Confession at the North Battleford Mental Hospital

On December 9, 1927, a travelling inspector of immigration arrived at the North Battleford Mental Hospital. He was there to assess an inmate, Andrew Owstroski, for deportation.

Andrew had been convicted of vagrancy a few months before and deportation proceedings had been initiated. He was two months into his sentence when he, to quote multiple news articles, “suddenly became insane” and was transferred to the mental hospital.

The inspector of immigration met with Andrew and over the course of the interview, he confessed to something shocking. He’d murdered his employer, Mrs. Naisca Cavuk and buried her in the stable on her farm.

Photo by Jeff Nissen on

Corporal Des Rosiers of the Wakaw detachment of the Provincial Police was the officer in charge of carrying out the preliminary investigation of Naisca Cavuk’s disappearance. She was reported missing by her son and from the moment the investigation began, Des Rosiers was suspicious of Andrew Owstroski.

He first questioned Owstroski on June 8, 1927. Owstroski told him he knew nothing of Mrs. Cavuk’s disappearance, but Des Rosiers didn’t believe him. He returned on June 12, 1927 to interview Owstroski again, this time placing him under arrest and searching his home. He found a blood stain on the sleeve of Owstroski’s shirt, as well as a dollar bill with a blood stain on it, neither of which could be explained by Owstroski. The blood was later tested on the dollar bill and found to be human.

Convinced of Owstroski’s guilt but needing more evidence, the same day Des Rosiers commandeered 100 men, lined them 15 paces apart and did a thorough search of the Cavuk farm. The men walked the property until dusk but came up empty handed. They tested the ground in the stable with a crowbar, looking for soft spots where the earth had been disturbed but no trace of the missing woman was found.

Now, 6 months later, Owstroski had apparently confessed to the inspector of immigration. The man sent the statement to the provincial police, where it reached Corporal Des Rosiers. On Dec 30, 1927, the search for the body began again.

The ground in the stable was frozen solid and they weren’t making much progress. For fifteen days they dug and searched, until Owstroski gave them details on the exact spot he buried her. Then, 24 hours later, Mrs. Cavuk was found, buried six feet deep. She was identified by several neighbours.

Jan 16, 1928 – Regina Leader-Post

Mrs. Naisca Cavuk had moved to the Tarnopol district south of Prince Albert sixteen years previous. She lived alone on her farm, her only son grown and moved out. She was fifty and starting to think about retirement.

At the beginning of June in 1927, she hired Andrew Owstroski and set him to work “grubbing” the stumps and small trees on her property.

Andrew had come to Canada from Poland about a year previous, and only just moved to the Tarnopol district. He worked for Mrs. Cavuk for only three days before he killed her.

The autopsy showed that the woman’s skull had been crushed in and death was most likely instantaneous. According to Andrew’s confession, he hit her on the head with an axe, carried her body to the stable and dug the six foot deep grave. He buried her there, then erased all traces of the digging by packing the earth until it was as firm as before. He took particular care to erase all possible trace of blood or disorder, then left and went to live with an acquaintance some distance away.

The only motive the police could come up with for her murder was the $40 she had on her person, which appeared to have been taken, but given Andrew’s mental state it seems unlikely his reasons for killing Mrs. Cavuk were anything so logical.

On January 22, 1928, the jury at the coroner’s inquest into Naisca Cavuk’s death brough a verdict that the woman had been killed by blows of an axe in the hands of Andrew Owstroski.

Andrew remained at the mental hospital, showing no signs of recovery, and his case remained before the immigration department. It’s possible he lived out the rest of his days at the mental hospital, but it’s also likely he was deported. I couldn’t find any follow up articles on what happened with his deportation case.

And that, my friends, is the story of the senseless murder of Naisca Cavuk of Tarnopol.

Jan 23, 1928 – Regina Leader-Post

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Information for this post was found in the following articles of the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Jan 16, 1928 and Jan 23, 1928

If you’d like to read more stories of historical true crime in Saskatchewan, start here:

Murder in Moose Jaw: The Heroism of Margaret Regan

The Shooting of Rosie Schmidt

Arsenic in the Milk: The Poisoning of George B. Reed

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