Starlight tours

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A starlight tour is a slang term for a non-sanctioned police practice of picking up vulnerable individuals in their cruisers and driving them outside of town where they would be abandoned on the side of the road.


A suspected case in Canada resulted in an inquiry in 2003 into the hypothermia death of Neil Stonechild in 1990, as part of a series of such cases, known as the Saskatoon freezing deaths. The inquiry found that he might have been subjected to a "starlight tour" by the police. However, the inquiry found that at the time of the death the police investigation was not adequate to conclude what the circumstances were surrounding Stonechild's death.[1]

In January 2000, Darrel Night was dropped off on the outskirts of Saskatoon but was able to call a taxi from the nearby Queen Elizabeth Power Station and suffered no ill effects. The two officers involved, constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson of the Saskatoon Police Service, claimed that they had simply given Night a ride home and dropped him off at his own request, but were convicted of unlawful confinement in September 2001 and sentenced to eight months in prison.[2] The incident was the subject of the National Film Board of Canada documentary "Two Worlds Colliding" by Tasha Hubbard.[3]

In December 2010, a young aboriginal man named Evan Maud in Winnipeg accused the police of taking him to the edge of the city at 4:00 a.m., threatening him with a Taser, and taking his jacket.[4] The police stated that the accusation was false and laid charges against Maud of criminal mischief, after evidence surfaced such as video of Maud boarding a bus 15 minutes after being stopped by police, corroboration by police GPS, and testimony by witnesses that Maud was not wearing a jacket that night.[5][6]

In pop culture[edit]

  • A starlight tour is depicted in the Sylvester Stallone film First Blood, in which he plays the role of John Rambo, a Vietnam war veteran. When Rambo enters a small rural town on foot, police view him as a vagrant. He is then driven to the outskirts of town by police and told to stay out of their town (when he returns to town he is arrested).
  • In the dystopian film A Clockwork Orange, the protagonist, a young gang leader named Alex, is taken out into the countryside and assaulted by police officers who were previous members of his gang.
  • The Nick Nolte film Mulholland Falls, a story of a Los Angeles police detective and his partners, is named for the protagonists' particular style of starlight tours. To wit, the detectives will approach a member of organized crime who has recently arrived in town and make what appears at first to be merely a harassment arrest . However, instead of taking the man to a police station, they take him into the countryside to a large cliff, which they euphemistically call "Mulholland Falls", and where he is thrown to his death.


  1. ^ Wright, David H. (October 2004). "Final Report". Commission of Inquiry Into Matters Relating to the Death of Neil Stonechild. Retrieved 2012-09-25. 
  2. ^ "Neil Stonechild: Timeline". CBC News. November 3, 2005. Retrieved 2012-09-25. 
  3. ^ "Two Worlds Colliding". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2012-09-25. 
  4. ^ "Threat claims shake police-aboriginal relations". CBC News. December 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  5. ^ "Man's abuse claims false: Winnipeg police". Winnipeg: CBC News. December 18, 2010. Retrieved 2012-09-25. 
  6. ^ Turenne, Paul (December 18, 2010). "Cops say man's freezing story a lie". CNEWS (Winnipeg). QMI Agency. Retrieved 2012-09-25. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Renaud, Rob; Reber, Susanne (2005). Starlight tour: the last, lonely night of Neil Stonechild. Toronto: Random House Canada. 427 pages. ISBN 0-679-31307-9. 
  • McLean, Candis (2015). When Police Become Prey: The Cold Hard Facts of Neil Stonechild's Freezing Death. Audacious Books. 357 pages. ISBN 978-1-77141-146-2. 

External links[edit]