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.
I worked for the Vancouver Stock Exchange in the late 1980s—the same time that Forbes Magazine published a cover story calling it the “Scam Capital of the World.” While I never met Nick Masee, the mysterious disappearance of he and his wife in August 1994 has always intrigued me. This is a short excerpt from Cold Case Vancouver.
On July 26, 1924, Janet Smith was found shot in the head by a .45 calibre automatic revolver in the basement of a Shaughnessy house. The murder of the Scottish nanny rocked Vancouver. The murder touched on high-level police corruption, kidnapping, drugs, society orgies and rampant racism. This is a short excerpt from At Home With History: the secrets of Greater Vancouver’s heritage homes.
Debbie Roe was murdered on February 22, 1975. The following excerpt is from Cold Case Vancouver
In 1974, Debbie and Vicky Roe were living the dream. The sister act—Debbie was 22, and Vicky, 17, had just returned from Nashville where they’d cut a country-and-western album called Soft, Sweet and Country.