On May 4, 1934, twelve-year-old George Roe was headed towards Crooked Creek on his father’s farm in the Spring Creek district just south of Moosomin. As he was walking, he came upon a clump of willows and noticed something odd. A man’s boot protruded from the soil next to the willow trees. The boy went home and told his dad, R. E. Roe, who notified Constable B. F. Harvey in the Moosomin RCMP detachment.
Constable Harvey went out to the farm to investigate and found the badly decomposed body of a man buried in a shallow grave of only about a foot deep.
The body was removed to Moosomin, where Mr. Roe recognized the sweater-smock and identified the body as Richard Arthur Hudson, a farmhand who’d gone missing two years previous.
Hudson had left the home of Thomas Fry, his employer, on horseback on April 11, 1932. When the horse returned riderless later that evening, a search was mounted but Hudson was never found. Now, two years later, his body had been discovered on the Roe farm just a short distance from the Fry property.
Provincial Pathologist, Dr. Frances McGill conducted the post mortem and testified at the coroner’s inquest. She believed Hudson had suffered a violent death, testifying that vertebrae in both his back and neck had been broken, “as if by some instrument”.
The verdict given by the coroner’s jury on May 18, 1934 was that Hudson had died at the hands of some person or persons unknown, but suspicion was heavily pointed towards William Ritchie, another farmhand in the Spring Creek district, as being the perpetrator.
No trial would ever be held for William Ritchie, however. Because William Ritchie was dead. His body was found seven weeks after Hudson’s disappearance.
On May 27, 1932, William Sheane, Ritchie’s employer, said he saw Ritchie in the evening before going to bed. The next morning he was told that Ritchie had left early and gone away and that was the last anyone saw of him until May 31st, when John Metcalfe, a farmer south of Moosomin, was out looking for a few stray cows and happened upon the badly decomposed body near a bluff on his farm.
An autopsy was performed and samples were sent to the university laboratory. The samples tested positive for formalin and the inquest came to the conclusion that Ritchie had died by suicide, from drinking formaldehyde.
Why did suspicion fall on William Ritchie for the murder of Richard Hudson? There were rumours of a love triangle and Hudson and Ritchie were said to be at odds over remarks Richard allegedly made about a woman Ritchie was interested in.
No further investigation was made into the death of Richard Hudson, the evidence collected enough to satisfy the coroner’s jury that it was most likely William Ritchie who’d ended his life and the community moved on. With both men dead, there was no way to find out exactly how Hudson was murdered, whether it was planned, with Ritchie lying in wait, or if they’d crossed paths and an argument had broken out. Did Ritchie end his life out of guilt seven weeks later? Or was it completely unrelated? And did Ritchie actually kill Hudson?
We’ll never know.
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Resources for this post came from the following issues of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and Regina Leader-Post: June 3, 1932, June 4, 1932, June 10, 1932, May 5, 1934, May 8, 1934 and May 19, 1934.
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