Search teams recover missing psychiatric patient

The 37-year-old female psychiatric patient who escaped from Whitehorse General Hospital's secure medical unit was found on Tuesday night. Kathreen Denbrok somehow managed to slip through security and walk right out the front door.

The 37-year-old female psychiatric patient who escaped from Whitehorse General Hospital’s secure medical unit was found on Tuesday night.

Kathreen Denbrok somehow managed to slip through security and walk right out the front door of the hospital on Sunday afternoon.

On Tuesday, after two days of fruitless searching, police received a tip from a 13-year-old boy who had been fishing with his parents in the Hidden Lakes area.

The boy saw someone “acting strangely,” according to RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Don Rogers.

The boy told his parents, who remembered hearing about a missing patient. They phoned the police.

“That put us in an area that we weren’t necessarily going to cover,” said Rogers.

“So we were able to focus our resources in that area.”

The search was conducted along with 20 members of the Whitehorse district search-and-rescue team.

As many as 18 regular RCMP officers and one auxiliary officer were involved, as well as a bylaw officer and two summer students.

After three hours of combing the bush, Denbrok was finally spotted around 9:30 p.m. near Schwatka Lake.

Police turned her over to emergency medical services, and she was returned to the hospital.

“I can’t comment on her medical condition,” said Rogers.

“But she appeared to be healthy considering that she had not been receiving proper care and proper meals for the last couple of days.”

Security cameras caught sight of Denbrok walking nonchalantly through the main entrance of the hospital at 2:37 p.m. on Sunday.

She was wearing blue hospital pajamas, hospital booties, a white cable knit sweater and a double-layered white- or cream-coloured toque.

She was also carrying a blue book, which may have been a Bible.

Denbrok ran down Hospital Road and crossed toward the visitor’s parking lot before leaving the camera’s range.

A missing patient alert – a code yellow – was called at 2:45 p.m. and the RCMP was notified at 3:30 p.m.

Whitehorse RCMP, a police service dog, auxiliary constables and the Whitehorse district search-and-rescue team were called to find the woman.

Police concentrated their search around the hillside area adjacent to the hospital.

There, they were able to pick up tracks ascending the nearby escarpment. The tracks circled haphazardly throughout the bush and then led down behind the hospital, where the trail went cold.

“Pretty difficult to find a last-known location for her,” said Rogers on Tuesday.

“So the search was suspended because of the hour of the night as well as the fact that we were just kind of chasing our tails out there – there are so many trails and she was all over the place.”

On Monday, RCMP continued its search in the downtown area and along the Yukon River.

With no sign of Denbrok in town, police resumed searching the trail system near the hospital on Tuesday, with officers on foot, bike and ATV.

An aerial search is impractical this time of year because the forest canopy is dense, making it impossible to spot anything from the air.

Denbrok was an involuntary patient at the secure medical unit, brought in under the Mental Health Act.

She didn’t show any signs of being aggressive while in hospital, according to a hospital press release.

But she was at risk of harming herself.

Contact Chris Oke at

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