The iconic jade boulder from the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek, which was stolen during a daring robbery on Dec. 19, 2020, is back on display at the store, but is now being kept safely inside.
The 3,000-pound jade boulder formerly sat outside the shop, where it was cemented in place. It had been at the Cariboo Jade Shop since 1985, and was a popular and much-loved landmark with locals and tourists alike.
Shortly before midnight on Dec. 19, two Ashcroft residents who were returning from Kamloops saw a pickup truck towing a flat-deck trailer with an excavator on it leaving the Jade Shop parking lot. They spotted the boulder on the flat-deck and pursued the truck, which was heading east on Highway 1 toward Kamloops.
The passenger called 9-1-1 to report the incident, and the driver ended the pursuit and turned around after a man thought to be associated with the theft threw a boulder at them near the Ghost of Walhachin pullout east of Cache Creek, damaging the vehicle’s windshield.
Police later determined that at 9:45 p.m. on Dec. 19 the pickup truck, trailer, and excavator were at a hotel parking lot next door to the Jade Shop. At approximately 11:05 p.m. a man was seen walking to the truck, which then drove to the Jade Shop, where the excavator was used to lift the jade boulder onto the trailer.
Heidi Roy, whose family owns the Cariboo Jade Shop and whose father Ben Roy purchased the boulder in 1985, says that the thieves were probably foiled by the fact that they were spotted in the act of driving away with the boulder, and the police were alerted immediately. She also credits the widespread media attention, which made people aware of the theft.
“The police set up a road check at Savona [west of Savona on Highway 1],” she explains. To avoid it, the thieves turned off the highway onto Deadman-Vidette Road just west of the roadblock.
“I think they were probably panicking, because they knew they’d been observed and police were en route, so they had to go off-script and think on the fly. They probably thought they were on a logging road, but Deadman-Vidette Road is quite heavily populated.”
A resident who lives 32km up the road spotted the truck turning around in front of his house at around 2 a.m. The empty trailer was found the next day at the bottom of Deadman-Vidette Road, and Roy and her mother Judy spent time over Christmas scouring the road for any signs of the excavator.
“We thought we’d have a better chance of finding a giant excavator than the boulder,” she explains. “Finding a rock in the woods would be hard.”
Their search paid off. They located the excavator, but had to drive 25 kilometres back to the highway to get cell service so they could call the police. When the police officer arrived, the pair were told that the RCMP had just received a call on their tip line from a local rancher.
“He was out moving cattle, and thought it was a hot tub cover near the side of the road,” says Roy. “He was pretty annoyed, but then his wife said ‘I think it’s that rock from Cache Creek.’”
The boulder was intact, but had new chips top and bottom where it had been prised from its concrete base and then dropped during the theft. There was also a scratch on the face of the foot-thick boulder, which originally came from near Dease Lake and was once part of a much larger piece.
Asked what she thinks the thieves might have been planning to do with the boulder, Roy says she isn’t sure. Although the boulder is huge, it is of low quality jade with little commercial value.
“Based on the evidence, the thieves weren’t too smart, and I don’t think they thought long-term. The jade community is small, and there’s not much of a market for it. We contacted our suppliers and let the port know to watch out for it.
“Some people speculated they might have planned to carve it up, but it took 200 hours to carve that piece out. You need special tools.”
She adds that while police have identified suspects, the Crown has said there is not enough evidence to press charges, so the case will not be going to court.
After the boulder was recovered it was put in a secure storage unit while its fate was discussed.
“We got a lot of armchair advice about how to secure it: put a cage over it, or chain it. We asked the RCMP how we could secure it, and they said we could have cameras all over the place, but the next person would be wearing a hoodie and have a mask and have the licence plates obscured. They said you can’t prevent someone who really wants to do it, so putting it outside was too risky.”
That left the option of putting it inside the shop, which meant trying to figure out how to manoeuvre a 3,000-pound slab of rock up some stairs and into the front window of the store, while hoping that it would fit through the door and that the floor would bear the weight.
“It took a lot of planning,” says Roy. “We made a life-size cardboard cut-out for a dry run, then put plywood on the floor to reinforce it and moved all the showcases out of the way.” Andy Anderson of Home Hardware in Ashcroft used his store’s HIAB to bring the boulder from storage to the shop, then winch it onto a wood pallet so that it could be moved into place in one of the Jade Shop windows.
The boulder formerly stood on end, but now lies flat. “We couldn’t figure out how to prop it up so it wouldn’t fall over,” says Roy. However, she adds that they wanted to put the boulder back on display.
“So many people were asking about it, and still are, and we wanted to have it accessible. And it’s not just locals who have been asking. The news media took the story so far and wide.”
The boulder has been cleaned and polished and is now back where it belongs for people to view once more.
“People can come and see it again,” says Roy. “They can touch it and feel it and get an idea of its size. It came back on Wednesday [June 9] and people have been asking ‘Is that the stolen boulder?’”