “I don’t know if I can clearly describe the feeling of what happened,” he said. “I think about it five times a day. Until it happens to you, you don’t realize it can happen and how fast your life can go from being great to being in a position of complete vulnerability.”
He said although he’s a big guy, he worries about what might have happened if he had had time to jump into action before the suspect fled. “Someone is incredibly desperate if they’re (breaking into) your room,” he said. “Was he armed? Was he not armed? If you’re pulling off a thing like that you think they have to be prepared for the worst. You have to think he wouldn’t have gone down without a fight.”
The couple is unsure if they’ll ever return to Whistler after their ordeal. “Whistler is not a safe place for me and it’s not a safe place for anyone else,” he said. “Your skis get stolen, fine. I understand that risk going to Whistler. That risk I can accept. Having somebody come into your hotel room and put your life in jeopardy is not something I’ll accept.”
There were 10 break-ins into seasonal accommodations (which includes hotels) in both 2012 and 2013, LeClair said. While that number has remained steady, the number of residential break-ins has actually dropped from 59 in 2012 to 44 in 2013, he added. “We certainly believe this (incident) could be relate to other similar incidents where ground floor units have been entered via unlocked patios,” he said. “We’re reminding the public — visitors and residents — to ensure they lock their doors when they leave and even when they’re home.”