Oak Bay High School Confidential

Written by Harold McNeill on January 25th, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook

The Case of the $20,000 Teddy Bear


This Teddy Sold for £130,190 on 14th October 2000, even though it was slightly smaller than the $20,000 Teddy that was part of an Oak Bay Heist.


As affluence tends to define Oak Bay, at least in the eyes of outsiders, there is no better place to continue this series, than with a case about money, a lot of money, well, a lot of money for several dozen Oak Bay High School students.

Who would expect, that over a few days, early one spring, we would learn of parties at which $100 bills were being used to light cigars, stores where students were paying $500 for sport cards, and, of parents being given $100 bills by their kids, all with few questions being asked. Sound a bit far-fetched? Perhaps, but remember, this was Oak Bay and in Oak Bay, anything could happen.

The case developed, first by the keen observation of a fellow officer, and then, by information which pointed to three groups of students, who, in this story, we call the Uplands, Panhandle, and Rockland Boys. The Robin Hoodesque generosity of the three groups played a key roll in the distribution of tens of thousands of dollars throughout the school. What was going on? Had they opened up a counterfeiting ring in the school shop or had they found a bank vault left open along Oak Bay Ave? Not even close. The truth is even more interesting than fiction.  

While investigations were often assigned, a good police officer could divine cases of criminality by learning the district and picking the times, days, places, people, and conditions that might yield results – experienced fisherman of wrongdoers. While investigating criminal activity was one part, sometimes a small part, of our daily routine, it was a part that challenged officers to use their ingenuity and to always be alert for events that were ‘out of the ordinary’.

For a number of years, I had the good fortune to be partnered with a keen observer, one of the best policemen I had the pleasure to work with over my thirty-year career, Constable Herb Craig. Herb cut his teeth with the Calgary City Police, first, with six years on patrol, then, a two-year stint with the dog squad, where he honed his many natural investigative and observational skills. After eight years of pounding around Calgary, Herb heard about a much more laid-back lifestyle on the West Coast. A hippy at heart, he jumped at the chance when a job opened with the Oak Bay PD, a small department that was well known as ‘the first among equals’ in the Greater Victoria area.  Once teamed up, Herb and I became close friends, a friendship that has endured over the past fifty years.

On or off the job Herb could sniff out ‘wrongdoers’ better than any officer I ever met. He applied himself to the job, always giving ten hours work for eight hours paid. His instincts and work ethic is how this interesting case emerged during an otherwise quiet dayshift. Beyond his investigative skills, Herb had an infectious personality, a mischievous smile and fun loving way that could melt the heart of any female to whom he might turn his attention. For that reason alone, I was more than happy to follow in his footsteps in trying to improve my own skills. Now, back to the investigation.

Life and Times Back in the Sixties

In the nineteen-sixties and seventies, marihuana had become a commodity in high demand, particularly among the High School and University groups who set new standards for consumption. For the ‘in groups’ Columbian Gold and BC Bud was largely displacing alcohol as the social lubricant of choice. With the largest High School in Greater Victoria, Oak Bay Bay High was just a stone’s throw from the police station and as we shared the rapidly growing University of Victoria with the Saanich Police Department, there were plenty of fishing holes just waiting for Herb and me to cast our fishing lines.

Cartoon (Bales):  Officer McNeill consults his Oak Bay PD Drug Enforcement Manual. The 1968 Edition contained one page.

During our shifts, we found it ‘productive’ to maintain periodic watch in areas where students (aka, the counterculture) congregated and where they discussed the ‘meaning of life’ while sharing a joint or two. We had two or three observation points where it was unlikely we would be ‘burned’ even when in uniform and driving marked police cars. ‘Hinkey’ as they were, ‘street level’ drug dealers of the High School and University sort, were not generally seated in the learning enrichment classes.

Overly anxious to score a bit of weed or to make a quick sale left them vulnerable to being caught red-handed. While these small-time users and dealers had nothing in common with real crime or criminality (many were likely destined to become our future leaders – at least those who, like President Clinton, did not inhale!), we were policemen, and catching people breaking the law, even stupid laws, was our sworn duty. It was not our job to start moralizing, and, besides, these were heady times for a couple of young policemen and the draw of making a bust were irresistible.

