Christmas Murder Mysteries – Week Four

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We’ve come to the end, the final week of reading Christmas murder mysteries. And for our final selection, I’ve chosen something great. Get ready for…

The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay

This is your classic, country-house Christmas murder mystery. It has a menagerie of odd and secretive family members, a crusty old patriarch, the threat of a will being changed and of course, Santa. It also gives the perspective of multiple characters, which I love, each giving you a piece to the mystery.

It’s a great story to close out our month of classic Christmas murders. I’ve loved reading these books with all of you and I hope its helped bring a little bit of coziness and fun to your own holiday season. I’m off next week, so you won’t see anything from me until the new year, when I return with more horrifying tales of historical true crime. Until then, take care and if your family is driving you crazy, read don’t kill.

Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading! Below are the rest of the Christmas Murder Mystery selections!

Christmas Murder Mysteries – Week Three

Christmas Murder Mysteries – Week Two

Murder for Christmas

Christmas Murder Mysteries – Week Three

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Welcome to week three of Christmas murder mysteries. How is everyone feeling? Are we in the holiday spirit yet? Eager to solve another murder? Then let’s get on with it! Week three’s selection is…

Murder For Christmas by Francis Duncan

Murder For Christmas by Francis Duncan

It’s Christmas time and our retired hero, Mordecai Tremaine, has been invited to an acquaintance’s for Christmas. But the invitation had a concerning note at the end and everything at the Christmas party feels… a little off. Everyone seems happy, but secrets abound and when someone gets murdered… well, Mordecai will need to figure out whose secret was worth killing to protect.

This one was FUN. It’s starts out slow, the murder doesn’t happen until near the halfway point, but there are a lot of twists and you know a good mystery needs lots of secrets, which this one has in spades.

My hope for all of you is that by the time Christmas arrives, you’re looking at all your neighbours and family members with suspicion as possible murder suspects. Because isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Thank you for reading! If you want to give me an early Christmas present, then subscribe and share! See you next week!

Murder for Christmas – Christmas Murder Mysteries Week 1

Christmas Murder Mysteries – Week 2

Christmas Murder Mysteries – Week Two

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It’s week two of our Christmas Murder Mystery Book Club and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m not going to lie, I agonized over which book to choose for the unenviable position of having to follow the incredible Agatha Christie and her masterpiece, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. (Did you miss last week? Read it here.) I narrowed it down to two choices and finally decided on:

A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer

A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer

Now, a small disclaimer. I figured out who the murderer was and how they’d done it pretty quickly. But I didn’t mind, because I really liked the cast of characters and watching it all play out. My favourite character, by far, was Maud. I think you’ll get it when you read it. It’s just really fun. It’s like any ridiculously mismatched family having the usual Christmas dramatics, but there’s murder. And honestly, I really want to see if you’ll solve it too. (No shame if you don’t! It’s more fun that way anyway.)

So grab a blanket, a nice cup of tea (or whisky. No judgment!) and curl up with this week’s story of holiday murder. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

If you’re enjoying our Christmas read along, please subscribe and share! And if you’re longing for more holiday content, check these out:

How to Wrap a Present (Another Yuletide Adventure)

Christmas Movies That Have Nothing To Do With Christmas

Thanks for reading!

Murder for Christmas

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I know what you’re thinking, that’s a great title for a true crime story, and it is! But alas, I’m not talking true crime today. (Yes, the title is a bit misleading. Forgive me, I still wanted you to come read it. But I promise it’s murder related.) December is upon us, that twinkly-light-filled time of year when we make and eat enormous amounts of baked goods and try to put up with our relatives.

I’m not much for Christmas, but this year I’m trying to embrace the bits I do enjoy, like the aforementioned twinkly lights and baked goods. As part of my holiday celebration, I decided that I’m going to read some Christmas books. No, not A Christmas Carol, The Christmas Box or The Gift of The Magi. In keeping with my interests, they will all be murder themed. Yes, that’s right. It’s a Christmas murder mystery extravaganza!

