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.

When the family returned, they determined that among several items taken was a quantity of heirloom jewelry dating back to the great-great-grandparents on the mother’s side. It was a devastating loss, particularly to the wife as her father, who had recently passed away, had just given her the jewelry before he died. More on that in the story, but first, about the soot on the bedroom floor – it was her father’s ashes. A double whammy.  It was fortunate the ashes had not been vacuumed by the neighbor as we had asked him to leave the home as found in order to assist in the follow-up investigation.

Over the next week, my partner, Det. Sgt Fowler, and I put substantial effort into scanning the Pawn Sheets and shaking down suspects, but nothing came to light. Finally, while ‘squeezing’ a suspect in another case, we learned the burglar, in this case, was currently serving time in the Brannan Lake Youth Detention Centre in Nanaimo. He was inside for a burglary and a car theft in another jurisdiction.

Given our informant was usually reliable, we decided to see if the guy in Brannon Lake would take a ‘freebie’  (a pass on charges) in return for providing a lead on the missing jewelry. We drove to Nanaimo, arranged a meet and from the moment he entered the holding room, the kid directed a stream of expletives our way that would make a biker blush.  The case then fell onto the back burner as we knew he did it, but had no physical proof other than the word of our informant.

Two weeks later we received a tip about a suspect in another case hanging out in a basement suite just off Bay Street near Blanshard. Late one afternoon we scouted the area and while driving down the alley recorded the licence numbers of several vehicles which we then ran through CPIC (Canadian Police Information System) system. Bingo, one vehicle had been recently stolen in Nanaimo after a burglary of the owner’s home.

As we had nothing pressing on our agenda we decided to just sit tight and watch. Not long after dark, we saw a shadow emerge into the alley and enter the stolen 4X4.  When the engine started and the lights came on we roared down the alley, jumped out with guns drawn and shut down the suspect before he could even catch his breath.

After he was removed him from the vehicle and handcuffed, I shone the light in his face, then turned to Garth and said: “You know Garth, there really is a God!” It was our young friend from Brannon Lake. This time the suspect was considerably more subdued than when we first met.  A search of the vehicle revealed a number of items that would likely trace back to a Nanaimo burglary.

We had him solid on possession of a stolen vehicle and suspected some of the property in the vehicle was likely tied to the burglary. The Nanaimo RCMP would no doubt charge him with one or more burglaries in that city. As it seemed he destined to go down on several charges, we decided to try a little horse trading. We told him we would give him a pass on the Oak Bay B&E if he helped us recover the jewelry.

Well, it was a good news and bad news response. The good news, he admitted the burglary and told us he had tossed the jewelry, but then came the bad news – he had tossed it in a dumpster near the 7-11 at Cook and Pandora when he noticed police cars in the area and was afraid of being checked with the jewelry in his pocket.

As three weeks had now passed, it was highly unlikely the jewelry would still be present, but never-the-less we decided to do a little dumpster diving. No luck. It was a disappointing end to the case, but that disappointment was part and parcel of many investigations – nothing like the outcomes on most TV shows.

While Garth and I could never lay claim to being “Dirty Harry” types, we did share several “Gotcha Asshole” moments. The upside on this case, we managed to remove this offender from the streets for a few more months and it had felt ‘soooo’ good to tightly clamp the handcuffs on those thieving wrists…

Harold McNeill

1. While excessive damage during a burglary was not a regular occurrence the occasional culprit seemed bent on destroying property (throwing food around, knocking over plants, urinating or defecating on personal belongings, etc.). In one case on Foul Bay Road, the culprit(s) spent at least a half hour destroying property with the damage mounting into the thousands of dollars. In these cases, it seemed the damage was motivated almost entirely by anger at some perceived wrong. In these cases, it was particularly gratifying to catch the perpetrators and put them behind bars, even if just for a brief period.

(March 17, 2016 271)


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  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold

  • Terrance

    January 5, 2019 |


  • Harold McNeill

    December 23, 2018 |

    Thanks Sis. I will be uploading as Hi-Def so the photos can be viewed full screen. Brother

  • Louise

    December 21, 2018 |

    Amazing collection of photos of the weekend ❤️❤️

  • Harold McNeill

    December 21, 2018 |

    Hi Dave,

    Not sure if you are the same Armit as was at Oak Bay PD or not. Interesting to see your comment on Danny Cain and your birthdays and family friendships. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 19, 2018 |

    Thanks, Lynn. It appears there was a problem with the comment system. Cheers, Harold

  • lynnmcneill

    November 19, 2018 |

    Hi Harold – looks great!

  • Maurice Smook

    August 13, 2016 |

    Hi Jillian,

    I don’t know if you are still checking this site but I had to respond again. February of 2017 it will be 72 years since this battle occurred.

    What caught my attention about this incident was on the Go Deep Documentary that aired on the History Channel. First of all I never known that this battle having ever occurred.

    According to my grade 3 teacher WW2 had never occurred. That grade 3 teacher stated that the WW2 and the holocaust was all propaganda. All of my classmates they believed her. I hate to say this but all I knew was that soldiers shooting at each other.

    I almost was expelled from school. My

    Mom my Dad my brother and my Uncle would have been arrested for propaganda. I paid the price. It was ironic a grade 5 teacher told me that Smooks are all commies. Dad was Conservative.

    All the Smooks that I known are all Conservative. If I had the money I would have loved to sue those two teachers.

    As I said I never heard of this Battle. If it were not for that program I would have never had known.

    I started to do more researching to find out more about the history of this battle. The narrator of Go Deep mentioned the names of the pilots who died that battle.

    I missed 20 minutes of that program but the camera crew had the camera’s pointed towards the sign with the names of the deceits. That is how I known.

    According to the narrator There are three who are still missing. W.J. Jackson, Harry Smook and A. Duckworth. A couple of months ago the staff of Go Deep have located Harry and A. Duckworths aircraft. This is on you tube. Harry and A. Duckworth craft is approx 650 feet deep in the Fjord. The individual who is heading this expansionary mission made it known he will not rest until all three of the missing pilots
    will be retrieved. I am sure that A. Duckworth’s kin are hoping for the same.

    What really puzzles me is that I have sent emails to the Smooks. Not one ever replying. I presume its the same with you. Sad. Dad rarely spoke about his family. It appears there is a big secret of the Smooks. I too assume Harry is a kin to my Dad. Harry maybe a 4th 5th cousin to my Dad. I too would like to know. Harry and A. Duckworth served and died for our country. The other is W.j. Jackson – who is also still missing – having died for our Country.

    In conclusion I still ask myself why is this a huge secret.

    If you are still checking this site please contact me. Maybe we may be kin.

    Take care.