Shootin’ Rabbits by Moonlight: The Murder of Hans Pederson

Photo by Vedad Colic on

Murder Most Foul

On the morning of December 29, 1931, the Tilks brothers, Albert and Kenneth, were driving to Ardath when they saw something in the snow near the main road into town. It was the frozen body of Hans Pederson, a twenty-two year old Danish immigrant who worked as a farmhand on the farm of F.R. Young, two miles north of Ardath. He was found lying face down in the snow, just 200 yards from his shack.

The brothers went immediately to his employer, who notified authorities. When RCMP came to collect his body, it was assumed that he died of exposure, frozen to death in the snow, but when they examined him they found something shocking. There was a bullet hole in Pederson’s clothing and a single faint spot of blood on his underclothing. Hans Pederson had been murdered.

An investigation of his shack soon revealed more troubling clues. Someone had attempted to burn down the shack. The bedclothing on Pederson’s bed was burnt, the burner of a lamp laying on the bed. The lamp itself and chimney were found on a table in another room. The flames had not left the bed, but the woodwork on a nearby window was scorched.

A heavy snow fell on the day Pederson’s body was found, obscuring any chance for footprints.

Constable R.M. Wood of the Rosetown detachment of the RCMP was put in charge of the investigation, assisted by two constables from Saskatoon.

An autopsy was conducted in Ardath by Dr. W. S. Lindsay, a pathologist at the University of Saskatchewan. He found that Pederson had been shot at short range, the bullet entering his abdomen. Death had probably occurred within about five minutes from internal hemorrhage. The bullet he extracted from Pederson was from a .22 rifle.

Constable Wood’s theory was that someone had gone into the shack and shot Pederson from the bedroom doorway as he was sleeping. Pederson had woken up, thrown on some clothes and rushed out of the house, possibly in pursuit of his attacker, possibly searching for help, only to fall exhausted in the snow and bleed to death internally. His outer clothes had been put on loosely, without being buttoned up and the bullet holes were only in his shirt and underclothes.

During his examination of the body and crime scene, Wood found fingerprints on the lamp glass, which he sent to the RCMP fingerprint expert. On January 5, 1932, he issued a warrant for the arrest of Paul Schudwitz.

Jan 6, 1932 – Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

Paul Schudwitz

Paul Schudwitz and Hans Pederson had actually been friends. The year before they’d both worked on the Young farm and had lived together in Pederson’s shack. But at some point bad blood had arisen between the two, although no one knew what it was about. Schudwitz was said to be a sullen, brooding type, the opposite of Pederson, who was friendly and well liked by everyone in the district. The community remembered Schudwitz as being unusually preoccupied and suffering from some grievance, whether real or imagined, on Pederson’s part.

He had gone to John Sabine on the day of the murder and requested the loan of his .22 rifle, claiming he needed it to shoot some rabbits. John had previously lent the rifle to a man named Erle Halliwell, so he told Schudwitz that he’d have Halliwell meet him at the local restaurant, a Chinese cafe, to deliver it.

Donald White, the last man to see Schudwitz that night, told RCMP that he and Schudwitz had left the cafe at around 9:00PM, when Schudwitz told him he intended to “shoot rabbits by moonlight”. On White’s way home, he noted a light on at Pederson’s residence, as usual.

Jan 5, 1932 – Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

Schudwitz had recently received a substantial payment in wages. Police were worried he might attempt to leave the province. His photo and description were released to the papers, in hopes someone would recognize him and notify police.

As it turned out, the manhunt was not needed. On January 8th, 1932, Hector Torgerson, a farmer in the Gledhow district 29 miles away, sent his young son, Herman, out on horseback to see if the cattle had broken into the granary, which contained a quantity of barley. The granary lay on a hill west and above the farm at the far end of the Pike Like Valley.

Herman entered the granary and found the frozen body of Paul Schudwitz, covered with a rime of heavy frost, a .22 rifle in his left hand and a bullet wound in his head from his left temple to his right. He hurried home and told his father. They didn’t have a telephone, so a trip was made to the neighbour’s to notify authorities.

The next day the roads had become impassable to automobiles and travel was difficult even for horses. Constable S. Baskin from the RCMP in Delisle set out for the granary with coroner Dr. H.A. Cameron. The 28 mile journey took the entire day to make it there and back. They removed the body to another building on the farm and locked it, pending further investigation.

Given the level of frost on the remains, it was likely the body had been in the building for several days. The RCMP believed Schudwick must have walked along the river ice after he killed Pederson, reaching the granary in the early hours of December 29th where he’d taken his own life.

Jan 11, 1932 – Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

The .22 rifle and the bullets removed from Pederson and Schudwitz were sent to Constable B.J.O. Strong, the ballistics expert for the RCMP. He test fired bullets from the rifle and compared them to the bullets found in Pederson and Schudwitz. They’d all come from the same gun. Schudwitz’s fingerprints matched the ones found on the lamp used to burn Pederson’s bed.

On January 14 1932, a coroner’s jury found that Hans Pederson had been killed by a shot fired from a .22 rifle by Paul Schudwitz, who later turned the gun on himself. The source of their disagreement died with them, never to be revealed.

Jan 14, 1932 – Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

Thank you for reading! Information for this post was gathered from the following issues of the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Dec 31, 1931, Jan 2, 1932, Jan 4, 1932, Jan 5, 1932, Jan 6, 1932, Jan 9, 1932, Jan 11, 1932, Jan 14, 1932

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Want to read more about murder in historical Saskatchewan? Start with these:

The Disappearance of Richard Arthur Hudson

The Murder of Eileen Bailey

Murder in Redberry, Saskatchewan

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