Starting with…

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Agatha Christie

Oh yes, you know I had to start with the queen herself, Agatha Christie. My God, can that woman write a mystery. I literally read this all in one sitting yesterday and within the first chapter I was like, “oh yeah! I’ve read this one!” and although I knew who the killer was, I couldn’t remember how they were caught, so I kept on reading and damn! Even on a second run it was fantastic. It’s like rewatching The Sixth Sense for the first time, when you know the solution and now you get to see that all the clues were there! Agatha Christie, that genius, gives you everything you need to solve the mystery as you read. She doesn’t cheat and hold back something important. No, she gives you everything the detective, Hercule Poirot, knows and then some, all while writing an engaging story with interesting characters.

So, read it! Because every week I’m going to be reading and reviewing a new Christmas murder mystery and I hope you’ll read along with me. Think of it as a low stress, Christmas book club. We’ll all cozy up, read a good holiday themed murder and practice a little self care during this high stress time. And come the new year, I promise I’ll get back to telling you some horrifying stories of true crime in Saskatchewan.

Thank you for reading! If you feel like doing me a solid, subscribe and share!

And if you’re really missing that dose of historical true crime, here are some of the murders I’ve covered, winter themed for your holiday enjoyment.

The Haunted Skull of the Kerrobert Courthouse

Shootin’ Rabbits by Moonlight: The Murder of Hans Pederson

Murder at Lake Athabasca

A Deadly Obsession: The Murder of Myrtle Beckler

March 27, 1931

It was Friday night in Beechy, Saskatchewan and an old-time dance was being held at the village hotel. Harry Payne, a local butcher, was in attendance with his wife, as well as one of their boarders, eighteen-year-old Myrtle Beckler. She’d come to Beechy only two months before, having just finished high school and then shorthand school in Saskatoon. Myrtle had gotten a job as the stenographer at the local Bank of Nova Scotia and was already popular among the villagers with her sunny disposition and sweet personality.

At midnight, Mervin Elliot arrived. He was a teller at the same bank, and had recently been promoted to ‘the cage’. He didn’t care for old-time dances, he was there to see Myrtle. He found her and the pair left the dance, walking to Myrtle’s residence at the Payne home about two blocks away.

When they arrived, Miss Frances Isley, another boarder, was still awake, reading her book in the sitting room. She later said that Elliot seemed normal. He spoke to her about the book she was reading, although he did not talk to Myrtle. After a while, she went to her bedroom to turn in. She could hear the two of them talking in low tones and then she heard Elliot leave. Myrtle walked to her room and started getting ready for bed, taking off her rings and placing them on the dresser. Just as Miss Isley was dozing off, she heard a knock at the door. Myrtle answered it and she could hear Myrtle and Elliot in conversation in the sitting room, but couldn’t hear what was being said, until suddenly Myrtle exclaimed, “Mervin, Mervin you don’t dare.”

The words barely made it past Myrtle’s lips before three shots rang out in quick succession. A fourth followed a moment later. Miss Isley sat up in bed, too terrified to leave her room. At the back of the house, the two Payne children were fast asleep, undisturbed by the gun shots. Edwin Taylor, who’d been sitting up with the children, ran into the sitting room and found Elliot and Myrtle lying on the floor. He ran to the hotel where the dance was still in full swing and sounded the alarm.

When Harry Payne got home, he found Myrtle dead. Elliot was lying on the floor, having crashed against the radio, which had crushed through the wallpaper. There was a bullet lodged in the wall and a Scott & Webley .38 revolver on the floor.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – March 28, 1931

Harry’s father and overseer of the village, George Payne, took charge of the scene immediately and posted guards at the entrances of the house to keep the throngs of people from the dance from trampling through the scene. He notified the RCMP and sent his son to fetch the coroner from Lucky Lake. Upon Coroner Leckle’s arrival, a jury was empanelled to view Myrtle’s body and an inquest was set for the following Monday afternoon.

Myrtle had been shot three times by Elliot with one of the bullets going right through her heart. She was dead almost instantly. Elliot, after murdering her, had placed the muzzle against the right side of his head and pulled the trigger. The bullet had passed right through and lodged in the wall. He was shockingly not dead, but didn’t survive very long. He was taken to hospital and died late Saturday afternoon, with his sister by his side, never regaining consciousness.

The Bank Manager, Mr. Bell, identified the revolver as one belonging to the bank. It was kept in the middle drawer of his desk and he was positive it had been securely locked. The only key he knew of was the one he carried on his person. In fact, Mr. Bell had ordered that the revolvers be kept under lock and key because Mervin’s attitude toward life made him uneasy, especially since Mervin’s older brother, Hervey had shot himself the previous July.

Too bad that caution didn’t keep Mr. Bell from saying yes when Mervin came to him the Sunday before the murder and asked for permission to practice shooting with the revolver. He’d been given the gun and some ammunition to use, but Mr. Bell argued that the gun had been safely returned.

Eager to find out what had caused Mervin Elliot to viciously murder Myrtle Beckler, they went through his trunk. There was a bible, a mass of clippings about the John Schumacher arrest for the murder of Scotty McLachlan, which had recently scandalized the district (you can read about it here), a news story about a suicide at The Pas, and a poem. Mervin, as they would find out, wrote a lot of poetry. All of it lovesick and delusional, painting himself as an unending victim of unrequited love. This particular poem ended with the line: “my heart is getting used to this, I wonder who will break it next?”

In the teller’s drawer at the bank, the manager found another poem, this one ending with “I don’t know why I feel this way, but I’ve always been the same, there’s always trouble on my mind, I’m really not to blame.”

Finally, at the murder scene, was a hastily scrawled note with a stub of pencil addressed to Edward Taylor, another accountant at the bank and fellow boarder of Mervin at another local home. It read: “Dear Ed, this is goodbye for Myrtle and myself. God bless them all.”

On the back was yet another typed poem by Elliot, titled “My Sorrow”.

Elliot, despite only knowing Myrtle for two months, believed he was in love with her and had become obsessed. Everyone at the bank could see that Elliot was very fond of Myrtle, but she’d been clear from the start that she did not have romantic feelings for him and considered him a friend. By all accounts, she was a very good friend to him as well, but instead of returning the friendship, Mervin clung to his delusion.

And on the night of the dance it seemed he had already made up his mind to retrieve the revolver and kill Myrtle, proving that he never really cared about her to begin with. If he did, it never would have crossed his mind to hurt her, especially since she hadn’t actually done anything aside from being kind to him. She was merely a prop in the tragic delusion he’d created for himself, where he was the long suffering, misunderstood hero.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 1, 1931

Myrtle Beckler’s family lived in Lucky Lake, which is where they held her funeral. Hundreds turned out for her funeral, with a multitude of floral tributes being sent to the church. Her old schoolmates were her pallbearers. She was buried in the Vera Cemetery just south of Lucky Lake. On her tombstone it reads, “God alone understands”, a testiment to the pain and disbelief her senseless killing must have caused to those who loved her.

And that is the story of the senseless murder of Myrtle Beckler in Beechy, Saskatchewan.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe! And if you know someone else who’s fascinated by true crime, send it their way.

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

The Conflicting Accounts of the Death of Adolph Ibenfeldt

The Welwyn Massacre

Confession at the North Battleford Mental Hospital

The Conflicting Accounts of the Death of Adolph Ibenfeldt

There is only one thing known for certain about the death of Adolph Ibenfeldt, and that is that on the morning of Oct 8, 1925, he was shot by his employer, Colin Feader. As to the how and why, well that’s where the stories begin to differ.

Colin Feader was a prosperous and well known farmer of the Fleming district near Moosomin. He and his family had been farming there for thirty years and he was held in very high regard by his neighbours. His labourer, Adolph Ibenfeldt, had been working for him since August 23, 1925 and was known as a good worker, likeable and not at all quarrelsome.

And yet, in the early hours of Oct 8th, Mrs. Feader told the court that she heard a shot. She called outside for her husband, and getting no response, called a doctor. Dr. Keyes arrived at the farm shortly before 8:00AM and found Adolph lying on the floor with gunshot wounds. Colin Feader was not there. He’d jumped on his horse and started riding north. Dr. Keyes assessed the wounds of Adolph Ibenfeldt and had him taken to the hospital in Moosomin. Meanwhile, two of Feader’s neighbours had tracked the horse and rider and found him five miles up the road. They told him to come back to the farm and he did so willingly.

Regina Leader-Post – Oct 8, 1925

Dr. Keyes was still at the farm when Colin Feader returned. He testified later that Feader seemed indifferent about what had happened, that maybe he didn’t fully understand what had occurred. He asked, “did he attack you, Colin?” To which Feader replied, that no, he hadn’t. Dr. Keyes asked him if he was crazy when he shot Ibenfeldt.

“I certainly must have been.”

Dr. Keyes asked Feader if he’d give him a statement, but Feader refused. “No, I’ll see a lawyer,” he told him.

Meanwhile, Adolph Ibenfeldt, while seriously injured and at death’s door, was quite conscious and being interviewed by the police. Afterward, he gave an interview to a reporter as well and this is the story he told both.

He said that at about 6:30 in the morning he and Feader had gone down to the stable together. Both were in a good mood, laughing and joking. Adolph began to milk the cows and when he’d finished milking the first one, he walked across the stable and emptied the milk into a larger pail. As he was walking back, he was shot in the right side of his chest. He crawled on hands and knees across the stable floor and dragged himself out of the building. A moment later, he turned and saw Feader standing near the stable, laughing at him. He said that Feader grabbed him by the coat collar and dragged him back to the door, then stepped back about 9 feet and shot him again. Feader then struck him three times over the back with the gun, breaking it. Laughing, he got on his horse and rode away. Ibenfeldt crawled across the yard to the house and lay sprawled on the doorstep, until the doctor arrived and he was taken away to the hospital. He told police and reporters that Colin was a good man and a good boss, and up to that point they’d never quarreled.

Colin Feader was taken into custody and brought to Moosomin where he was charged with attempted murder, until later that same night, the charge was upgraded to murder. Adolph Ibenfeldt had died of his injuries, leaving a widow and three children in Norway. He was thirty-three-years-old.

A search of the farm was done by the provincial police and Constable Gathercole found the 12 gauge shotgun in a manger in the cow barn. It had two exploded shells and was broken at the breech, as Adolph had described.

Regina Leader-Post – Oct 19, 1925

A preliminary hearing was held on Oct 18, 1925. Colin Feader was committed to stand trial at the next sitting of the Court of King’s Bench at Moosomin in November. The trial opened on November 20, 1925. It included testimony from Feader’s neighbours, attesting to his good character, as well as labourers who worked with Ibenfeldt, attesting to his.

Dr. Keyes took the stand and described the injuries to Ibenfeldt that led to his death. According to the doctor, Ibenfeldt was shot from behind as well as when an assailant stood over him. He said the pellets had entered the right side of the deceased, fracturing some of his right ribs, passing through his right lung, his right kidney and his liver. One pellet had penetrated the bowel. The trajectory was from the right armpit diagonally through the abdomen. He believed that when the second shot was fired, Ibenfeldt must have had his arm raised in the air, because there were no pellets in his arms. He described abrasions on the right shoulder blade, the left shoulder and the left forearm.

All of this seemed to support Ibenfeldt’s description of events. But Colin Feader took the stand and told a very different story. Through tears and sobbing, he described how Ibenfeldt had attacked him, coming after him with a pitchfork. He said that he’d tried to flee but couldn’t get the barn door open, so he grabbed the shotgun, trying to scare Ibenfeldt into backing off. The gun went off by accident he said, that he’d never meant to shoot Ibenfeldt. They tusseled and Colin had managed to get away, which was when he’d jumped on his horse and fled. When the prosecution asked why he’d left his children and wife behind at the mercy of Ibenfeldt, he said that he wasn’t worried about them, because Ibenfeldt had no quarrel with them.

The defence argued that Ibenfeldt’s statement was full of discrepancies and that he wasn’t in any condition to give a true statement, due to the pain medication he was given by doctors.

The jury seemed to believe the defence, and Colin Feader was only found guilty of manslaughter. The judge sentenced him to five years at the Prince Albert pentitentiary, saying that he’d given him such a light sentence because of all the evidence given to support his ‘outstanding character’.

The only ones who know what truly happened on the morning of October 8, 1925 are Colin Feader and Adolph Ibenfeldt. The evidence seems to support the story told by Ibenfeldt, but as we know, the truth is often somewhere in the middle. Did Colin Feader go momentarily insane after thirty years of being so highly regarded? Was there an argument that neither would admit to? We’ll never know.

But that is the story of the murder of Adolph Ibenfeldt and the differing accounts of what led to his death.

The Winnipeg Tribune – Nov 28, 1925

Thank you for reading! Please subscribe and share!

Information for this post came from the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post, the Saskatoon Daily Star and the Winnipeg Tribune: Oct 8, 1925, Oct 9, 1925, Oct 16, 1925, Oct 19, 1925, Nov 21, 1925, Nov 26, 1925 and Nov 28, 1925.

Interested in more historical Saskatchewan true crime? You’re in luck. Try these:

The Welwyn Massacre

Confession at the North Battleford Mental Hospital

Murder in Moose Jaw: The Heroism of Margaret Regan

The Welwyn Massacre

A short note before we begin. Although true crime stories are, as a rule, upsetting, this story is especially so and includes the murder of children. Please consider this a content warning and skip this post if that’s something that will bring you distress.

Newspapers from this era were a little harder to come by, so while I did find a few articles, I relied on some more recent news articles for information. Specifically, a 1994 article about historian and journalist Lorna James, who documented the crime. She was born and raised in Welwyn and her grandfather lived on the same section of land as the McArthur family. He was one of the neighbours who assisted at the scene that night. Secondly, an interview with David Brindle published in 2000. Dave Brindle is a journalist who researched this case and actually traveled to Ottawa and read the case files and inquest transcripts kept at the Canada Archives. The research and information shared in both of those articles was invaluable. Finally, this blog post by Glen’s Travels shared information as well as a few news articles I wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Okay, let’s get into it.

Welwyn, Saskatchewan 1916 – photo credit: prairie-towns.com

Alexander McArthur and his wife, Sarah, moved to the Prairies from Ontario in the late 1800s. At the time, Saskatchewan was not yet a province and was considered part of the Northwest Territories. They settled on land about a kilometer southeast of the village of Welwyn, just north of Moosomin. Alexander immediately become the postmaster for the town, running the operation from his house.

For the next eighteen years, he and Sarah worked the land, tended the local Presbyterian Church and had seven children. Alexander became a prize-winning stock breeder, served on the first town council and was respected throughout the community as a “progressive” man.

In 1895, the McArthurs hired a young man in his twenties, John Morrison, to work as a labourer on their farm. Morrison was a Barnardo boy, shipped to Canada at four to be raised where there were more opportunities. His father was living in Glasgow at the time and sent Morrison to Canada after his mother died. Barnardo boys were often raised on farms and were supposed to be given a full education, however some farmers were more interested in the free labour than making sure the boys got an education and many Barnardo boys ended up as permanent farm labourers. John was one of the unlucky ones, being unable to read or write.

John Morrison and the McArthurs seemed to get along quite well. John described Sarah McArthur as ‘like a mother to him’. He worked on the McArthur farm for five years, until the evening of June 8, 1900. He played with the children for a while, then went to a farm four miles away where he and some friends played football (soccer). No one thought he was acting strangely that night. He didn’t seem angry or despondent with his employer or his life. No one could have known that before he’d gone out he’d spent some time in the barn, sharpening his axe.

He left for home around eleven, jogging back to the McArthur farm where he found his revolver and tucked it into his pants. He picked up his axe, and just after midnight, entered the small, two-storey farmhouse. A light on the kitchen table still burned, shining into the bedroom just off the kitchen where Mr. McArthur slept on one bed with their son, two-year-old Henry. Across the room, Sarah slept with the two-week-old baby, Elville Scott, and their younger daughter, Mary Elizabeth (Mae).

Morrison attacked the father first, striking him on the right side of the head with the axe, fracturing his skull. There are differing accounts of who was attacked next. John told police that at first, he only intended to kill Alexander, but as he hit him with the axe, Sarah started to wake up so he went for her. The newspapers, however, reported that after striking Alexander, he went after Henry. If we assume Morrison was telling the truth, then Sarah was the second target of his rage. She was struck over the right eye and was killed. Next, Morrison went after the children, hitting the baby, two-year-old Henry and Mae with his axe.

Leaving the bedroom, he went into the living room, where four-year-old Russell was asleep on either a cot or the couch (accounts differ). He struck Russell with what they believe to be the broad side of the axe, rather than the sharpened blade, bludgeoning him. He climbed the stairs and went into the bedroom he shared with eleven-year-old Dempsey. He struck Dempsey in the back of the head as he lay in bed, killing him and leaving a horrible gash in the back of his skull. Later, neighbours found marks on the ceiling from when the axe was raised over Morrison’s head.

Finally, he went into the bedroom that fifteen-year-old Margaret (Maggie) shared with her eight-year-old brother Charlie. It’s unclear if Charlie awoke and tried to get away, or was sleeping on the floor. His body was found face down on the floor, his face resting on his palm with ghastly holes in the top of his head. At some point during the attack, Morrison drove the axe right through the floor.

This is when Maggie woke up. Morrison sat down on the bed, playing with his revolver, and told her he’d killed the rest of her family, saying that he loved her and she’d been very cool towards him lately. (Please note, he was twenty seven. She was fifteen.) He tried to rape her, but was physically unable to. He picked up the revolver, put it to her head and pulled the trigger. It clicked, refusing to fire. He put the revolver to his own head and again, it refused to fire.

Morrison left Maggie then, running down to the barn and getting the double barreled shotgun. He placed a stick through the trigger, put the muzzle against his heart and used his feet to fire the weapon.

Maggie heard the shot ring out and ran through the house, taking in the grim attacks on her parents and siblings before running to a nearby farm for help.

John Morrison didn’t die. Only one barrel discharged, missing his heart and tearing up the left side of his chest, leaving him gravely injured, but alive. They found him in the barn with the shotgun, the revolver and bloodied axe at his side.

A gruesome sight awaited them in the farmhouse. Blood spattered the walls and ceiling in each room of the attacks, the beds and bedding saturated with blood. Alexander McArthur had deep wounds in his head, his skull fractured and bits of brain protruding. He was still alive, but unconscious. Sarah was dead, but Mae, Henry and the baby were all still alive. Russell was alive, but unconscious. Dempsey and Charlie were dead.

Within days, Alexander and Russell also died, bringing the total murdered to five. The other three children remained at the hospital in grave condition. The baby, Elville Scott was brain damaged from the attack. Most accounts say he died at eight, but the grave found by Glen’s Travels has him passing away at sixteen. Henry and Mae survived, living to eighty seven and eighty five. Maggie, although physically unscathed during the attack, only lived to twenty seven, having moved to the west coast where she got married and had a son. Her son perished shortly before she did, the cause of death for both unknown.

John Morrison, despite his injuries, survived. He plead guilty to the murders and was sentenced to death. He was taken to the Regina jail and on Jan 17, 1901, he was hung on the same scaffold used to execute Louis Riel, some fourteen years earlier.

At the time of the murders, John had recently been away, although no one knows where, and had spent hundreds of dollars. Dave Brindle said in his interview that he suspected Morrison might have tried to enlist to fight in the Boer War, but was rejected and went on a drinking binge before returning to the McArthur farm. We’ll never know. What we do know, is that after his arrest, Morrison told police that as he was cutting scrub in the hot sun a few days before the murders, he started thinking about all the work he had to do, about the small amount he was paid and decided to kill himself. As he continued to cut away at the scrub with his axe, he decided that if he was going to die, “he might as well have his way with Maggie”, whom he had an unhealthy obsession with. But first, he would need to do away with her father; he couldn’t have him getting in the way. So he made his plan.

Find a Grave – photo added by Alison

The McArthur house is long gone, the property returned to farmland. The family grave in the Moosomin graveyard is in disrepair and all that’s left to tell the tale is an inscription on a pulpit in the Welwyn United Church and a roadside sign outside of Welwyn. But as Lorna James told the reporter in her interview (she passed away shortly after, in November of the same year), she didn’t believe the crime, or the McArthurs should be pushed aside like a footnote in history. And it seems she’s right, people have continued to stumble across the story and share it. All parts of our history, no matter how gruesome, need to be remembered.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, sources for this post came from recent interviews as well as original news articles. The original articles were from the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post, the Moosomin World and the Winnipeg Daily Tribune: June 11, 1900, June 14, 1900, June 28, 1900 and Jan 17, 1901.

*Side note: I have also seen these murders referred to as the Moosomin Massacre, given Welwyn’s proximity to Moosomin. In 2018, Welwyn gave up its village status and became a special service area in the Rural Municipality of Moosomin.

Thank you for reading! If you found this post interesting, please subscribe and share! If you’d liked to read about more true crime in historical Saskatchewan, then the posts below are a great place to start.

Confession at the North Battleford Mental Hospital

Murder in Moose Jaw: The Heroism of Margaret Regan

The Shooting of Rosie Schmidt

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 Pexels.com

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

Murder in Moose Jaw: The Heroism of Margaret Regan

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 to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He served in World War I from 1914-1921, including through the important engagements of Ypres Salient, the Somme and Vimy Ridge.

Oct 4, 1927 – Regina Leader-Post

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.

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.

Alex Oshuk – Oct 15, 1927 – Regina Leader-Post

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.

Alex Oshuk – Aug 25, 2007 – Regina Leader-Post

Thank you for reading! If you liked today’s post, please subscribe and share!

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:

The Shooting of Rosie Schmidt

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

Manhunt in Dunkirk

Mostly Useless

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For the past few weeks my husband and I have been working on some home renovations and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m mostly useless. Not entirely useless, but pretty close. I’m the equivalent of an eager kid who wants to help but generally just gets in the way. Except for, you know, the eager part.

I have decent upper body strength so I’m able to help move furniture around, and I’m an excellent gopher when I know what tool you’re talking about.

I’m sorry, I don’t know the names of all the types of screwdrivers. I know Phillips. Kind of. (It’s the cross one, right? Never mind, I don’t care.) Other than that you’re going to have to describe it to me.

Like a child, I demand that he show me how to do tasks I feel could be in my wheelhouse, which I proceed to do poorly and he then has to fix. But when I try to stay out of it, (ideally by leaving the house entirely so I don’t have to hear all the grunting and swearing), inevitably he says that actually he does need me and could I come hold this random thing or shine the light this way, or crawl under that thing and loosen that other thing with my tiny raccoon hands?

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So, not only am I mostly useless and barely contributing, I don’t even get to sit and read a book. I stand around, fidgety and bored, trying to be helpful. Because I watch him suffer the whole time. Renovations suck. There’s a lot of crouching and kneeling and bending and things are heavy and take a hundred times longer than seems possible. And I know it would take half as long if I was useful.

Luckily, he doesn’t hold it against me. And I’m a very good cheerleader. Also, I’m good at keeping the work area tidy and cleaning up along behind him as he goes. To me, nothing is worse than finally completing that horrible, arduous task, only to creak to a standing position, turn around and see all the mess you have to clean up now from said arduous task. It’s enough to make you light the house on fire and walk into the woods.

That’s partnership though, balancing strengths and weaknesses, cheering each other on and not reminding your spouse when you’re both dead on your feet from exhaustion that this whole thing was his idea. Because it totally was.

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