Gotcha A..hole

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


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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.

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Loneliness, Life’s Last Companion

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


alone-elderly

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. 

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The Cat Lady

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


The_Haunted_House_by_croonstreet

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.

Harold

Link to Loneliness, Life’s Last Companion

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Burglar with a Conscience

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


what_burglars_do

A few ways of looking at at Burglar

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 are to become successful in their chosen trade. Such was the dilemma faced by Lawrence, the thirty something, near-do-well in this case for, try as he may, he could not bring himself to hurt an old lady who lived alone and who reminded him so much of his own mother.

Lawrence was one of those men who could be aged from 15 to 60, who could never quite find a real purpose life. Neither good, nor really bad, the fact they were never able to find a job with which suited them and never willing to put in more than the minimum effort to get by, they often began with petty crime as that seemed to best suit their lifestyle. The logic – if you could steal a box of cookies, a record or tape, hire a taxi or eat a meal and then skip, well, why pay for it. Not ‘gonna’ hurt anyone is it?  How it all begin, who knows, but over the years their lives often spiralled downward, first into soft drugs, then, perhaps hard drugs, petty crimes that might have, at one time at least, escalated as their needs became greater. It was not long before they held an arms length of petty crime convictions. The outcome was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While Lawrence was not new to crime, his ventures to this point in his life had been restricted to shoplifting and petty thefts at those times when he had no regular work. With no job prospects, he was hurting for cash to buy his groceries and pay the overdue rent on his tiny Victoria West apartment. Neither was shoplifting very profitable. It was easy to steal stuff but market value on the street might sometimes be as little as ten cents on the dollar. It took a lot of stealing to make a buck and getting caught mean a trip to the police station, court dates and either fines or jail followed by probation. Then one evening over a toke, a friend suggested he might try his had at breaking into private homes as they often provided a much better payday. While Lawrence had concerns about getting into this line of work, he decided to give it a try.”

Now, on his sixth trip and as many break-ins, he was searching for his seventh as he got off the bus near the Estevan Shopping Centre. As he walked towards Beach Drive that familiar pit in his stomach began to grow. He was just as nervous now as he was on his first trip a couple of weeks back.  The only thing that kept him going was knowing that he would likely walk away with a pretty good haul.

After reach Beach Drive he headed north towards Uplands Park, scanning houses while looking for those giving the appearance of being unoccupied and which provided a bit of concealment from the prying eyes of neighbours. It was not difficult in North Oak Bay, as the lots were big, the homes well established with plenty of trees and shrubs. Although he had not come close to being caught while in someones home, he was still apprehensive about the prospect and was not sure how he would react if confronted by a 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. Actually, he was not adverse to washing a few windows or raking some leaves to pick up a little extra cash and it was a nice day. It might even help to settle his stomach.

But, it was unlikely he would be put to work, as he had become pretty good a spotting unoccupied houses – mail still in the box, newspapers or flyers on the porch, drapes pulled during day or open and no lights on when getting dark, no car in the driveway or garage or any of a dozen other small hints that even an inexperienced burglar would soon learn.burglar with pry bar

Photo from Web: Burglar prepares to pry window with his favourite tool, “Mr. Crowbar”. Locked houses, even 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 kitchen, smashed the glass with a small pry bar he carried in his backpack, unlocked the hasp, pushed the window open and climbed in…

The homeowner, Mrs. Johnson, now in her mid-eighties, had been widowed just 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 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 today 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 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.

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 burglary was similar to half dozen others that had taken place over past couple of weeks, but as of yet no leads had been developed and the files reassigned to the Detective Office.

Three days after this latest burglary, Detective-Sergeant Fowler and I attended the residence after the 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 wanted a ‘reward’ for returning them.

The woman was rightfully skeptical about the call as the story of the theft had appeared in several local papers and on TV. There had even been photo of one of the paintings. She told the man to call her back later as she had company and did not want to discuss the matter with them present. The man agreed and on hanging up she immediately phoned the police.

At her home a tape recorder was attached to her phone and we coached Mrs. Johnson 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.

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 smallest hint of the police being involved 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 order. 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.

In preparation for the next day, Garth and I enlisted the aid of the CLEU (Co-ordinated Law Enforcement Unit) whose office was nearby on Cadboro Bay Road. They agreed to provide two or three unmarked units to cover the area in order to watch for the arrival of the suspect. We had no idea how he might be travelling, whether he might have accomplices or whether he might be dangerous although he certainly did not sound the least bit dangerous on the phone. For that matter, he sounded almost apologetic for having taken the woman’s paintings.

The next morning well before the exchange was to take place, Garth and I entered the house and where we intended to remain in order to insure the safety of the woman and to affect an arrest if the paintings were turned over. We had planned for a few alternatives – if there were no paintings but sufficient evidence of a shakedown, we would arrest. Alternatively, if it appeared the suspect had stashed the paintings at another location, we might, depending on how the conversation went, allow him 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. He seemed a likely suspect as he was carrying a large package that could be the paintings, 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.

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. Garth and I maintained a listening post just around the corner and had our weapons at ready. We were also recording the event for ‘posterity’.

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.

When the suspect took possession of the money, Garth and I entered the room and with our guns pointed at him, stepped between him and Mrs. Johnson and ordered him to put up his hands in the air. The scene was almost comical as the man lifted his arms high while holding about half of the pile of $100 bills in each hand. The look of shock on his face will long be etched in my mind. We hand cuffed, 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 he had used one in particular, a Fort Street shop, the owner of which was 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 Tillicum Mall where he pointed out numerous items that had been stolen over the past several weeks.  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 entirely with stolen property.

