A Scottish dog musher with ties to Alaska and the global mushing scene has died in a bizarre murder in Finland.
The BBC is reporting that 26-year-old Rebecca Johnson, who went by the name “Wolf Toshka” on Facebook, was stabbed to death while working as a dog handler for the SantaSafari tour company in Lapland.
Her killer is alleged to be her boyfriend, a Czech national, who fled the scene of the crime behind a dog team.
“A manhunt was launched involving snow scooters and a helicopter,” the BBC said. “The man was found a few hours later in the wilderness in temperatures of -30C (approximately minus-20F) and taken to hospital.”
The man was later identified as Radek Kovac.
“Santa tour guide Rebecca Johnson had ‘toxic relationship’ with lover Radek Kovac before he ‘stabbed her to death’ in Lapland,” the Scottish Sun newspaper headlined Wednesday.
The world of dog mushers is small and well-connected globally. Johnson, who had a long interest in the sport, was a Facebook friend of former Iditarod champ Martin Buser in Big Lake, Iditarod veteran and race official Karen Ramstead in Alberta, Canada; and a variety of others mushers from around the globe.
The 36-year-old Kovac “is thought to have slain her during a row at their digs,” the Sun reported. A friend told the Sun that Kovac had a temper and wasn’t well liked, but that Johnson was hooked on him.
Her Facebook page reflects a woman in love who shared with Kovac a fascination with animal protection and sled dog racing. Her page has post with a link to Alaska’s Hobo Jim – famous for the “Iditarod Trail Song” – singing a newer song, “Wild and Free”, at Ivory Jacks in Fairbanks.
Kovac was for a time the Scottish representative for a Czech company – ManMat – which was a sponsor of Eureka, Alaska musher Brent Sass. ManMat manufactures sled-dog harnesses and other sled-dog gear.
In an illustration of how global the world economy these days and how small the mushing community, ManMat gear was used by Sass when he drove to victory in the 2015 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
“GREAT VICTORY FOR MANMAT TEAM!!!!” Kovac posted on his Facebook page after the victory. “Brent Sass is the winner of the Yukon Quest!!! Big congratulations!!! Yukon Quest is one of the toughest sled dog races on Earth. The race is still on, although the first two competitors have gone through the finish line. Our very own Brent Sass is the winner that beat his opponent, last year champion, Allen Moore by several hours. Brent’s team equipped with the best dog equipment in the world made by Manmat. His dogs endured a thousand mile race in temperatures often below fifty Celsius. The dogs were often running in Manmat Dog Coats to save energy and Manmat Harnesses, they are the highest technology designed for performance and comfort.”
The Scottish Express quoted a statement from Finnish authorities after his arrest saying, “The suspect has been co-operative but hasn’t been able to clarify a specific motive for his suspected act. ”