Police are looking for any leads after an iconic piece of southern Cariboo history was stolen on Dec. 19. The final moments of the theft were witnessed by an Ashcroft resident, who tells of a dramatic chase that turned dangerous.
At around 11:55 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19 thieves made away with a jade boulder that has stood outside the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek for more than 30 years. It was last seen on a flat-deck trailer being towed by a Dodge pickup truck.
The Ashcroft resident and a friend were returning from Kamloops, and saw the pickup and flat-deck — which had an orange excavator on it — parked parallel to the Jade Shop on Todd Road. As they approached the intersection of highways 1 and 97 a man jumped off the trailer and got in the pickup truck, then drove through the intersection.
The Ashcroft resident, who does not want to be named, says that as it drove past them, headed east on Highway 1 toward Kamloops, they saw that the massive jade boulder — which is a foot thick and weighs 2,850 pounds — was on the flat-deck in front of the excavator.
At first they did not believe what they had seen, and the pair drove through the intersection and past the Jade Shop to confirm that the boulder was gone. They then turned around and began following the pickup and flat-deck as it travelled east.
“As we left town I called 9-1-1,” says the resident, who was not driving the vehicle. “We had got out to the Perry Ranch [east of Cache Creek] when a black SUV went flying past us and past the truck and trailer. I was on the phone with the RCMP, and when we got to the Christian Ranch the dispatcher said ‘Stop following them, it’s too dangerous, you don’t know if they’re armed.’
“We were getting ready to pull into the ‘Ghost of Walhachin’ pullout when someone ran into the middle of the road and threw a boulder at us, which hit the roof and the windshield. We continued around the corner because we didn’t want to stop there, and got halfway between the pullout and the turnoff to Juniper Beach, where we turned around.
“At that point the black SUV passed us going east. We returned home because it was too dangerous, especially after the rock got thrown. The guy was trying to hurt us.”
They were unable to get licence plate numbers, as the plates on both vehicles were either covered in mud or missing. There are reports that the pickup truck, trailer, and black SUV were later seen by a resident of Deadman-Vidette Road west of Savona, who spotted them on his property when he returned home from work in Ashcroft.
The Cariboo Jade Shop is a family-run business that was established in 1967. Heidi Roy, whose family has owned the shop since 1985, says that the thieves do not appear to have been very bright.
“The reports are that they went up Deadman Road at high speed, only to realize it was a dead end. They were probably spooked when they were chased. I think they thought they had eight hours’ lead time before anyone was the wiser that it was missing, and were thrown off when it was noticed so quickly and they were followed.”
Roy says that tips are flooding in and the police are working through them. Commenters on social media seized on the similarity between the pickup truck seen outside the Jade Shop and one that was recently reported stolen in Rutland, but they are not the same truck. Similarly, there are reports that a trailer was found in Savona, but Roy says it isn’t the one in the video.
Roy has seen a lot of online speculation about the value of the boulder.
“I’ve seen estimates that it’s worth $2.5 million. If I had a $2.5 million rock on my doorstep I wouldn’t be going to work every day; I’d sell it and retire.
“If the thieves are paying attention to the media, they’ll know its only value is as a showpiece on the steps of the shop. People are speculating that it will bed cut into smaller pieces because it’s such a recognizable rock, but it’s low grade to start with, and in small pieces it’s worth even less. The excavator used to steal it is worth more than the rock, and it would be much easier to sell the excavator.”
Roy says that the rock was put in place by her father, former Cache Creek mayor Ben Roy, after the family bought the business in 1985.
“Dad thought it would be a good marketing item as an attraction for tour buses and tourist traffic. A lot of people don’t know that jade is B.C.’s official gemstone. The mines for jade are so remote and inaccessible that most people don’t see it in its raw form; they just see it in finished form as jewellery or carvings. In the scheme of things it’s a small boulder, but it’s impressive.”
While the boulder has little monetary value, Roy says that to her family and the community of Cache Creek it has great historic and sentimental value.
“To us it’s priceless. It’s nice to see through social media that the whole community feels just as possessive of this rock as we do, and they want to get it back because it’s a landmark, and a well-known piece of Cache Creek. I’m seeing comments from all over the province and the world from people who took a picture of the rock, saying how much it meant to them, which is kind of nice.”
Roy hopes that the rock’s fame — she describes it as probably one of the most photographed rocks in the province — might help bring it back home.
“Anyone who sees it will say ‘Isn’t that the rock from Cache Creek?’ If the thieves are listening, I’d tell them ‘You made a mistake.’ Their best bet is to drop it somewhere where someone will find it and recognize it.”
Security camera video and photographs showing the pickup truck and trailer can be viewed on the Cariboo Jade & Gifts Facebook page. Anyone with any information, who was in the area at the time, or has dash-cam video is asked to contact Ashcroft RCMP at (250) 453-2216. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).