Former fugitive Whitey MacDonald dies in Winnipeg from cancer

An ex-fugitive who evaded arrest for more than 30 years while living on the lam in the United States has died in a Winnipeg nursing home.
Ian "Whitey" MacDonald, who evaded arrest for more than 30 years before being found in 2011, has died in a Winnipeg nursing home. (CBC)

An ex-fugitive who evaded arrest for more than 30 years while living on the lam in the United States has died in a Winnipeg nursing home.

Ian Jackson MacDonald, 75, had been serving a conditional sentence in the nursing home since he pleaded guilty in 2011 to one count of conspiracy to import narcotics, in a case that dates back to 1980.

His daughter Lisa Alexander told CBC News he died Wednesday from cancer.

She and her siblings, who live in the U.S., remain angry their dad was not shown mercy and allowed to return to the States to be reunited with his family for his final months.

Tracked down in 2011

Originally from Winnipeg, MacDonald — who was also known as Whitey and Big Mac — was arrested in Florida in 1980 on a warrant issued by Manitoba police, who claimed he had helped smuggle more than 225 kilograms of marijuana into Canada.

While in custody in the U.S., he faked a heart attack and was taken to hospital, where he escaped by conning a guard into removing his leg shackles.

MacDonald escaped and lived under an assumed name for decades before being tracked down by U.S. Marshals in 2011 and re-arrested.

An officer who had been assigned to the file in 2009 found information that led investigators to a home in Pennsylvania, where MacDonald and his wife had once lived.

Officers learned the couple had moved to a town in central Florida, where MacDonald was located and arrested in January 2011 and extradited back to Winnipeg.

After pleading guilty in September 2011, MacDonald received a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community.

Not long afterwards, MacDonald was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. At the time, MacDonald told CBC News he wanted Canadian and U.S. justice officials to let him return to Pennsylvania to finish his sentence.

His wife and children lobbied both the Canadian and U.S. governments to let him return to his U.S. home but were not successful.

MacDonald was allowed to move into a nursing home but as a condition of his sentence, he remained under 24-hour house arrest, except in case of medical appointments or emergencies.