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Portage la Prairie woman kidnapped, suspect on the loose

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A Portage la Prairie area woman and her child are safe but shaken after a stranger pretended to be in distress on the side of the road, then kidnapped them and demanded they drive him to Winnipeg, Manitoba RCMP say.

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A Portage la Prairie area woman and her child are safe but shaken after a stranger pretended to be in distress on the side of the road, then kidnapped them and demanded they drive him to Winnipeg, Manitoba RCMP say.

At a Saturday afternoon news conference in Winnipeg, RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said the suspect had not yet been located and police were asking for the public’s help in finding him.

Courchaine laid out the string of events that led up to the random kidnapping on Friday, including a police chase in which the suspect got away.

Michael Stephen Klimchuk (RCMP handout)

It started at 4:30 p.m. Friday when Portage la Prairie RCMP responded to a call about a man in hotel parking lot “acting erratically and possibly consuming drugs,” Courchaine said.

When police arrived, they approached the man, who was inside a van. The man briefly spoke with officers but then reversed his vehicle, ramming a police cruiser, then accelerated forward “in an apparent effort to strike the responding officers,” before reversing into the cruiser again and driving away, Courchaine said.

Officers pursued the van, which they determined was stolen from Winnipeg, but called off the chase when the man started driving dangerously, including swerving into oncoming traffic on Highway 1.

Around 5:20 p.m., someone located just east of Portage la Prairie, who was later determined to be the woman who was abducted, called 911. The call was disconnected but 911 operators could hear a man and a woman’s voices.

A different man — later determined to be the abducted woman’s husband — also called 911. It’s not clear what he told police, but his wife had also managed to call him after she was kidnapped. Police went to the couple’s residence and confirmed the 25-year-old mother and her two-year-old daughter, along with their vehicle, were missing, Courchaine said.

Police discovered the van involved in the police chase abandoned nearby.

Police later determined the woman was trying to be a good Samaritan when she was kidnapped.

“She was driving in the area, saw this male in distress on the side of the road, pulled over to assist him, at which point he jumps in,” Courchaine said, noting that he demanded the woman drive him to Winnipeg.

As of Saturday afternoon, the suspect had not yet been located and police were asking for the public’s help in finding him, says RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

“She was able to make a call to her husband as well as that 911 call.”

Courchaine said she didn’t have information about what specifically the woman said to her husband, other than that she was in this situation.

Every available RCMP and Manitoba First Nation police officer in the area was mobilized to assist with the search, the Winnipeg Police Service was notified and was helping with multiple units. RCMP Air Services and the Winnipeg police helicopter were also called to assist, Courchaine said.

Police were also preparing an Amber alert.

About an hour later, at 6:30 p.m., the abducted woman called police to say the suspect had fled the vehicle and that she and her daughter were safe in the Polo Park area.

The woman and her daughter were physically unharmed and the man did not have weapons, but “intimidation and coercion” were involved, Courchaine said.

“And of course, she had her young child in the back, so I know that the safety of that child was paramount,” she said.

Klimchuk was described 5-foot-8, 220 pounds with long brown hair and blue eyes when police issued the warning about him on the weekend. (RCMP handout)

“I can’t imagine what she’s going through. It had to be a terrifying incident and I wanted to applaud her for being able to deal with that situation and having an outcome like this.”

RCMP have identified Michael Stephen Klimchuk, a 62-year-old male from Winnipeg, as a suspect.

Klimchuk is described 5-foot-8, 220 pounds, with long brown hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a camouflage jacket and light-coloured pants, and is believed to be in Winnipeg.

Police do not believe he poses an imminent threat to the public, Courchaine said, noting he was likely desperate to get out of Portage la Prairie, which could have factored into Friday’s “very scary situation.” Still, police are eager to find him, she said.

He is wanted on numerous charges, including kidnapping, forcible confinement, and possession of stolen property over $5000, police said. He is known to police but Courchaine would not speak to the circumstances of any previous interactions.

Anyone with information about his location is asked to call their local police department immediately.

Police initially put out a tweet just after 9:30 p.m. on Friday with Klimchuk’s photo, but without naming him, saying a man “was involved in a serious incident near Portage la Prairie earlier this evening & is now believed to be in the Winnipeg area. He should not be approached.”

Asked why police didn’t provide more information until Saturday afternoon, Courchaine said police were still piecing together what happened, including if the man involved in the police chase was the same suspect who kidnapped the woman.

The kidnapped woman stopped to help Klimchuk, said Courchaine. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

It’s difficult to say what drivers should do if they see someone who appears to need help, Courchaine said.

“I would hope if I was in trouble, someone would stop,” she said. “I think it’s just up to your capabilities and what you feel is safe. It’s just a really tough situation.”

tyler.searle@freepress.mb.ca

katrina.clarke@freepress.mb.ca

Katrina Clarke

Katrina Clarke
Reporter

Katrina Clarke is an investigative reporter with the Winnipeg Free Press.

History

Updated on Saturday, November 26, 2022 3:50 AM CST: Fixes typos, adds that victim and suspect were not known to eachother

Updated on Saturday, November 26, 2022 4:31 PM CST: Adds photo

Updated on Saturday, November 26, 2022 5:40 PM CST: Full write-thru with extra info, new photos

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