Irene and Mark Coulthurst Story Wikipedia: Who Killed The Family, Where Is Suspect John Peel Now?

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Captain Mark Coulthurst, his wife and children died after their boat was set on fire in craig, Alaska. The murder case remains unsolved. John Peel was a suspect but subsequently cleared.

A horror incident happened after a boat captain, Mark Coulthurst, his pregnant wife, Irene Coulthurst, their two children, and four deckhands were confirmed dead.

The family’s boat was set on fire and the incident took place in a small, remote fishing village of Craig in Alaska.

The brutal muder of the family left many shaken and the case has remained unsolved for decades.

Here’s what we know about what actually happened, suspect in this case and more about the family.

The Investor went up in flames, with eight on board
The Investor went up in flames, with eight on board. Credit: Courtesy of Alaska v. Peel case record
Irene and Mark Coulthurst were murdered
Irene and Mark Coulthurst were murderedCredit: Courtesy of Alaska State Troopers

How did Mark Coulthurst and his family die?

A SMALL, remote fishing village is still shaken today by the brutal murder of a young family and four others that remains unsolved more than 40 years on.

On September 6, 1982, the village of Craig in Alaska was woken up to news of a sickening crime.

A large fishing vessel, The Investor, had gone up in flames.

Onboard were owner Mark Coulthurst and his wife Irene, both 28, their two young children Kimberly, five, and four-year-old John, and four deckhands.

But investigators quickly realized this was no accident and no ordinary fire.

All had seemingly been shot to death except for the children.

Daughter Kimberly had been beaten over the head with a blunt object, while John’s remains were never identified.

The fiberglass boat had burned so hot and so strongly that no sign of him was found.

Author Leland Hale has studied The Investor Murders for decades, and written several books on the case, the most of which being 2018’s What Happened In Craig: Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.

Leland’s blog also documents the minutiae of a case that continues to fascinate and appall more than four decades on.

He explained to The U.S. Sun how the botched investigation left cops facing a near-impossible task, and the chilling signs that pointed to one future suspect – John Peel.

Their two children John, four (left) and Kimberley, five, were also murdered
Their two children John, four (left) and Kimberley, five, were also murdered. Credit: Courtesy of Alaska State Troopers

Who is the suspect in the Coulthurst family murder?

Early on, one name came up as a possible suspect.

John Peel had formerly worked on Coulthurst’s ship, but had been fired after a falling out.

Leland said: “John Peel was identified as a person of interest the day after the fire.”

He added: “Witnesses saw whoever it was coming back from the boat fire in a skiff, but they didn’t get a close look at ’em.

“It’s boat to boat. He’s in a boat that’s fairly low to the water. They’re in a fishing vessel, so it’s higher above the water.

“They bring the guy out, he says, ‘Yes, my name is John Peel, yes, I know the Coulthursts, yes. I used to fish with him.'”

Despite these details seemingly making Peel worthy of at least speaking to, Leland explained that it took at least a year for him to even ben interviewed by police.

John Peel was a suspect but subsequently cleared
John Peel was a suspect but subsequently cleared. Credit: Courtesy of Alaska v. Peel case court archives

Why was John Peel the suspected in the the Coulthurst family muder?

Cops put together a list of factors they felt any suspect would have to share.

The first factor was they had to have been in Craig on the day of the murder.

Although having just over a thousands residents, Craig’s population swells severalfold during the fishing season, meaning people from all over would have been in town.

Mark himself was an out-of-towner, living with his family during the off-season in Blaine, Washington, just on the Canadian border and 25 miles southeast of Vancouver.

Leland went on: “They had to know something about fishing and fishing boats because just taking The Investor out from the dock to where it was found, you had to have some skill and knowledge about fishing boats.”

The third big factor was whether or not the suspect knew the Coulthursts.

At first, suspicion fell on someone who had been on the boat at the time.

But many questions remained about the reason that everyone on board was murdered, including the children.

The case remains Alaska's worst unsolved mass murder
The case remains Alaska’s worst unsolved mass murder. Credit: Courtesy of Alaska State Troopers

As Leland said: “Why kill the kids? That seems kind of strange unless they could identify you.”

Coulthurst’s family always pointed to Peel as a suspect, Leland said..

“They always thought John Peel was a suspect because he had been fired,” he added.

“He had worked for Mark Coulthurst the year before on a different boat when Mark got the new boat. And Peel was kind of a troublesome guy. Didn’t work very hard.”

What leaves investigators such as Leland most puzzled is the lack of an obvious motive.

There were rumors that The Investor was being used to smuggle cocaine from Seattle, and that the family had been murdered over a drug deal gone wrong.

But while there certainly were fishing vessels working secretly as drug boats, Leland believes that explanation is unlikely.

First and foremost, this is down to the fact that Mark was by all accounts an intelligent businessman, who was able to secure a large loan from a bank to buy The Investor.

He also wasn’t in Craig often, and had traveled all over Alaska during the summer season that year.

Rumors abound in Craig even to this day that The Investor was where one could get “the best cocaine in town,” but with little real evidence.

Where is John Peel now?

Initially, John Kenneth Peel was produced in court in 1986, where he pled not guilty and agreed to a jury trial. Ultimately, the trial ended with a hung jury, and John got an opportunity to have a retrial in 1988. This time, the jury was confident in their decision and declared John not guilty of any crime. As a result, the charges against him were withdrawn, and John was ready to walk out as a free man.

Naturally, he was not one to take the mental anguish quietly and ended up suing the state for wrongful prosecution, which he subsequently won. As a result, the court reportedly ordered the state to pay John around $900,000 as a settlement.

John Peel broke his silence back in 2017 on the 35th anniversary of the murders.

He told People Magazine at the time: “Somebody was responsible for this. Somebody out there knows what happened, but I’m not going to waste any more of my life on it.”

Since then, John has preferred to live a life of privacy, making his current whereabouts unclear. However, he did appear on the Investigation Discovery show and claimed that while someone else committed his horrible crime, he did not want to waste his life hunting down the culprits.

On the other hand, Cops have officially closed the case but, Leland says, the records remain in the archives in Alaska to be studied again.

“Every single document used in this case has been put in the state archive. So if somebody wanted to go back and look at it and open it up again or whatever, that’s where I got all my material”, he said.