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. This is an excerpt from Cold Case Vancouver: the city’s most baffling unsolved murders
On September 15, 1954, Danny Brent’s body was found on the tenth green at UBC’s golf course. Stuffed inside his shirt was an early edition of the newspaper, soaked with his blood. There was a half-smoked cigarette inside his shirt where it had dropped from his mouth when he was shot—once in the back and twice in the head with .45-calibre bullets.
Danny Brent’s murder was the city’s first gangland hit and it caused a sensation in the press providing a daily dose of true-crime for Mickey Spillane fans of the time. There was an assortment of sketchy characters—two ex-wives, rumours of a married girlfriend, and a Chicago-based drug syndicate. The plot wasn’t bad either. There were the hired killers from out of town, the attempted murders of two other Vancouver drug lords, and a large role for police chief Walter Mulligan, who would be kicked off the force the following year.
People liked 42-year-old Danny, even his ex-wives. He worked at the Press Club on Beatty Street. Tom Ardies, a Vancouver Sun reporter, wrote: “You can wander into the Press Club where Brent was head waiter and worked beneath the bizarre murals. One shows a man slumped over a card table. There’s a knife stuck in his back. There’s a reporter snitching a pickle off the dead man’s plate.”
On the night of his murder, Danny had finished his shift at the Press Club, and headed over to the Mayling Supper Club. He parked his red 1950 Meteor convertible—in the parking lot at the back of the building. A witness said he saw Danny leave with a woman and two men through the back door.
Police think Danny slid behind the wheel of his car, lit up a cigarette, and was shot in the back by one of the men. The first bullet pierced his spine at a downward angle and then tore a hole in his liver before it came out his navel. Dr T.R. Harmon, the pathologist, said he could have lived up to half-an-hour.
Four days after his murder, police opened a locker in the Vancouver Bus Depot and found 30 ounces of heroin with a street value of $175,000. It was quickly apparent that there was more to Danny than a waiter. Either he was killed by a gang trying to take over the heroin industry or murdered by a hit team for an outstanding drug debt.
By the end of 1954, the VPD were dealing with eight murders in a population of around 390,000. In 2014, Vancouver’s population was over 603,000 and clocked up nine murders.
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