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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    August 21, 2019 |

    For those who followed the earlier post about the cost of ICBC Auto insurance coverage in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (linked in comments) here is another follow-up article.

    This article again confirms earlier assertions that public-private insurers such as that which ICBC provides, is among the best in Canada in terms of rates and coverage. A link is provided in the original story.

  • 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