Police investigators into the death of the former Whistler resident and artist behind the iconic Mushroom House have ruled the death a homicide.
However, no cause of death is being released at this time for Patrick "Zube" Alyward, 71.
"To protect the integrity of the investigation the cause of Mr. Alyward’s death will not be released," said RCMP District Advisory NCO Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.
"Investigators have confirmed, however, that Mr. Aylward’s death was a murder. Investigators continue to pursue a multitude of tips and thank the public for their assistance. Investigators are still interested in speaking to anyone who travelled Highline Road during the late evening of Friday, October 12 and early morning of Saturday, October 13."
RCMP Southeast District Major Crime Unit and Lillooet RCMP continue to investigate the suspicious death that occurred at Alyward's residence on Highline Road at Anderson Lake (Seton Portage) last weekend.
A forensic autopsy was completed on Oct. 18 and investigators are formally releasing the victims’ identity in order to advance the investigation.
"The RCMP (is) aware of numerous rumours about Mr. Aylward’s death circulating around the communities of Seton Portage, D’Arcy, Pemberton and Whistler," stated an RCMP release.
"The investigation to date leads investigators to believe that Mr. Aylward’s death was a targeted and isolated incident.
"Mr. Aylward's death does not create a safety risk for others in the community.
The RCMP Southeast District Major Crime Unit has activated a dedicated tip line for the investigation into Aylward's death. Anyone with information regarding the murder can call 1 (877) 987-8477. Tips can also be sent anonymously to Sea to Sky Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at solvecrime.ca.REPORTED EARLIER:
Police received a report of a kidnapping and suspicious death at 1:36 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13 and attended the scene on Highline Road, where they located the body of a 71-year-old man.
Reached by phone, Dale Aylward confirmed to Pique that the deceased was his brother, former Whistlerite Zube Aylward. Aylward is perhaps best known as the artist who designed the whimsical Mushroom House, a 279-square-metre home in Emerald Estates that was inspired by the glacial formations found around Whistler. It sold for a reported $3.5 million in 2007.
“I’ve only met him about four times. He seemed very nice. European and maybe a little eccentric,” Seton Portage volunteer Fire Chief Frank Richings told Postmedia. “I would definitely say he has money. All the work done around his place didn’t get done with no money. He lived quite isolated out there.”
Known as a kind man with a small circle of friends, Aylward also built an ornate home near Anderson Lake located about 16 kilometres outside of Seton Portage. Described by Jorge Alvarez, founder of printing and graphic design company Toad Hall Studios, as “a cross between a hobbit home and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona,” the home includes a three-metre-high stone and glass mushroom sculpture inspired by the Whistler property and a bathtub carved out of a large slab of granite.
“He always thought outside the box. He always thought bigger than everyone else,” Alvarez said. “I admired his work and spent a lot of time at Anderson Lake, and every time I’d go by his house, I would see the progress of what he was building there, which was incredible.
“It was brilliant and the guy was brilliant.”
Seton Portage’s fire chief also said that Aylward's home included a greenhouse where he had been known to grow marijuana; Richings estimated there were likely upwards of 100 plants there.
Although police have released few details on the incident, Richings said Aylward was the victim of a home invasion-style robbery, and that his wife, Pat, narrowly escaped the intruders before notifying police.
Saturday’s news, as well as unconfirmed reports circulating of the grisly nature of Aylward’s death, have left the small community of a few hundred residents reeling, noted Richings.
“The town itself is sickened,” he said. “Even though you don’t know the guy that well, he seemed like a nice guy, pretty friendly.
“Quite a few people are upset. There is a lack of knowledge about what went on. A lot of people are concerned. Is this something we can expect again?”
In a release, police said the incident appears to be isolated and “investigators have no information to suggest that the greater public is at further risk.”
In a follow-up call to Cpl. Madonna Saunderson with the North District RCMP on Tuesday, Oct. 16, she said she had not been informed of any arrests being made in the case.
Due to the circumstances of the incident, the Southeast District Major Crime Unit has taken the lead on the investigation, with assistance from the Lillooet RCMP and the RCMP's Southeast District Forensic Identification Services.
Pique will continue to follow this developing story. Tips can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 604-938-0202.
With files from Lora Grindlay at Postmedia.