The Pauls: Vancouver’s first triple murder

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The following story is an excerpt from a chapter in Cold Case Vancouver:

On June 10, 1958, David Pauls, 52 was shot three times in the head with a .22-calibre revolver by the back door of the family home. The killer then went upstairs and clubbed 11-year-old Dorothy Pauls to death in her bed. When Helen Pauls, 45, returned from work a short time later the killer shot her twice in the head and then beat her dead body with a blunt instrument. It was Vancouver’s first triple homicide and it remains unsolved.

The Pauls were murdered in their Vancouver home in 1958
Helen, Dorothy and David Pauls ca.1958

When I was researching this story, what upset me the most aside from the sheer brutality of the murders; was why this could happen to what seemed to be such a normal family, in their own home. This was the 1950s after all, people didn’t lock their doors and Vancouver was still a small town. Apparently not. A search through the newspapers of the time shows a surprisingly violent city. There was a series of violent rapes, and Vancouver had lost its innocence three months before the Pauls died, when Evelyn Roche, 39, was murdered just blocks from her East Vancouver home.

The Pauls were originally from Russia, attended the German Mennonite church until a short time before their deaths, and before moving to Vancouver in 1953, farmed in Aldergrove. David worked as a janitor for Woodwards, and in a period where most mothers stayed at home, Helen worked the afternoon shift at the Home Fancy Sausage Shop on East Hastings. Dorothy attended Walter Moberly Elementary School.

1014 east 53rd Avenue, Vancouver
1014 East 53rd Avenue, Vancouver, demolished 1971

The only clues police had to go on were a partial footprint in the garden, a bloody, but unidentifiable palm print on the bedroom wall, and a dislodged rock in the garden that indicated the way the killer had fled. The murder weapon was never found, but forensics determined that the bullets came from a Rohm RG-10 Revolver. Another dead end as the guns sold in stores throughout the US for $14.95.

Dorothy's bedroom, courtesy of Vancouver Police MuseumPolice investigated several theories in the Pauls murder including connections to Russia and a communist plot. A botched robbery and a potential home invasion were also ruled out because nothing was stolen and Helen’s untouched purse lay open on the table. Police believed that David may have caught a peeping tom looking through Dorothy’s window as the partial footprint was found outside her window.

While the nature of the crime suggested an execution-style killing, police couldn’t find any leads and the murders remain unsolved.


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

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  1. I solved this murder years back, and I know the family of the boy who killed the family and others in the area. Here is a clue..HT. won honor for solving the Babes the Woods case and the murder of Janet Smith. 🙂

    1. Who was it? I grew up in that area. I was born in 62 after it all happened but many stories were floating around. We had a creep, stalking around our home and exposing himself, and calling our home for years. The guy was never caught. I grew up in 700 block east 56th.

      1. Wow I was born and raised in Van in 70’s lived on 400 block of E 56th Ave, never heard of this story until I saw a home invasion video on YouTube, this house would be near Sunset Park area from memory.

  2. THE 1958 Murder of the Pauls Family. I was 12 yrs old when this happened. Dorothy & her family had been to visit Relatives as they often did (Pauls also) in Abbotsford just down the road from us during the previous weekend. I played with her & the other Pauls girls during that weekend. I can remember thinking Dorothy was always very nicely dressed right down to her shoes. The Murder was a shock in our Town. The Funeral was immense, a packed house held at the MEI Auditorium. I at the age of 12 went alone to the Funeral & also viewed them all. I was terrified & I was so sad to see Dorothy dead when we had just a few days back been playing together. This Murder has haunted me for years & I’m a great watcher of Unsolved Mysteries. I am now 68 yrs old. The public has a right to any information available. I would love to see this solved.

  3. Hi Eve!
    I attended your lecture at the Police museum, (which I thought was wonderful) and I was just discussing it with my Father. I started talking about the Pauls murders, and (how we hadnt talked about this before, I really don’t know!) he mentioned to me that my great aunt had been murdered shortly before that, and all of a sudden a lightbulb went off in my head. I remember thinking Evelyn Roche.. That’s funny, there aren’t all that many Roche’s in Vancouver! I just can’t believe I attended the lecture and you briefly spoke about my great aunt without me having a clue! Weird!

  4. This is my great uncle and aunt. I first learned about the case watching unsolved mysteries when I was around 12. I’ve always been told Helen heard something she shouldn’t have and the Russian mob retaliated. Scary.

  5. Helen is my grandmother’s sister, I have facial features that resemble both Helen and her sister, my grandmother Eva. My mother is 2 years older than Dorothy when the murders happened. My mom loved Dorothy and used to play with her. I grew up of hearing of this murder.

  6. I was 8 years old when this murder occurred . Our property on Ross road in Aldergrove, was next to the Paul’s property. David Paul’s was a distant cousin of my dads. I remember spending many summer hours playing with Dorthy on our families property. Although she was 4 years older, we got along really well. We occasionally would take a road trip to Vancouver to visit them. I will never forget that June morning, hearing about the murders on the news as we were having breakfast, and preparing to visit them that day in Vancouver. Our family was Mennonite, as they were. Nearly everyone in our community knew them. It deeply effected and devastated our lives. My younger brother, and older sister were plagued for years by nightmares. My brother and I were not allowed to go to the funeral, but my older sister went with my parents and talked about it often over the years. The funeral was held in M.E.I. The Mennonite school we attended. My parents had their theories about who did this. I remember they always though it had something to do with their Russian heritage. My theory has always been that it was something much more personal. The violent nature of these murders makes me and my siblings think whoever did this, knew time goes on, it seems we will never know.

  7. I recall this story from my childhood. I grew up on east 56th Avenue in the 60’s and 70’s. I recall many people talking about this and one story I am surprised isn’t in this article at all. Not to disrespect anyone, but the word in the neighborhood was that the Pauls were not quite so Christian after all. Story was that they were renting a room out in their basement for people to use for “private” sexual encounters. Rumor was that the Pauls…maybe just Mr. Paul had a hole in wall and was taking pics and possibly blackmailing men. Like I said. This was the prevalent story in our neighborhood at the time. Just surprised it is not mentioned.

  8. Hello Eve,

    This case has interested me for a long time.

    I think that it is actually quite simple.

    The perpetrator obviously knew the family. I suspect that he had been warned off of paying attention to Dorothy before the murder,

    He probably had been observing Dorothy through her window the night that it happened. Mr Pauls likely surprised him and that is when the stone was dislodged from the rockery.

    After Mr. Pauls was shot, the perpetrator went upstairs and took advantage of Dorothy. I think that it is true that her head was covered with the bathrobe to shield her from seeing what he wanted to do. He was physically strong, but perhaps not mentally.

    It makes sense to me that he would have waited for Mrs. Pauls to come home, and then kill her. She would have known who he was. The Pauls had probably already noticed an unnatural interest in their daughter and approached him. I bet that he was somebody that they knew.

    The mores of the times were that families never discussed personal issues. All of the other theories may have been put around to mask the truth.

    I do not want my name or email address to be published.

  9. I agree Peter, the killer must have known the family. The blinds must have been open if the killer could observe Dorothy the night it happened. If the blinds had been closed then the stone could have been moved on a different day. I suspect that the person who was told to not come back anymore left in a huff and noticed the big stone as he was leaving, picked it up with the intention of getting rid of his frustration but changed his mind and instead left. It probably was not his style to act quickly in a temper. He was a person who had to plan.

    I agree the killer would have been physically strong but not mentally strong.

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