Fugi­tive fam­ily A mem­oir of a bizarre child­hood on the run across Canada

Pauline Dakin spent years as a fugi­tive. With­out warn­ing her mother would up­root the fam­ily and move. She learned it was be­cause they were hid­ing from the Mafia. But years later she dis­cov­ered the truth – and it was even more bizarre

The Observer Magazine - - CONTENTS - Words TIM LEWIS

Pauline Dakin was al­ways aware her child­hood was a long way from or­di­nary. Her par­ents, War­ren and Ruth, sep­a­rated when she was five – she knew her fa­ther had a drink prob­lem and could be vi­o­lent. Pauline, her mother and her lit­tle brother Ted moved around a lot. When Pauline was nine, her mother packed up a Volkswagen camper van in Van­cou­ver for a hol­i­day in Win­nipeg, more than 1,000 miles away. When they got there, over a mug of co­coa, the chil­dren learned they were never go­ing home.

“That sum­mer of 1974 was the last time I thought of my fam­ily as hav­ing any re­la­tion to nor­mal,” writes Pauline in her mem­oir, Run Hide Re­peat . “The events that fol­lowed made Ted and I know we were dif­fer­ent, some­how apart. Ted would some­times, in the years that fol­lowed, re­fer to ‘nor­mal fam­i­lies’. Not in a crit­i­cal way, but in a straight­for­ward ac­knowl­edg­ment that we were not one.”

Over seven years, Pauline at­tended six dif­fer­ent schools. The next ma­jor re­lo­ca­tion came when she was 13, when she was fi­nally set­tled in a school she liked, had close friends and was start­ing to be in­ter­ested in boys. This time, Ruth ac­tu­ally told them where they were go­ing: all the way to New Brunswick, in the far east of Canada. Pauline and Ted were sworn to se­crecy, but she broke ranks and told her best friend Wendy. When Ruth picked her up from Wendy’s house, the girls had to af­fect “breezy see-you-lat­ers” so Pauline’s mother wouldn’t sus­pect.

Ruth promised her chil­dren that one day ev­ery­thing would be made clear. Why they couldn’t tell any­one where they were go­ing on hol­i­day. Why they couldn’t even say if they were go­ing out for din­ner. Pauline heard the brushoff, “I’ll ex­plain when you’re older,” again and again. Then, when she was 23, her mother in­vited her to meet her at a mo­tel – she was ready to talk. But the ex­pla­na­tion would be far more com­pli­cated, and more ter­ri­fy­ing, than she could ever have dreamed.

It was late Fe­bru­ary 1988, and when Pauline walked into the mo­tel room with her mother, a man was wait­ing. Pauline knew him well: it was Rev­erend Stan Sears, a min­is­ter with the United Church who had been part of their lives since her par­ents sep­a­rated. Even when they moved, Sears was never far be­hind. So it was a sur­prise, but not a to­tal shock, when they told her that they were in love. For many years, they hadn’t acted on their at­trac­tion – Sears was mar­ried, for one thing – but now they agreed they wanted to live to­gether.

A far more pro­found rev­e­la­tion was to come, how­ever. Her mother and Sears ex­plained that the rea­son the fam­ily had moved so of­ten, so hap­haz­ardly, was that War­ren, Pauline’s fa­ther, was a mob­ster, a key mem­ber of an or­gan­ised crime syn­di­cate in Van­cou­ver. When they sep­a­rated, Ruth had a con­tract put on her. Sears, mean­while, had

Fugi­tive fam­ily: pic­tures of Pauline Dakin’s early life moving across Canada, with her brother Ted, mother Ruth and the charis­matic Rev­erend Stan Sears

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