Surrey RCMP Inspector Beth McAndie holds the Stetson of Constable Terry Draginda, who was killed in a traffic crash while on duty in 1974. The hat somehow ended up in Europe. (RCMP photo)

How fallen Surrey Mountie’s Stetson ended up in Europe puzzles police

Constable Terry Draginda’s hat is repatriated after being found at a flea market in Hamburg, Germany

How a fallen Surrey Mountie’s Stetson ended up in Europe continues to mystify police.

The hat belonging to Constable Terry Draginda, who was killed while on duty in Guildford in 1974, has been repatriated to the main detachment building in Newton after a collector in Europe discovered it at a flea market in Hamburg, Germany.

Tim Jöckel, a former German police officer who had long been searching for an original John B. Stetson, was thrilled to find the hat, entirely unaware it had belonged to Draginda, who died in a traffic crash more than 44 years ago and 7,760 kilometres away.

To verify the authenticity of his find, Jöckel sent photos of the Stetson, along with the regimental number 27160 etched on its inside, to a friend in Canada – retired Surrey RCMP Superintendent Ric Hall.

Hall matched the number with Draginda and contacted Inspector Beth McAndie, of Surrey RCMP investigative services, major crimes.

McAndie, who also maintains the RCMP’s historical record in Surrey, arranged with Jöckel to swap a Stetson she had collected years ago for Draginda’s.

“I knew when I heard about Draginda’s Stetson that it belonged here at Surrey detachment,” she said. “Constable Draginda was only 24 years old when he lost his life on duty, and we must always remember and honour his service in every way we can. We’re very grateful to Mr. Jöckel, not only for locating the Stetson, but also for sending it home to Surrey detachment. It means a great deal to me, and to the men and women who serve, that our fallen officers are remembered and honoured.”

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Surrey RCMP Constable Terry Draginda, 24, is one of five police officers who were killed while on duty since the force began policing Surrey in 1951. (RCMP photo)

Surrey, Canada’s largest RCMP detachment, unveiled on Nov. 14, 2014 a monument to honour local Mounties who lost their lives while on duty since the RCMP began policing Surrey in 1951. The monument, at the detachment building’s entrance, contains the names of five constables.

The first officer killed was Constable Archie Lepine, originally from Saskatchewan, who was posted to the Pattullo Bridge detachment in July 1960. He died July 19, 1962, after his motorcycle collided with a delivery truck on what was then called King George Highway.

Constable Roger Pierlet hailed from Montreal. He was posted to the Cloverdale detachment. On March 29, 1974, while working what was supposed to be his last shift before he was to get married, he was shot dead after stopping a car in Cloverdale. The two killers were originally sentenced to death, but these were commuted to life sentences after capital punishment was abolished in Canada in 1976. An overpass in Cloverdale is named after Pierlet, in his honour.

Constable John Terry Draginda was born in the Northwest Territories. On Sept. 29, 1974, Draginda was responding to a serious motorcycle crash at 152nd Street and 96th Avenue when his patrol car collided with another vehicle, and as a result he and two people in the other car lost their lives. He is buried in Edmonton.

Constable John Baldwinson, born in Gimli, Manitoba, was an outstanding athlete. He died on Oct. 28, 1975, when his patrol car collided with a horse that had wandered onto the roadway late that night.

Most recently, Constable Adrian Oliver was killed on Nov. 13, 2012, when his patrol car collided with a truck at the intersection of 64th Avenue and 148th Street.

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Former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and Assistant Commissioner Bill Fordy in 2014 unveiling Surrey RCMP monument to local police officers killed while on duty. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)

It’s a mystery how Draginda’s Stetson ended up in Germany.

“I would love to be able to give you that answer,” McAndie told the Now-Leader. “There were some possible theories that have gone out, back and forth, amongst the veterans. We haven’t been able to 100 per cent secure what might have transpired, but Terry Draginda was on the Musical Ride back in the centennial ride tour and we were trying to see if the tour had actually gone over to Europe and would Terry have been on the musical ride at the time, which could explain how the hat got to Europe.”

The RCMP Musical Ride, consisting of 32 Mounties on horseback, is a world-famous celebration of RCMP heritage and tradition that performs in about 50 Canadian communities each year, raising thousands of dollars for charity.

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RCMP Musical Ride (File photo)

“We got in touch with a bunch of Musical Ride members that were in the Europe tour and they said Terry wasn’t on tour with them over there, and that tour had taken place in ‘74 or ‘75, so that didn’t make sense,” McAndie recalled. “So then we thought, was it possible that Terry had lent his Stetson to someone on the Musical Ride, and they took it, which happened all the time. So that was one potential theory, but we can’t have any way to solidify that. The other thought was we don’t know a lot about Terry’s family, and was it possible they had some of his kit after he passed away, and it went over to Europe with them, for some reason? We can’t verify that in any way, shape or form.”

Police haven’t heard from his family, McAndie said.

“I had a lot of phone calls, or messages and emails from retired veterans that were on the Musical Ride with him or some members that had worked in Surrey at the time of the accident, and just lots of ‘thank you so much’ and ‘I knew Terry’ or ‘I was a traffic analyst’ but nobody was able to come up with anything else.” she said. “No one’s come forward from the family.”

The Stetson has not yet been put on display, McAndie noted, “because we are still in the midst of constructing our display case at our new detachment building there at the old city hall. Ultimately the plan is there will be a display, part of it will feature the Stetson.”

The Surrey RCMP has expanded into the old city hall, which also houses Crown Counsel. “Because we have a large general duty, or from line service, they’ve expanded and moved them over there, so we occupy two buildings now.”

Asked if the Stetson she’s holding in the photograph pictured above is the same one Draginda is wearing in a framed portrait of him on the Surrey RCMP detachment’s Wall of Honour, McAndie replied, “I couldn’t say that but he didn’t have a lot of service when he passed away.

“I still have my original Stetson, and I’ve got 22 years of service, so it could be but I can’t say that for sure.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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