Pat Lowther died on September 24, 1975, her head smashed in with a hammer at her East Vancouver home. This is a short excerpt from At Home with History: the secrets of Greater Vancouver’s Heritage Houses.
The mustard-coloured house where Pat and Roy Lowther lived on East 46th Avenue near the cemetery, is a three-storey, classic kit home with a welcoming front porch and stained glass on the front door. There’s a church at the end of the street.
Pat, who was just 40 at the time of her murder, grew up in North Vancouver. The Vancouver Sun published her first poem when she was 10. She published her first collection of poems in 1968 and taught at the University of BC’s creative writing department. A Stone Diary, the book she was most known for, was published after her death.
At the time of her murder, Roy Lowther, 51, was a failed poet and teacher. They had four children—two were from Pat’s first marriage.
A week after she’d last seen her mother, Pat’s daughter Kathy went to police and reported her missing. Roy told police that his wife was having an affair with a poet in Ontario, and he assumed she’d gone there to be with him. Police checked airlines, rail and bus companies—no one had seen her.
Three weeks later, a family hiking at Furry Creek found her body lying face down in the water—her head and shoulders jammed under a log. The body was badly decomposed and police identified Pat from fingerprints and dental records.
A search of the couple’s bedroom turned up 117 blood spots on the wall. Police found a blood-stained mattress and a hammer at the Lowther’s house on Mayne Island. Roy was charged with murder.
Roy’s lawyers put up a fascinating defense. Roy admitted to finding his wife’s naked, battered body in the upstairs bedroom. He thought that the police would suspect him, he said, so he decided to get rid of the body. He put his wife in the family car, drove to Furry Creek, threw her body over a cliff, and hoped she wouldn’t be found.
A reporter attending the trial described Roy as unhealthy looking. “His ill-fitting grey suit jacket—perhaps it was once royal blue—hangs on his frame like a burlap sack and the doubled- up folds in his waistline suggest a drastic loss of weight.”
Pat’s lover also attended the trial. He was described as a chunky Ernest Hemingway in a tweed sports coat—”a short, rumpled intellectual obviously uncomfortable with the entire affair.”
Roy was convicted of murder and died in prison eight years later. In 1980, the League of Canadian Poets established the annual Pat Lowther award.
For more on how Pat’s murder impacted her two young daughters see Christine Lowther’s book Born Out of This.
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