Garth and I boxed up everything, arranged for a truck to pick it up and returned the lot to police storage locker where it remained until after the court case was concluded. Lawrence opted to plead guilty to all charges so Garth and I had little contact with him after the original investigation.  All recovered identifiable property was returned to various owners but the property which Lawrence told us 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

Footnotes

(1) Several years later, Detective Constable Pittam and I had a run-in with the owner of the Fort Street shop after several major burglaries in Oak Bay. 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, I was reading the Times Colonist Want Ads while looking for farm supplies (Lynn and I had a small farm in West Saanich off Interurban Road) when I came across and interesting item. Not far from our farm, was a farm sale that included a several items we could use. We popped over and, low and behold, the young man who greeted us was no other than Lawrence.

We had a long chat 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 was doing well.  Whether Lawrence was able to continue following the straight and narrow is not known.

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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? 

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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. 

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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 Most Wanted list, then have your mugshot broadcast around the world on television as that could be the beginning of the end. Such was the case of one young man who dared try to hide behind the Tweed Curtain in Oak Bay. 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 hansome, no-nonsense Elliot Ness in the TV and movie series the ‘The Untouchables’.

In late 1986 Indiana State Police indicted Hickey McCartney on 43 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 spread to the business and professional community as College and University students graduated but did not 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 United States.

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To Catch a Thief

Written by Harold McNeill on January 21st, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook


Find out how an old friend managed to nail the thieves who were stealing gas from the company fuel storage tank.

Stealing Gas From Tank

The following incident happened in the early 2000’s and was written in 2005 and posted in 2011 when the blog was first opened.  The man who was the centre of the story and about 75 years old at the time, Jack Start, worked hard all his life. Short in the stature, but stocky in build, his deep, gravely voice commanded attention.

For over 50 years, he earned a good living blasting and building roads to mines and logging facilities over the length and breadth of Vancouver Island. He was honest as the day is long and would give his last dollar to someone in need but, steal or try to steal something from him and he would get his back up in a hurry.  The story took place at his somewhat remote 30-acre piece of property on the Malahat Drive just north of Victoria, B.C. (February 10, 2018 (Post Count 2632))

To Catch a Thief 

At 4:00 am it was overcast and pitch-black at the home of Jack and Ruth Start when the driveway alarm Jack had linked to their doorbell shook him from his slumber.  He jumped from the bed and slipped on his boots while telling Ruth to just stay put, that he would be back shortly. Jack grabbed his shotgun and while still in his pyjamas opened the door knowing no one would be standing there.

Jack was almost certain tonight was the night he would catch himself a thief. He wasn’t angry, hell, he wasn’t even nervous as he walked to his truck and climbed in, he was just a man on a mission. Even though he was approaching his seventies, he was no longer willing to let those thieving bastards continue to drive Start Homeaway with his gas. If the RCMP could not catch them, come hell or high water, Jack would do the job for them. He started the engine, jammed the truck in gear and hit out along the winding driveway towards his shop area. (2016 – 585)

The Start home (photo left) was situated on an isolated acreage overlooking Brentwood Bay, a half kilometre below the Malahat Drive section of the Trans Canada about three kilometres northwest of Goldstream Park. Nestled in a grove of tall evergreens and surrounded by manicured lawns, the home was perched on the edge of a cliff that dropped 150 meters to the dark, cold waters of Brentwood  Bay.

Photo (personal files):  Looking down the winding driveway towards the Start home.  The fuel storage area and workshop was located in a secluded area about 100 meters further up the slope.

When looking out their living room window at night, the glow of light filtering into the clouds and mist above Greater Victoria, some 20 kilometres to the south, added to the sense peacefulness with the silence only interrupted by the occasional sounds of traffic moving along the Malahat.

In the 1960’s Jack and Ruth selected this 30-acre property to build their dream home as much for the spectacular view as for the abundant wildlife that Jack and Ruth nurtured with loving care. On any given day when travelling down the long winding driveway, it was evident the deer and all manner of other animals and birds loved this location as Jack made twice-weekly trips to Victoria to pick discarded vegetables and fruit at Thrifty Foods in Broadmead. However, life on the property was not always as peaceful as Jack and Ruth had hoped. Over the years and particularly in the last several months, thieves had been making regular night time visits to Jack’s workshop and fuel area.

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    August 16, 2019 |

    Many thanks for reviewing the article Elizabeth. There are so many areas of our society in which populism carries the day, although I think what is happening with the ICBC is that groups having a vested interest in private insurance would dearly love to dislodge ICBC from their preferred position. That being said, I think was a good move to have only portions of the insurance coverage in BC being held by ICBC and other portions being made available through private enterprise.

  • Elizabeth Mary McInnes, CAIB

    August 15, 2019 |

    It’s a breath of fresh air to see a resident of British Columbia look to review all the facts over believing what is reported in the news or just following along with the negative stigma of the masses. Your article truly showcases that with a little reform to ICBC’s provincial system – British Columbia could be a true leader for other provinces in Canada. Very well written article!

  • Harold McNeill

    August 13, 2019 |

    August 13, 2019. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), a private enterprise group not unlike the Fraser Institute, is again on the campaign trail. They state ICBC rates are the highest in Canada, but, thankfully, Global BC inserted a section indicating the Insurance Bureau cherry-picked the highest number in BC and the lowest numbers in AB, ON and other Eastern Provinces. If you take a few minutes to check reliable sources you will find BC rates, are the lowest in Canada.

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.