The Sting

One Dayshift after having finished our morning coffee run along Oak Bay Ave, Herb radioed telling me he had just observed an unusual incident near the bicycle rack at the rear of the West Block of Oak Bay High. A student had taken something from his pocket, stuffed it under a corner of the wooden rack, and then entered the school. Of course, we both suspected a drug cache. After the students had entered class, Herb made a surreptitious check while I covered his back. Minutes later, he returned with an old $100 bill telling me it was one of fifteen similar bills in a plastic bag. That was a significant amount of cash, even for a well-healed Oak Bay High student.

Suspecting money being held for a drug deal, we took turns keeping the rack under surveillance until school was out at noon and the student returned. The kid recovered the package and left on his bike, heading north towards the Uplands. We followed but as traffic thinned and we were in marked cars, it was going to be tricky following him without blowing our cover. There were dozens of side trails in and around the Uplands Park area, any one of which could be taken by our suspect if he became suspicious and sprinted.

On a side channel, we quickly agreed to stop the young man as he crossed Uplands Road reasoning that if we came in like ‘gang busters’, the kid would be so shaken he wouldn’t even try to run and would likely ‘fess up’ as to the source of the money. Two minutes later, we sprang the trap. Herb came from behind, I came down Uplands Road. With red lights flashing and sirens whaling, we jumped from our cars and ordered him to “drop the bike and raise your hands”.

It worked, the kid was scared ‘out of his wits’ and after asking if he had any money (this was not a robbery), he handed over the bundle without a second thought. We then administered the standard Stolen Property Warning and when he gave an unlikely explanation, we cuffed him placed him in a police car. We hustled him to the office. The boy was still white as a sheet and shaking as we waited for his parents to arrive. During that time he volunteered a story that, a first, we found hard to believe.

By his account, he and his brother (hereafter we shall refer to them as the Uplands Boys) had been at a small house party the past week-end and one of their good friends (also a student at the Oak Bay) had shown them a large bundle of $100 bills from which the friend was peeling off bills and passing them around. He and his brother, being better friends, were each given a handful. Our suspect stated he had no idea how his friend came into the money and did not ask.

That the lad was very scared and coughed up the information quickly, made it seem likely he was telling the truth. By the time his parents arrived with the younger brother, the boy, now sitting in the locked holding room, was in tears. One could not help but feel sorry for the lad as, really; would anyone of you have refused an offer of a few hundred dollars from one of your good buddies at school? Maybe you would, but I wouldn’t have and I was so ‘good’ I became a cop!

As it was now apparent there was a lot more money floating around the school, and after a little urging from the parents, the boys passed along several names of others who had been given money. We then released both to custody of their parents after it was agreed the boys were not to discuss their arrest with any of their friends. As a potentially very serious criminal charge hung over their heads, it seemed unlikely either would break the agreement.

The Money Piles Up

Having fair amount of money piled on a desk, we had no trouble getting our Sergeant to approve overtime to continue the investigation. Over the remainder of the afternoon and during the early evening, we went to various homes spoke to parents and kids about the windfall we suspected their children possessed. At first, most parents were disbelieving but after some gentle words about ‘search warrants’ ‘criminal conspiracy’ and ‘arrest’, it was not long before the money was turned over and new leads for even more money were obtained.

At evenings end, we had collected 80 more $100 bills but a major challenge remained – finding the source of the money. As the dominoes continued to drop, we asked, and received, permission to continue investigating the next morning. We were not too worried about word getting out from those we had just spoken to as the parents, on hearing word about possible consequences, quickly agreed to keep their kids sequestered for the next 48 hours.

Bright and early Saturday morning, the interviews continued. At each home, it was not long before the suspect teen(s) coughed up the money and give the names of a few more persons. It was always the same story – “given to them by a friend” “don’t know where it came from” “didn’t think I was doing anything wrong” etc. During two interviews we learned something extraordinary; the parents had been given a couple of $100 bills but had never thought to ask about the source of the money! Unbelievable!

While Herb and I conducted interviews and searches, other patrol members checked businesses around the school to see if any had received any old $100 bills.  A few had and, one in particular, ‘The Sport Card Shop” (then at Cadboro Bay Road and Bowker Ave.), had sold several very expensive sport cards with payments being made in old $100 bills. The owner never thought much about this as many of the Oak Bay kids often had a good supply on money.

Just to make sure the bills we were collecting were not counterfeit, we went by the bank and had them checked out – all were legitimate, but an unusual fact remained – the bills all dated back three or four decades, some even older.

During one interview that morning we learned of a highly unusual event happening at house party in the Uplands the night before. While the parents were away on a short holiday the kids invited over a number of friends. According to our informant, at the party several Oak Bay High school boys were lighting expensive cigars with $100 bills. It was the hit of the party.

