Saving History: Crime Maps, Surveillance Albums and Mugshot Books

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If you enjoy a good murder story, love heritage buildings, or just want to see what a morgue looks like, then you need to make your way down to the Vancouver Police Museum.

For those of us who write about crime, the museum is ground zero when it comes to information, because apart from the static displays there is a vast archive and amazing staff to help you navigate through it.

When the police station at 312 Main Street closed in 2010, the Museum inherited a bunch of really cool stuff. And, when I dropped by last week, Rozz and Elizabeth were kind enough to share a few of their finds.

Most fascinating were the crime maps dated from the 1940s to the mid ’70s.

“They are floor plans that were hand drawn by two officers and signed,” explained Elizabeth.

Some of the maps were for murder scenes, others for robberies.

Elizabeth carefully unrolled one of the maps. It was a very detailed drawing of the interior of a house and dated September 8, 1960. The address was 19 East 26th Avenue.

I couldn’t wait to get home.

Street directories showed that the house’s owner was a Mrs. Mina May Holmes. My next step was vital statistics. It turned out that 75-year-old Holmes came to an untimely end when she was beaten to death by “persons unknown.”

A date with the Vancouver Public Library’s microfilm confirmed that she was killed by a brain hemorrhage and a blow so severe that it broke her jaw and bashed in her skull. Police found her lying in a bed splattered with orange pop. They concluded that the pop bottle was the murder weapon and the prime suspect was Sammy Semple, 51, a former vaudeville dancer who had moved into her home the day before.

A check on Google maps shows that her house is still there.

Unfortunately, much of the information in the archives can’t be publicized because it contravenes Freedom of Information laws. One of these gems is an album (pictured at the top) packed full of surveillance photos showing women leaving the Penthouse nightclub on Seymour Street in the mid-1970s.

Elizabeth was able to identify the building from the distinctive exterior of the Penthouse door.

The back of the book has pages of mugshots indicating that surveillance paid off and the cops were able to prosecuted Angela, Kitty and dozens of other Penthouse “staffers.”

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

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