Sunday January 14 marks the 65th anniversary of the discovery of the Babes in the Woods. The murder of the two small children in Stanley Park is one of Vancouver’s most enduring murder mysteries and is part of Cold Case Vancouver: the city’s most baffling unsolved murders.
I caught up for dinner with my friend Laura Yazedjian this week.
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.
When I was going through John Vance’s personal files for Blood, Sweat, and Fear, a small article torn from the pages of the long defunct Vancouver Star caught my eye. Vance’s handwriting dated it October 23, 1931 and it mentioned the murder of Naokichi Watanabe. Vance had clearly kept the clipping because he had testified that blood found on the suspect’s clothing was human.
One of the many fascinating things that Inspector John Vance packed away when he retired from the Vancouver Police Department in 1949 were several true crime magazines. He appeared in all of them. Reporters were intrigued by this scientist who was able to convict criminals through the tiniest piece of trace evidence, or determine death by poison, or through his forensic skills in serology and firearms examination.
The first time I went to the Vancouver Police Museum was in the late 1980s. It was a breakfast meeting for a tourist organization called Vancouver AM, and we ate in the autopsy room. I fell in love with the place then in all its macabre glory, and nearly three decades later I still love going there.
Last year, Constable Graham Walker of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police was asked to research the history for their 10-year anniversary. Graham promptly fell down the rabbit hole and his journey has taken him to UBC Special Collections, City of Vancouver Archives, BC Hydro Archives, and the Vancouver Police Museum. Graham’s first surprise was that the history of transit police goes back far longer than 2005 when a recommendation by the BC Association of Chiefs of Police led to the creation of the Transit Police.
I love it when people tell me that Vancouver was a much safer place back in the good old days. Clearly they haven’t read my books. Vancouver was a violent place full of murders, guns, explosives and drugs. As early as 1954 Vancouver was known as the drug capital of Canada, and drugs have been a part of our city since its inception.