The case baffled Brandon police for months. Parents in the quiet prairie city were reporting unexplained bumps, bruises, even broken bones among teenaged boys.
On Monday, after one teen's debilitating injuries landed him in hospital, police finally cracked the case.
And it turned out be more lurid than anything they'd imagined: roughly 100 youths, aged 15 to 28, were voluntarily clobbering one another in a secret fight club called Brandon Beat Down. The bloody bouts were filmed and posted online.
Keegan Saville, the 19-year-old whose catastrophic mishaps in the ring were key to solving the case, first heard about the club several weeks ago.
"I decided to go check it," said the cook at a Humpty's restaurant. "That turned out not to be a good idea on my part."
His first match came on Sept. 4 alongside a remote highway on the outskirts of town. After guzzling several beers, he stepped into a makeshift ring of 50 or so spectators to face a formidable opponent.
"He had, like, 30 or 40 pounds on me, and he started giving me these knees to the left side," Mr. Saville said. "I didn't feel a whole lot because I was buzzed. But within half an hour the adrenalin wore off and I was in a world of hurt."
He went to the hospital, a bloodied mess. The next thing he remembers is waking up to a doctor saying, "we managed to save your spleen."
And then the police appeared. Reluctant to squeal on the club, Mr. Saville cooked up a lie.
"He indicated to us that he'd been attacked by three unknown assailants," said Brandon police Constable Ron Burgess. "Further investigation led us to the conclusion that he'd not been forthright."
Mr. Saville says he approached police several days later to tell the truth. For concocting the story, they charged him with public mischief.
But more than that, Mr. Saville's fight club explanation gave police a lead in the case of the teen bruises. Once they had tracked BBD online, they found startling video evidence of boys and men engaging in gory UFC-style submission matches.
While teen fight clubs have surfaced all over North America, paralleling the growth of popularity in televised mixed martial arts combat, the size and brutality of BBD was surprising.
Over the past week officers identified key members of the club, removed the fight footage from YouTube and dismantled the main Brandon Beat Down website.
But they still had one problem. "The fact these are consensual fights raises problems as far as charges being laid," Constable Burgess said. "So we came up with the prizefighting angle."
Under Section 83 of Canada's Criminal Code, a prize fight is any "encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them." Under the rarely used 1881 law - established when bare-knuckle bouts were in fashion - anyone associated with such a brawl could get a $5,000 fine or up to six months in prison.
Constable Burgess says school liaison officers are letting high schoolers know that they can be charged under the law for any future fights.
As for Mr. Saville, he's recovering slowly - a surgical mesh encases his battered spleen -trying to warn away new scrappers. "Fighting is for dumbasses," he said. "A couple good blows could end your life."
The trick is convincing young males in Brandon of that. Manitoba is a hub of UFC fandom. Several professional fighters - including Krzysztof Soszynski and Joe Doerksen - hail from the province, and professional fights have been staged in both Winnipeg and Brandon.
With that in mind, Mr. Saville has another message, albeit more subdued: "I got it bad, sure, but you should know his face didn't look too pretty either."Report Typo/Error