Murder, Investigation, and a Dash of Forensics

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Laura Yazedjian, coroner with the Police Museum’s Rozz Shipp

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 night I was at a reception to launch the new true crime exhibit. I talked to plain clothes detectives, museum curators, librarians, a criminologist, a forensic anthropologist and a GIS specialist from the coroner’s office who have the grim, but rewarding job of matching remains to missing people—sometimes decades later.

Rosslyn Shipp by part of the new true crime exhibit

Museum director, Rosslyn Shipp has spearheaded the changes, mostly on a shoestring budget, and transformed the old morgue in the process. The musty old wooden cases are gone, replaced by stories, case files, trace evidence and photographs from some of the most fascinating murders of last century. Rather than focus on the murder, the exhibits now tell the stories of the victims, putting them front and centre where they belong.

Sandra Boutilier and Carolyn Soltau, whose impending loss from the Sun/Province library will be keenly felt

The Babes in the Woods, the Pauls and the Kosberg murders have been updated and joined by three more. There’s a skull of a farmer found in the 1970s. He’d been shot in the head and buried along the edge of a river. The remains were matched to a missing person’s report by the coroner’s office. There’s the story of Viano Alto, a night watchman who was shot and killed while on the job in 1959. And there’s the 1994 murder of David Curnick, stabbed 146 times with his own kitchen knife.

The axe used in the Kosberg murders

Proper attention is now given to the work that went on in the building and its place in the evolution of forensics in Canada. John F.C.B. Vance, a city analyst and scientist (and the subject of my next book Blood, Sweat and Fear) has his place in the exhibit and much more emphasis is placed on the building’s history as the VPD crime lab (1932 to 1996).

Rozz is also the force behind the  speaker series now in its 5th year. The series kicks off next Wednesday (April 12) with a talk by Heidi Currie on the Kosberg murders. I’ll be looking at the unsolved murder of 24-year-old Jennie Conroy in 1944, former homicide sergeant Kevin McLaren will walk us through the murder investigation of four members of the Etibako family and Ashley Singh in 2006, former VPD sergeant Brian Honeybourn talks about his time in the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit, and staff Sergeant Lindsey Houghton will address how the VPD investigates and prosecutes organized crime.

Book your tickets: https://vancouverpolicemuseum.ca/speaker-series/

The skull of a murdered farmer found in the 1970s

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

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