At 1:45 Tuesday morning, Ken House looked out his bedroom window and noticed something strange.
Someone had attached a yellow rope to his neighbour’s doorknob and tied it to the side-view mirror of a van parked out front.
House knew the doors in his Riverdale housing complex opened inwards.
Fearing his neighbour and her children were in danger, he went outside to investigate.
As he approached the front of his neighbour’s van he heard a crash. The back door of her townhouse was being kicked in.
Then, he heard screaming.
Using a knife, he cut the rope between the van and the front door and started banging on it. He yelled to his neighbour that she and her children could escape out the front door.
“He has a gun,” House heard her say.
So he pulled out a cellphone and called the RCMP.
House had a strong suspicion that the intruder was his neighbour’s ex-boyfriend.
Early on Monday morning, her ex had shown up at the house and threatened to hang himself from a tree outside her place.
He was taken to the hospital. But the manager of the complex was still worried, and asked House, who is a former military officer, to take footage of the area. House set up a video camera and directed it at her apartment.
After House called the cops, it took seven minutes for them to arrive at the townhouse.
But it took more than an hour for police to storm the back door with shotguns and take the man into custody, according to House.
During that hour, “the assailant terrorized the woman … and her three children with an axe,” he wrote in an e-mail.
The assailant was overheard telling the police he had a 12-gauge shotgun and a .308 and .303 rifle.
But a search of the residence after the attack found only an axe, said House.
Once the man was taken into custody, the neighbour’s children were sent to the manager’s residence to calm down.
That’s where Katherine Worsley, House’s partner and a trained nurse, looked after the children.
“They were all in shock,” she said, explaining that the eldest is only 10 years old.
Even before the incident, the boy had taken to carrying a knife to protect his mother, she said.
“The younger kids won’t even go near the complex now. They’re scared stiff.”
What is most chilling to House and Worsley is that the incident could have been prevented.
“This guy was out of the hospital less than 12 hours after he went in,” said House.
The hospital and the RCMP should have been keeping a better watch on him, he said.
At the hospital, the man was kept in one of the psychiatric beds.
But he shouldn’t have been released so soon, said House.
“It’s up to the physician to discharge a patient if they think they’re safe,” said Val Pike, communications liaison for the Whitehorse Hospital.
“We can’t hold people here indefinitely.”
But Pike couldn’t speak specifically to the incident on March 15th, when the man was brought to hospital.
It’s not clear whether the man was taken to the hospital voluntarily and how and if he was properly discharged.
The Whitehorse hospital doesn’t have a specific unit dedicated to psychiatric patients.
House questions why more wasn’t done to protect his neighbour.
“(The assailant) has been stalking her for quite some time,” he said.
His neighbour had also put a restraining order on her ex-boyfriend and adds that he had just gotten out of jail.
“The courts have to get heavier on sentencing and monitoring these people,” he said.
“When someone has a restraining order, why aren’t they wearing ankle bracelets (that are attached to perimeter alarms)?
“That way, if they get too close, the Mounties can get to the scene in time.”
The Whitehorse police didn’t issue a release about the incident because the axe-wielding assailant may be suffering from “mental instability,” said RCMP Sgt. Don Rogers.
“We don’t intend to put a release out there because no one was hurt.
“There have been charges laid, though.”
The chilling event raises issues about domestic violence, said Worsley.
“Violence against women needs to stop,” she said.
“The system doesn’t adequately punish men that beat up women.”
Contact Vivian Belik at