We double checked the information as we wanted to have all our ducks in order before we approached the father who was a popular, outspoken, no nonsense, politician and knew the man could be ‘difficult’. After learning the parents had returned, Herb and I attended, related the background and, as expected, the parents did not believe a word.

“Not possible”, ‘No way could our kids be involved in something like that’, etc. All that changed however, the moment the kids entered the room. Their faces told the whole story and it was not long before they confirmed every fact and even turned over a few partially burned bills. That was a nice touch, as it was now the parents who sported the stunned looks. Cooperation guarantied. It was also at that point we reached a turning point in the investigation – the possible source of the money.

With nearly $15,000 now sitting in an evidence locker, we were finally given the names of two teens that might provide the key to solving the case. Both lived on Dean Street in panhandle area of Saanich. The “Panhandle Boys” had been involved in bits of mischief and petty thievery over the several years and their parents were not much better.

Knowing how the mother and father responded to police intervention, we did not want to take a chance of being refused entry to the home, so decided to obtain a search warrant. Herb and I agreed we would only use the warrant if necessary as using it might possibly reveal the identity of our informants. When we arrived, as expected, we were met with hostility from all sides. Again, after a gentle nudge and a stern warning about larger criminal consequences if they continued to obstruct, they backed down and the boys lead us to the money.

This time we hit pay dirt, nearly $5,000 in old $100 bills. For the first time in my memory, the parents were now fully cooperating as they realized the boys were in a whole heap of trouble and could end up in jail. After a little more intense discussion they named their source of the money.

 The $20,000 Teddy Bear

The two admitted to having broken into the home of two other students (not friends, of course) in the Rockland area of Victoria. Through the grapevine they had heard that the ‘Rockland Boys’ had a large amount of money stashed in a Teddy Bear in the older boy’s bedroom so the two hatched a plan to break in during the day when no one was at home. One the selected day, they entered, found the teddy and made off with a bag full of $100 bills. Back at school over the following two weeks they found they gained many new friends as they began handing out $100 bills.

Early Sunday morning we attended the Rockland residence and told the parents what we had learned.  As usual they were disbelieving, but after calling the two boys and asking them to bring the Teddy Bear to the room, the story soon emerged. The boys finally admitted to having broken into the home of an older couple who lived in their neighborhood. At the home, they claimed, they had found a large metal box filled with stacks of $100 bills.

They took the money, replaced the cash box, returned home and stashed the bundles of money in their Teddy Bear. During the following week they had given away various amounts to close friends but then, someone broke into their home and stole the money from their room. Of course, they had never told their parents.

When we attended the residence of the older couple, they fetched the cash box and, to their surprise, found it to be empty. When asked how much it might have contained, all they could tell us was that they had been saving $100 bills over many years and had no idea.

After putting the finishing touches on the case, we had recovered just over 200 – $100 bills and estimated another thirty or forty of the bills had been spent, burned or simply “went missing’.

The Rockland boys where charged with ‘Break, Enter and Theft” but, beyond that, other criminal charges became less certain. As with drug dealers stealing another druggies ‘stash’, it would be difficult to determine the appropriate charge.  Clearly the money stolen and those who possessed the money should have known it was stolen, never-the-less, for a first time offender in Juvenile Court, under these circumstances, it would be a time consuming prosecution with little to be gained.

Of course, we had taken into consideration the response of the parents. Almost to a person, they were horrified and were going to administer some form of punishment.  For those reluctant to admit culpability on the part of their children, it was likely going to be a lost cause in any event. Only time would tell whether the permissive/protective stance of the parents would help or hinder the kids as they grew older.

For Herb and me it was an interesting case where, at every turn, we found new suspects and more stolen property. It did not often happen that easily. The case reinforced the importance of keeping a keen eye for suspicious circumstances even in the most benign situations. I certainly enjoyed the years of working with Constable Herbert Thomas Craig and, I believe, he enjoyed working with me.



This is only one of many cases in this series that demonstrate a side of policing that is far too often under-rated, that of applying the law in a manner that provides the greatest chance for changing behaviour.  It seems likely most of the kids and parents in this case came to view the police in a positive manner.  Many more charges could have been laid and a much more heavy handed approach taken, but, really, what would that have accomplished other than increasing the statistics – nothing.  The law was applied in a sensitive, yet firm manner, all the while understanding that people, particularly teens, make mistakes and sometimes just need a wake-up call.

