Dr. William Brown was in good spirits when he left for his office on the afternoon of Monday, October 3, 1927. He’d just played a cribbage game with his wife, Mina, who reminded him not to hurry home that evening. She was in charge of a meeting of the Daughters of the Empire (a deeply racist charitable organization) and would be home late.
Despite being less than a week from his sixty-first birthday, they were both highly active and respected members of the community. On the previous Friday evening, Dr. Brown had held the opening night of the 1927-28 training season for his unit, the Tenth Field Ambulance in the Canadian Army Medical Corps of which he was the Lieutenant-Colonel and commanding officer.
He’d enlisted in 1914 as a lieutenant with the Frontiersmen Battalion. He’d become a Medical Officer of the Fifth Battalion on July 2, 1915 and in 1922 been promoted tothe rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He served in World War I from 1914-1921, and served through the important engagements of Ypres Salient, the Somme and Vimy Ridge.
Dr. Brown said goodbye to his wife and made his way to the Hammond Building, where he was in charge of the provincial clinic. At about 4:00 in the afternoon he was at his desk, smoking his pipe, when a man walked into his office. That man was Alex Oshuk. He pulled a .38 revolver from his jacket, leveled the gun at Dr. Brown and said:
“I’ve come to square things up.”
He fired a single shot, the bullet entering the left side of Dr. Brown’s chest four inches below his collarbone. It passed through a lobe of the left lung and through his aorta, completely severing it from the heart, before lodging itself in the muscles of his back near the spinal column. Dr. Brown was dead almost instantly.
Alex Oshuk left immediately, hurrying past P. W. Graham, a contractor with an office in the building. He had another stop to make.
Meanwhile, Dr. J. H. Knight was in his own office near Dr. Brown’s. He’d heard the shot but assumed the sound had come from the street below his window. A few moments later, some men ran into his office, saying that something had happened to Dr. Brown. They ran to Dr. Brown’s office, where Dr. Knight found him sitting in his chair, his arms on the armrests, his head bent slightly forward. As Knight approached, one of Dr. Brown’s arms slid off the armrest and his pipe clattered to the floor. He was dead.
Seeing that there was nothing he could do for his colleague, Dr. Knight phoned the coroner and the police.
Alex Oshuk had one more score to settle. He made his way down Main Street to the Woolworth Building, where a lawyer, Oswold Regan kept his offices. Oswold had just come from his desk to the outer office, where his wife, Margaret, was transcribing. He had an error for her to correct. He was standing, looking over her shoulder at the document when Alex threw open the door and walked in.
“I have just shot Dr. Brown,” he told him, pulling out the revolver, “and I am now going to shoot you.”
Oswold dropped to the floor, cowering beneath the desk, waiting for the trigger to be pulled. Margaret did not. She stood up from her desk, stepped in front of her husband and stared Alex in the eye.
“You will not shoot him,” she told Alex. “You will have to shoot me first.”
Alex, she later told reporters, was in a very excited state. He looked terrible. He stood there, trembling, his hand shaking violently as he held the gun out.
“It seemed a very long time, looking into the muzzle of that gun, but it all happened very quickly,” she said.
Alex seemed to wilt on the spot. “No, Mrs. Regan,” he told her, “I cannot shoot you to get him.”
He walked to her desk, broke the revolver and emptied the cartridges onto her desk before sitting in a chair. Mr. Regan got himself off the floor, took the gun and cartridges and went to get the police. As soon as he emptied the gun and sat down, Alex seemed to come back to himself. Both the Regans said that he spoke normally and rationally, chatting with Mrs. Regan while they waited for the police.
Alex Oshuk was arrested without incident.
Why did Alex Oshuk decide to kill Dr. Brown and Mr. Regan? Back in 1925, Alex had gone to see Dr. Brown. Apparently, he’d contracted a sexually transmitted disease and went to him for treatment. He was courting a woman in Winnipeg and couldn’t marry her until he received a clean bill of health. An intensive course of treatment was conducted but months later the infection lingered and Oshuk’s eyes had begun to bother him. Dr. Brown sent him to an eye specialist.
He wanted Dr. Brown to give him a certificate that said he was cured, but Dr. Brown refused, telling him to see another doctor and pay the fee for a certificate.
Two years later the infection still lingered and his eyes were worse than ever. Oshuk had been to see multiple doctors and specialists. He told friends that the doctors had told him that the medicine Dr. Brown had given him for his eyes had burned his glands and his eyes were eventually going to burst and leak out through the burned glands. He said the doctors told him his eyes were ruined and he was going to go completely blind.
Alex Oshuk was devastated and obviously terrified at the prospect of going blind and having no way to support himself, so he went to see Oswold Regan. He wanted to sue Dr. Brown for $5000 for mistreatment. Regan was initially interested in the case, but after investigating told Oshuk that there was no case and refused to take it any further. It should be noted he was friendly with Dr. Brown and played golf with him, but whether that factored into his decision is unclear.
Oshuk reported Regan to the law society, who in turn found no basis for a case against Regan.
Were Alex Oshuk’s eyes actually going to burst and leak out through his glands? Probably not. Although eyes can rupture, this usually only occurs with blunt or penetrating trauma. It’s more likely that Oshuk didn’t fully understand the doctors’ diagnoses because he didn’t speak very much english. He required an interpreter for all of his police interviews.
The likely cause of Oshuk’s eye problems was syphilis. If he’d contracted syphilis it was possible that at some point he’d touched his genitals before rubbing his eyes, therefore contracting ocular syphilis, which can present with eye pain, eye pressure and can result in vision loss and blindness. It would also make sense for the infection to linger after intensive treatment, as Alexander Fleming only discovered Penicillin in 1928, three years too late for Alex Oshuk.
Was Dr. Brown guilty of mistreatment? It’s possible, but probably not. Shortly before the murder Alex reported he had seen a final specialist who told him it was too late to fix his eyes. He’d decided then to even things with the doctor he believed responsible for his misfortune.
On January 17, 1928 Alex OShuk was found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to hang at the Regina jail in April of the same year. Multiple appeals were made and petitions signed asking for mercy, but at 5:00AM, April 26, 1928, Alex Oshuk was hung.
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Information for today’s post came from the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and the Saskatoon Daily Star: Oct 4, 1927, Oct 5, 1927, Oct 6, 1927, Oct 7, 1927, Oct 8, 1927, Oct 12, 1927, Oct 15, 1927, Oct 18, 1927, Jan 19, 1928, Jan 20, 1928, Feb 9, 1928, March 10, 1928, April 25, 1928, April 26, 1928. As well as an excerpt from Sour Milk and Other Saskatchewan Crime Stories by Jana Pruden and Barb Pacholik, published in the Regina Leader-Post on Aug 25, 2007.
If you’d like to read more Saskatchewan historical true crime, see below: