Sealand of the Pacific – Death in the Whale Pool

Written by Harold McNeill on January 6th, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook

Miracle performs at Sealand

Miracle’ the Killer Whale Performs at Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay, B.C.   The internationally popular whale died in an incident that was blamed on Greenpeace activists.

January 6, 2017: Tilikum, the most infamous of the captured killer whales, died at SeaWorld in Orland, Florida.  Skip to Section 2, then 5, for background on Tilikum and the other killer whales who thrilled audiences around the world.

This post was written by Det./Sgt. Harold David McNeill (retired) who investigated several incidents at Sealand of the Pacific, and the Oak Bay Marina, including the death of Miracle, the Killer Whale.


In 1991, a young woman from Victoria, an Environmental Studies student at the University of Victoria, Keltie Byrne, tragically died in the whale pool at Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay, British Columbia.  The three whales in the pool at the time were Tilikum, Nootka II, and Haida II. They were directly involved in the death, not as killers, but as friends, whose game lead to tragic consequences. Keltie’s death was the culmination of three decades of events that lead the owner of the Oak Bay Marine Group and Sealand of the Pacific, Robert (Bob) Wright, to finally close the display in 1992.

The death of Keltie and the exploitation of killer whales was a tipping point in the much larger story about the development of protest movements around the world, particularly that of Greenpeace, whose origins can be traced to Victoria, B.C. in the 1960s.

During their history, the organization was vilified, supporters killed, their ships rammed and one sunk by French Government agents within the confines of the peaceful Auckland Harbour, in New Zealand. Two French secret service agents were arrested while trying to leave the country and charged with murder. They later walked away as free men who were celebrated as heroes in their own country and one man was even promoted to the senior ranks of the French Military.

In an Oak Bay case, Greenpeace supporters were held out as prime suspects in the tragic death of another internationally famous killer whale, Miracle, whose battered body was found tangled in the nets at SealandAs well as the intrigue surrounding the deaths of Keltie and Miracle, the story delves into the history of Protest Movements in British Columbia and around the world.

It was through the efforts of thousands of activists, including those at Greenpeace, that many important changes in government and industrial practices were brought about over the past sixty years. The world would be much worse off had it not been for organizations such as Greenpeace who constantly agitated for change in our environmental practices. It is easy to visualize the environmental challenges faced by China today, is nearly the same as was the case in many cities across North America and Europe decades earlier.

Greenpeace and Sealand Photographs

Update June 25, 2015The MV Farley Mowat, once the flagship of Greenpeace has made a temporary move to the bottom of Shelburne Harbour in Nova Scotia after being scuttled.  The Coast Guard seized the vessel in 2008 during a confrontation with seal hunters in the Northern Atlantic.  More on the history of the ship in the following story.

Link to Media Post 

Video of Sealand, the Early Days

March 9, 2016 (8575)  January 1, 2017 (9464)
January 1, 2018 (10,455) May 27, 2018 (10,744)
May 4, 2019 (11,299)

March 9, 2016 (Times Colonist Report on Tilikum)

January 8, 2017  (Tilikum Dies at Seaworld)


Gotcha A..hole

Written by Harold McNeill on November 29th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook


An upside of being a policeman was being afforded the opportunity to get the upper hand on some idiot who cared nothing about the effect his actions had on innocent people. It might be as simple as traffic violation but in many cases, it also involved more serious criminal events.

Perhaps you have at one time experienced the feeling of being screwed around by someone but there was not a damn thing you could do about it? How good it would have felt to turn the tables. Hollywood has made dozens of movies on the subject although most dealt with violent crimes where retribution was meted out by an ‘off the rails citizen’ as in Law Abiding Citizen, or by that ‘no rules apply’ policeman, Dirty Harry.

The case at hand in this story was much tamer but never-the-less a crime that caused considerable anguish for the victim. In this house burglary in south Oak Bay, the owners was away on holidays. The crime was discovered by a neighbor doing a perimter check and although we had no idea what might have been taken, in the master bedroom we noticed a mess on the floor as if a pile of soot had been scattered about1.


Loneliness, Life’s Last Companion

Written by Harold McNeill on November 27th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook


The woman’s eyes were filled with tears as she watched her husband’s body being wheeled away on the stretcher. With her life-long companion dead, the woman knew everything had changed and it was not until I spent a little time talking with her and comforting her, that I realized just how much her life would change.

In those early the years, when the Fire Department provided the only ambulance service in Oak Bay, the police always attended to assist as needed. On this day I was dispatched to the residence where an elderly man had been found in the back yard by his wife after he had collapsed while gardening. As it seemed certain the man was dead, I stayed at the residence to assist the woman, his wife, in contacting a family member or friend to come over and assist in her time of need.

The couple had been living in this upscale south Oak Bay home for several years, but when I inquired if a family member, friend or neighbour who could come over and assist, the woman said there was no one. She was correct, there was not one friend, neighbour or relative in the Victoria area the woman could call upon to help. On the wall I noted a family portrait with two young men and inquired if they were her son’s.  She stated there were and I learned both were professionals working back east, but had not visited home for several years. 


The Cat Lady

Written by Harold McNeill on November 27th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook


Photo (Web):  Back in the 1960’s there were still plenty of homes in Oak Bay which could be dressed up like this. On this night I happened to pick one.

Have you ever dreamed you were drifting into a scene that might have been plucked straight from the pages of a Stephen King novel? In the dream you come face to face with a decaying, paint peeling mansion, blanketed in darkness; a cold wind is blowing and rain pelting down as you pick you way through the leafless, gnarled trees in a weed strewn garden. With each step you can’t dispel the feeling that death lurks in the darkness, but on this night you are given no choice but to enter that dark, forbidding place. Then, suddenly, the nightmare becomes reality.

With less than three months on the job, with very little training and working alone on night shift, I found myself climbing a set of stairs directly into the novel. Why was it that people often waited until the wee hours of the morning to call the police to check on the welfare of their loved ones?  In this case they hadn’t spoken to the woman for several weeks.

My Sergeant, the only other person on shift, was booked off downtown visiting his cronies in the Victoria Police Detective office.  Over the two months I had worked with this Sergeant, he often disappeared for hours on end and officers who worked with him were expected to pick up the slack. By now he and his friends likely well into an order of Chinese food while sharing a few drinks in some non-descript back room in Chinatown.

When I climbed from my cruiser, I could barely see the residence, perched high above Beach Drive about 500 feet back from the eastern banks of the boiling waters of McNeill Bay. As I surveyed the scene, spray from the giant breakers pounded against the seawall, flew across Beach Drive and onto the nearby homes.

The ‘South-Wester’, roaring with gale force off the Strait of Juan de Fuca and over Trial Island, also brought with it sheets of pounding rain. As I tooked at the long, brush-strewn, darkened stairs that stretched through the shadows toward the residence, I knew there could be nothing good at the other end. While I was not a particularly fearful man, this place sent tingles up my spine as I made my way up the moss covered steps with a flashlight in one hand and my dated Webley .38 in the other.

While climbing, I occasionally stopped to scan the darkness and listen, but could hear nothing beyond the howling of the wind and pelting of the rain. At the top, I found the veranda piled high with rain soaked newspapers, books and bags of garbage while somewhere around the corner a shutter was banging in the wind. I knocked hard and hollered, never expecting an answer. I tried the door, then pushed it open on rust crusted hinges.

Inside the stench of cat feces and urine was nearly overwhelming. It was place fit only for the walking dead as no person from the world in which I lived, could possibly find comfort in this place. Fortunately, it was early winter and had been near zero for several days, so the acrid smell was somewhat suppressed. It was not possible to imagine how badly this place might have smelled during the heat of summer.

After trying a several light switches, it was clear the power was off and while making my way across the living room, the hardwood creaked with every step. I stopped and stood frozen for a moment as I heard scurrying noises in the background. Scanning the room, my small flashlight captured the ragged outline an emaciated cat, running past a doorway. Cats I can handle, even emaciated ones, but rats are another case. I could only hope those poor, sickly looking cats had taken care of any rat that might have tried to invade into this decrepit house.

In the kitchen, over a dozen haggard felines scrounged inside the open cupboards among the dishes, pots, pans and open jars and tins that contained mold crusted scrapes of dried foodStarving Cats particles. Many of the cats seemed near death and scanning the garbage strewn around the floor, it was clear a few had already succumbed. Those still living were willing to take whatever meager scrapes they could find and it seemed certain that someone, likely a very dead someone, must be in this house as no one would have deliberately walked away and left the cats to starve.

Photo From the Web: This scene is very similar to that in the house on Beach Drive. Over the years, this was not the only house found to be in such a desperate condition where an elderly woman lived with dozens of cats. 

After giving up on avoiding the feces, I went back to the living room where a narrow, winding staircase, lead to an upper floor. As I climbed, several pairs of eyes reflected back from the darkness below…perhaps they knew something that I did not.

On the way up I called out several times but never seriously expected anyone to answer. At the top and on approaching the first door along the hall, I paused only for a moment to listen, gave one last call, and then pushed it open with my foot. Holding my gun in one hand and flashlight in the other, I slowly scanned the room and although I expected the worst, it still startled me when my light illuminated a human arm hanging from the side of a bed.

On closer inspection, the arm was attached to the body of an elderly woman who apparently had died in her sleep. While there was no immediate evidence suggesting the death was anything other than natural, it was still an unsettling experience to be standing there in the darkness next to a dead body (my first on police call), while not having any backup and with no radio contact to the outside world.

As procedure required a Doctor attend to pronounce death before the body could be removed, I spent a few minutes searching for the phone, but finding none, retraced my steps from the house, down the stairs and back to my patrol car where I radioed the office telling the dispatcher to contact the duty doctor and to shake loose the Sergeant from his nighttime revelry. Thirty minutes later both the Doctor and a disgruntled Sergeant, arrived at the scene.

When the investigation was complete, photos taken and body removed, I made a quick trip downtown to Government and Fisgard to the only all night convenience store in the city, grabbed a bag of cat food and headed back to the residence. After dumping the full bag on the floor, I put out water and left those cats to finally taste something better than scraps on which they had existed over the past few weeks.

A few days later, the medical reports arrived and, as expected, listed the cause of death as natural, likely due to heart failure. It was also learned that while the woman was of considerable means, over the past several years she had absented herself from her family and friends, preferring instead the company of her cats. It seemed sad for this woman to die while all alone, but not likely as sad as a call I attended just a weeks later.


Link to Loneliness, Life’s Last Companion


Burglar with a Conscience

Written by Harold McNeill on November 17th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook


A few ways of looking at Burglar.

I. Background on the Suspect

Some people are not cut out to become successful criminals whether they be Bank Robbers or Wall Street traders. Why? Perhaps because a deeply ingrained sense of right and wrong overwhelms them when doing the things that must be done if they planned to become successful in their chosen trade. Such was the dilemma faced by Lawrence, the thirty-something, neer-do-well who, try as he may, could not bring himself to hurt an older lady who lived alone and who reminded him so much of his own mother.

Lawrence could never quite find a real purpose in life. Neither good nor really bad, the fact he was never able to find a job that suited him and never willing to put in more than the minimum effort to get by, he began with petty crime as that seemed to best suited to his lifestyle.  While some who followed the same path may have suffered from a debilitating and ongoing life challenge, Lawrence suffered from a lack of motivation.

From Lawrence’s point of view, if you could steal a meal, record, or tape, or some needed household supplies, why pay for it? Not ‘gonna’ hurt anyone is it?  How it all began, who knows, but over the years for many who travelled the same path, their lives often spiralled downward. Sometimes it was drugs, and when this was the case, the need often escalated into more brazen, and often dangerous, crimes. The outcome was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Shoplifting, to this point his most regular extracurricular from of employment, was seldom profitable enough to pay the rent. It was easy to steal stuff but when the street market value might be as little as ten cents on the dollar, it was tough to raise enough. It took a lot of stealing to make a buck and getting caught meant a trip to the police station, court dates and either fines or jail followed by probation.

With a list of petty crime convictions to his credit, he needed a more regular income. Then one evening over a toke, a friend suggested he try his hand at breaking and entering into private homes. It was easy to see that, for his friend anyway, it provided a much better payday. While Lawrence had concerns about getting into this line of work, he decided to give it a try.

2. The Crime

Now, on his sixth trip and as many break-ins in Saanich and Oak Bay, he was searching for his seventh. His foray into this new line of work actually provided a more regular source of saleable items than did shoplifting. One of his bigger challenges was not having a car so he usually travelled to distant parts of the area by bus as a taxi, even if he could afford it, did not seem like a good idea.

On this day, after getting off the bus near the Estevan Shopping Centre. he sauntered towards Beach Drive. Even though he had broken in six other homes over the past two weeks, that familiar pit in his stomach began to grow. He was just as nervous now as he was on that first trip and didn’t know if he could keep up the pace.  The only thing that kept him going was knowing that he would likely walk away with a pretty good haul.

Reaching Beach Drive near the Esplanade, he headed north towards Uplands Park, scanning houses while looking for those which suggested no one was home and that provided a bit of concealment from the prying eyes of neighbours. It was not difficult in North Oak Bay, as many of the lots were big and the homes well established with plenty of trees and shrubs.

Although he had not come close to being caught while in someone’s home, he was still apprehensive about the prospect and was not sure how he would react if confronted by the homeowner or police. He guessed he would run but, then again, his stomach was so upset who knows what might happen.

At that moment he was shaken from his reverie when he spotted a good possible nestled into Uplands Park a few properties south of Cattle Point. He walked to the front door and rang the bell with the plan that if someone answered, he would either ask for directions or inquire if the homeowner needed any work done around the house or garden. For daytime burglars, this was the normal routine.  Strangely, for Lawrence at least, he was not averse to washing a few windows or pulling some weeks in order to pick up a little extra cash. As it was a nice day, that might even help to settle his stomach.

However, after waiting for a time and ringing again, it seemed there was no one to put him to work as he had become pretty good a spotting unoccupied houses. A full mailbox, newspapers, parcels or flyers by the front door or on the porch, drapes pulled during the day or open and no lights on when getting dark. Not seeing a car in the driveway was not a reliable sign as many homeowners in these larger properties parked in their garage. There were dozens of smaller hints that every experienced burglar would soon learn. If the door was locked there might even be a key under the mat or in the mailbox.  The one thing that might be a deterrence was an alarm system but for an experienced burglar that was not necessarily the case.  Lawrence, on the other hand, was an amateur and an alarm would cause him to leave.burglar with pry bar

Photo from Web: Burglar prepares to pry window with his favourite tool, “Mr Crowbar”. Locked houses, even those with alarms, provided little defence against a burglar. The guy in this photo was obviously not concerned that window in the neighbouring house looked directly onto his job site.

When no one answered, Lawrence, moved around the house looking for an easy point of entry. Finding everything locked, he selected a well-hidden, low window that provided easy access to the kitchen, smashed the glass with a small pry bar he carried in his ample backpack, unlocked the hasp, pushed the window open and climbed in…

3. The Victim

The homeowner, Flora Johnson (a fictitious name), was now in her mid-eighties. She had been widowed a few months earlier and was still coming to terms with the loss of her husband of sixty years. To fill the days she often drove to the Monterey Seniors Centre for events or to play cards, have coffee and chat over the occasional lunch. Some days she did not return home until after 5:00 pm. and while she was never fearful of living along, she always took care to lock the doors and windows of her stylish single level home.

On returning home one day she sensed something was wrong the moment she entered the house. There was a blank spot on the hallway wall that was once filled by her late husband’s favourite oil painting. It only took a quick glance into the living room to note several other small paintings were also missing including a few painted by her late husband. As the initial shock subsided, Mrs Johnson remembered advice she had been given at a recent Neighbourhood Watch meeting – leave the house, get to a phone and call the police.  She left and went next door to phone the police.

Within minutes two officers arrived, quickly determined the burglar was no longer in the house and began the investigation. The point of entry was noted and an identification officer called to dust for fingerprints and secure other physical evidence. After compiling a list of the stolen paintings the officers circulated it around the city in hopes that someone might phone in a tip.

The modus operandi (MO) of this daytime burglary was similar to half dozen others that had taken place over the past couple of weeks, but as of yet no leads had been developed in Saanich or Oak, and the files reassigned to the Detective Office.

4. The Police close in

Three days after this latest burglary, Detective-Sergeant Fowler and Detective McNeill attended the residence after Mrs Johnson reported receiving a phone call from a “nice young man” telling her he had her paintings and wanted to return them. There was a catch – the man wondered if there was might be a ‘reward’ for returning them.

The woman was skeptical about the call as the story of the theft had appeared in the Oak Bay Star and other papers. It had also been mentioned briefly on the TV news. Photos of one of the paintings had also been widely circulated. She told the man to call her back later as she had company and did not want to discuss the matter while they were present. The man agreed and on hanging up she immediately phoned the police.

When Fowler and McNeill arrived, a tape recorder was attached to her phone and Mrs Johnson was coached as to the general arrangements. “Ask the man to describe each of the paintings and if it appeared they were hers, tell him to bring them to her house as it was hard for her to get around. Let him bring up the subject of the reward and when he did, ask him how much…” were just a few of the suggestions.  This woman was an amazingly quick study and we had no doubt she would ask the questions no matter which way the call went.

An hour later the phone rang, it was the suspect, so the discussion began. The woman was calm, collected and very astute with her questions and answers. She never gave the slightest hint of the police being present and was able to lead the man along with considerable ease. The culprit described the paintings in detail and told the woman a $2500 reward would be in nice. Naturally, the caller did not want a cheque and he agreed he would bring the paintings to her home the next morning at around 10:00 am.  Mrs Johnson arranged with a friend to bring her the money after telling them what was happening.  The woman was amazing and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the change of pace in her life.  She would certainly have some stories to tell if all went well.

In preparation for the next day, Fowler enlisted the aid of the CLEU (Co-ordinated Law Enforcement) whose office was nearby on Cadboro Bay Road in the Willo-o-way shopping centre. They agreed to provide two or three unmarked units to cover the area in order to watch for the arrival of the suspect. The detectives had no idea how the suspect might be travelling, whether he might have accomplices or whether he might be dangerous. His voice on the tape suggested he was younger, was nervous and yet sounded as if he was really concerned about the victim getting her paintings back. He did not sound the least bit dangerous on the phone.

The next morning, and well before the exchange was to take place, Fowler and McNeill entered the house to make sure Mrs Johnson was prepared and to go over the last minute instructions. For the detectives, the safety of the woman was their first order of business and then, if all was going well, to affect an arrest if the paintings were turned over.

If an immediate arrest was the best path, a few alternatives were considered – if there were no paintings but sufficient evidence of a shakedown, the suspect would be arrested. Alternatively, if it appeared the suspect had stashed the paintings at another location, and depending on how the conversation went, he might be allowed leave and the CLEU teams would keep him under surveillance.  In any event, no matter which route the man took, he was walking into a heap of trouble and was clearly headed for jail sooner or later.

Just before the appointed time, the surveillance team reported a lone male walking north on Beach Drive from Estevan Ave. The suspect was carrying a large bag that could well be the paintings. He also seemed nervous and was clearly out of place in this area of affluence. It was assumed he must have travelled to the area either by transit (getting off somewhere around Estevan Ave.) or, perhaps, had parked a car some distance away.  We still could not rule out others being involved and waiting in a car on some side street.

stolen-paintingWhile Mrs Johnson was nervous, she never once hesitated to meet with the suspect. The doorbell rang and on answering, the young man was polite and respectful of the older woman. He introduced himself and stated he had her paintings and it was clear the voice was the same as the caller of the previous day.  As pre-arranged, the woman invited the man into the living room where he displayed the paintings by carefully leaning them against a chesterfield and a few chairs. Sgt. Fowler and I maintained a listening post just around the corner and had our weapons at ready. We were also recording the event for ‘posterity’.  (Note: No, Mrs Johnson did not have a Munch, I just borrowed a copy from the Web and I’ll return it someday)

The young man apologized for the inconvenience he had caused the woman but made no statement suggesting he had been the burglar.  After the victim agreed all paintings were present, the man asked about the ‘reward’ at which point the woman presented him with twenty-five, crisp, one hundred dollar bills which she carefully counted for the benefit of the tape. This was one very cool lady.

5. The Arrest

When the suspect took possession of the money, Fowler and McNeill entered the room and with their guns pointed at the man, stepped between him and Mrs Johnson and ordered him to put up his hands in the air. The scene was almost comical as when the man lifted his arms high he was holding about half of the $100 bills in each hand. The look of shock on his face will long be etched in my mind. We handcuffed, searched and bundled him off to the police car while another officer remained with the victim to tidy up things at the scene and take photos of the pictures and the setting.

At the office, the suspect readily identified himself and it soon became clear he was not a hardened criminal. In fact, he seemed genuinely remorseful for all the trouble he had caused. He carefully explained that he had run into some hard times after he had lost his job and could not seem to land another. He then explained how his bills were piling up and he started shoplifting to make ends meet and how he slowly graduated to the occasional break-in including this one in which he took the paintings.  Most of his ill-gotten goods ended up at various pawn shops but had used one pawn shop in particular, a Fort Street business where the owner was known to be a shady character who never asked any questions and was more than willing to take property that was obviously stolen.1

Lawrence told us that a couple of days after the break-in he had read a news story about some of the missing paintings having been family treasures and how the owner was very upset about there having been stolen.  After thinking it over, he decided to return the paintings and to instead seek a ‘reward’.

After concluding our initial interview, Lawrence took us to his apartment near the Tillicum Mall where he pointed out numerous items that had been stolen over the past weeks and months.  Most were small items shoplifted from stores in various malls and of a type that would be difficult to identify (e.g. kitchen utensils, pots, pans, bowels, towels, linens, knickknacks, bathroom supplies, etc.). It was rather touching how he had comfortably outfitted his entire apartment almost entirely with stolen property he had picked up a garage sales.

The detectives boxed up everything, arranged for a truck to pick it up and returned the lot to the police storage locker where it remained until after the court case was concluded. Lawrence opted to plead guilty to all charges so the officers had little contact with him after the original investigation.  All identifiable property was returned to various owners but the property which Lawrence said had been sold at the Fort Street Pawn Shop was never recovered. For all the items that could not be identified, Lawrence signed a release and it was turned over to Goodwill Enterprises. The case then faded into history.2


(1) Several years later, Detective Sergeant Pittam and McNeill had a run-in with the owner of the Fort Street shop after several major silverware burglaries in North Oak Bay as well as parts of Esquimalt. Much of the property in those high profile cases was never recovered but the case was particularly interesting in that it involved major criminal from the United States who periodically visited British Columbia for a little R&R and, of course, to pick up a little extra travel cash.  It was his Florida Penitentiary ID Card that eventually led to his downfall.

(2) Three years after the Beach Drive burglary, McNeill was reading the Times Colonist Want Ads while looking for farm supplies as he and his wife Lynn had a small farm in West Saanich off Interurban Road). In the paper, he when came across an interesting item at a farm sale they could put to good use. The couple popped over and, low and behold, the young man who greeted us was no other than Lawrence.

The McNeill’s chatted about his life since we had last met on Beach Drive and he told us that after spending several months in prison, he decided to make a clean break from a life of crime and was now learning the saddler trade. He harboured not an ounce of resentment as his life had been turned around and he seemed to be doing well.  Whether Lawrence was able to continue following the straight and narrow is not known.

Note: Fictitious names were used for both the victim and the suspect.


Harold David McNeill

Written by Harold McNeill on September 20th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook

harold with rcmp 1994

Above (1994): The spit-polished, uninformed, Sergeant Harold David McNeill, completed the final months of his police career assigned to a Quick Response Squad working the Commonwealth Games. It seems hard to believe they actually gave me the keys to an RCMP Cruiser. That final few months in uniform and having the run of the city with a joint-forces squad was a great way to say goodbye to the force. (Mar 25, 2018, 1565)

July 24, 2018.   I moved this post to the front page for the young man (well, it’s relative) I just met first at Tim Hortons and then on Viaduct Ave. West.  He lived in Oak Bay during the time of my police career and seemed to have some misconceptions about the work done by Oak Bay Police Officers.

While some of the stories I mentioned to him (the Telesford Murder (about a serial rapist) and Murder on Dennison Road, have yet to be written, a number of case stories have been completed.  For instance, try “Conspiracy to Rob BC Ferries“, “Death in a Whale Pool“, or “Abducted: The First Twelve Hours” to just a few.

Otherwise, the index carries hundreds of stories on this blog, about half of which are indexed.

Cheers,   Harold McNeill

About the Author

As a thirty-year member of the Oak Bay Police Department, it was my intention for several years to write a series of short stories about policing in Oak Bay and the Greater Victoria area, however, with each passing year, other demands took precedence. First, having a six-year-old son in elementary school when I retired, lead to a whole new area of interest that quickly consumed my life. No complaints though, as there can’t be many things better than starting retirement when the last of your four children are just starting school.

McNeill FamilyThen, part way through the school years, after becoming heavily involved in PAC projects, I branched into soccer, first as a coach, then at the local, provincial, national and international level as board member or assisting with the organizing international soccer ‘friendlies’ and other competitions on behalf of the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA.

Photo (Janury, 2011) Son-in-law, Chris and daughter Christine LeClair, Lynn and Harold McNeill holding grandson Grayson Walker, Kari McNeill-Walker, Sean McNeill, Jay McNeill. Missing from photo, son-in-law, Edward Walker.

Following the conclusion of the 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup and approaching my seventies, the time had come to seriously put my fingers to the keyboard. Having made a good start on documenting several early life experiences of our family while living in wilderness areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta, my police notebooks have been dusted off and that series is now well underway.  My problem, I get caught up in issues of the day and always find some political or religious matter to write about. How did I get here? 


Policing the Land of Millionaires

Written by Harold McNeill on September 19th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook

Oak Bay

Photo (Web).  Aerial view looking south over Oak Bay towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.

Over the century since incorporation, the Municipality of Oak Bay gained a reputation as having more millionaires per capita than any other city or town in Canada.  Whether that is true or not, the Municipality certainly exudes a sense of affluence and boasts some of the Oak Bay Millionairesmost pristine waterfront of any city or town in the country.

Stately Gary Oaks line the streets, quaint shops dot Oak Bay Avenue and citizens are provided access to some of the best recreation and senior citizen programs in the city. The list of benefits is nearly endless and each is highly valued by the 18,000 residents that call Oak Bay home.

Situated on the extreme south-eastern tip of Vancouver Island, Oak Bay has year-round mild weather – a location where flowers bloom winter long, and where, with only the occasional exception, golfers hit the links every month of the year. ‘Tea and crumpets’ holds top billing at Starbucks, but sadly, for the police members, Tim Horton’s has not yet broken into the yuppie market that defines Oak Bay.

As most of the land base in Oak Bay was almost fully developed by the middle of the last century, the population has remained fairly static at an estimated 16,000 in the 1960s (when I began policing) to little more than 18,000 today – not exactly exponential growth. 


International Pursuit of a Felon

Written by Harold McNeill on March 16th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook

oak bay star photo

  Photo  (Oak Bay Star):  Detective Sergeant Al Campbell (left) and FBI Agent, Bob Hanis from South Bend, Indiana.
January 15, 2012:For a recent similar case in Canada involving an estimated one billion in marihuana, read the National Post article: A Great Movie Script

A Soft Landing in Canada

Do not get on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, or have your mugshot broadcast around the world as that could be the beginning of the end of a financially rewarding career in crime. Such was the case of one young man who dared try to hide behind the Tweed Curtain in Oak Bay, British Columbia. For Constable Al Campbell it was an exciting time as he chased one of the FBI’s Most Wanted through the streets of Oak Bay. The story began many months before in Indiana…

Unsolved Mysteries – Joins the Chase

In 1987 Robert Stack began hosting a new TV Series, Unsolved Mysteries, that soon became a perennial favourite. In addition to two or three feature articles each week, the hour-long Robert Stackproduction profiled persons on the “FBI Most Wanted” list.  On January 9, 1991, the program included two international drug traffickers – Thomas Paul Hickey and William James McCarthy, both men then in their early thirties.

Photo: Robert Stack, who was a periodic regular host of the show through the 1980s and 90s, was better known as the handsome, no-nonsense Elliot Ness in the TV and movie series the ‘The Untouchables’.

In late 1986 Indiana State Police indicted Hickey and McCartney on forty-three counts including drug trafficking, participating in a continuing criminal enterprise, possession and conspiracy to distribute marihuana, obstruction of justice, interstate transportation in aid of racketeering and, for good measure, a charge that was the undoing of many mobsters in the ‘Untouchables’, income tax evasion.

The broad-ranging criminal enterprise built by Hickey and McCarthy from early 1979 through 1986 was spurred on by a high demand for marihuana that had developed during the ’60’s and ’70’s “hippie years” on College and University campuses across North America. In the 1980s the taste for that exotic weed soon spread to the business and professional community as college and university students, after graduation, were not about to leave behind all the perquisites of campus life. While Mary Jane was bulky to transport and distribute, Hickey and McCarthy overcame the challenge by contracting a fleet of semi-trailers to move the parcels to dozens of cities across the United States.



  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.