Constable Herbert Thomas Craig – A Few more Words

One reason Herb was so amazingly good at his job was his willingness to use his initiative, even if that meant bending a few rules, in order to get the job done.  Unfortunately, far too many officers are held back by the constraints of the old adage: “You have to go along to get along.” Don’t make waves and support the system is not the only way to get ahead but it is one of the most popular. It is an unwritten rule that permeates every force, particularly the larger city, provincial and national forces. Many stories in this series will touch upon that particular constraint in policing.

Having worked for five years under the rule of a dictatorial Chief Constable, Herb finally decided to shrug off the shackles and, instead, to seek fame and fortune as a log salvage operator along the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. At heart, he was a born again hippy, loved a good party, fast cars and women that were equally up to speed. He pulled up stakes and built a log home in a semi-wilderness outside Gibson’s Landing where his new home was complete with water piped in from a mountain stream, a huge fireplace, requisite hot tub and a high power sound system – small luxuries Herb was more than willing to share with his friends.

As a result of holding a Salvage Licence, owning a powerful jet boat and equipped with his effervescent personality, Herb and his boat made regular appearances on the Beachcomber TV Series that was taped along the Sunshine Coast and at Molly’s Reach in Gibson’s Landing. I visited the ‘log cabin’ many times over the years but beyond that my lips are sealed. ‘What happened in that log cabin stayed in that log cabin’, except, that is, for one final confrontation Herb had with our favorite Chief Constable.

A few months after having left the force, Herb received a call from the Chief in which the Chief ordered Herb (the Chief never found it necessary to ‘ask nicely’ or say ‘please’) to return to Victoria for an upcoming court case. Herb asked if the Chief would send over travel expenses to which the Chief stated:  “You are a civilian now Craig, I’m not sending any travel expenses, you can apply to the courts like everyone else.”  Herb then told the Chief he would not attend, to which the Chief replied: “Well, in that case I will have a warrant issued for your arrest.”  Without a pause Herb replied: “Chief, in that case you will not only have to pay my expenses over but you will also have to pay for an escort to come and pick me up. Do you think you could send McNeill?” Herb then hung up. No warrant was ever issued and I didn’t get a road trip.

Not one to let sleeping dogs lie, Herb dressed in one of his old Oak Bay Police uniforms (shirt, tie and hat), took a service tray filled it with freshly mixed drinks and, standing in water to his waist in a hot tub surrounded by a bevy of young woman, had a picture snapped.  From this he made an 8X10 glossy, signed it: “Best Wishes, Herb” and mailed it to the Chief Constable.  Sometimes, there is nothing better than burning your bridges.

Herb, who continues to live in the Sechelt/Gibson’s Landing area of British Columbia, and I, eventually grew up, married fine young woman, were blessed with more children the second time around and as we now drift into our senior years, we take with us many fond memories of that bygone era and the Chief Constable who brightened our workng days.



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Comments (2)

  • Herb Craig
    January 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

    Harold McNeill, what can I say, a true example on an exceptional partner and policeman. In police work we found ourselves in one man cars and in every situation had to depend on our fellow officers to back us up when called upon. When we called for help we needed it right away. Their were other fellow officers especially when facing violence situations would take their time when answering a call for assistance as those requests would evolve a degree of risk. Harold was truly one of the exceptions. Regardless of the risk you could always rely on Harold to get there ASAP have the required degree of calmness and open to doing whatever was required regardless of any risk of bodily injury to his person.
    It is a tribute to Harold in the way he can recall detailed stories of facts on cases that he was involved in. Harold was an example of a fellow officer who you could rely on in every aspect of police work. Harold’s knowledge and ability was always present in every case that Harold took on. When it came time to go to court Harold’s testimony and recall about specific circumstances was always a tribute to getting the person or person’s justifiably convicted.In all my years of being a policeman I was proud associating my name with Harold’s. Having said this one always had to keep in mind and remember who one was dealing with. It was a prerequisite to be careful when sharing time with Harold as Harold always had that ability to be there with a sense of humor and use any mishaps to his advantage to be used for future laughable recollections of given circumstances.
    Thank you Harold for your willingness in share your stories with whoever is willing to take the time to read them. You are truly an exceptional man and a pleasure to call my friend.
    Herb Craig

  • January 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm |

    Herb, you are far to complimentary. The cases we investigated, the friends we made and those out of control parties we attended (after we were off duty), will long be remembered. OMG, if the Chief had showed up, he would have had a coronary. Harold

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  • 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.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.