San Remo Restaurant Burglary

Written by Harold McNeill on February 12th, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook

The San Remo Restaurant on Quadra at Hillside, has been a fixture in
Victoria for nearly 30 years. With an array of authentic Greek dishes as well Italian and American favourites, the warm and welcoming atmosphere provided by Dino, his daughter Zoi and the friendly staff makes a visit well worthwhile and repeat visists a must (see photos at end of story).

Quiet Times

It was 2:00 am Monday as I sat in my patrol car at the corner of Foul Bay Road and Fort Street working on a vexing problem. The problem? Trying to stay awake. As usual at the end of a week-end, not a thing was happening throughout the city and the radio barely crackled. You could fire a rifle down Douglas Street or along Oak Bay Ave and never fear of hitting anyone. It was nice to have an interlude, but the challenge at 2:00 am was keeping the mind occupied and off the thought of sleep.

As I whiled away the time, another car would occasionally book off with a vehicle, but nothing of consequence. I reflected back upon those times when my friends Blake Green, a Victoria Police member, and his wife Joanne, lived just a few door’s from where I was parked. The coffee pot was always on and the door open, but not a 2:00 am.  The Green’s had moved in a few years back and the street, Goldsmith, was now long gone as the houses were torn down to make way for a Seniors Housing Complex and the Oak Bay Recreation Centre.

My reason for parking at this particular location was simple — I always found the intersection always produced a car worth checking when things were quiet. It was one of the busiest access to Oak Bay (just ahead of the intersections at Oak Bay Ave Lansdowne). Any ‘near-do-well’ out wandering and venturing across the “Tweed Curtain Pass” could usually be caught trying to sneak in at one of these three locations.

Blake used to tease me about working in Oak Bay, he called it ‘sleepy hollow’, but we both knew full knew I was able to snag just as many interesting cases as did he in the Victoria. It was all in jest of course but it never-the-less stung as large number of Victoria members seemed to think Victoria was the centre of the policing universe. While Oak Bay may have been ‘sleepy hollow’ Blake did not like to be reminded that the area in which he worked was known nationally and internationally as “the city of newly weds and nearly deads”. Tit for tat, the battle of words went on!

Tonight, I had to agreed, it was boring in Oak Bay just as it was in Victoria, Saanich and Esquimal. Oh well, I was not about to change jobs, so closed my eyes for a few minutes just to contemplate life…


I was suddenly jerked from my reverie now by the sound of a vehicle approaching at high rate of speed along Fort Street. Before I could react, the vehicle had passed, shooting through the intersection of Foul Bay at 60-70 mph while heading east along Cadboro Bay Road.

I threw on the overhead lights (leaving the siren off for the time being) and took up chase fully expecting to catch the idiot within the next few blocks. During those years the department still purchased fairly powerful cars, that were capable of challenging most others on the road.

Photo: This is the Oak Bay version of the Dodge Cornet. It still had the 440 hp engine but was much shorter than the full sized version used in other departments.  This model was much easier to handle on the short streets in Oak Bay.

Negotiating the “s” turns as I flew past Eastdowne Road, I eased off, then on the gas peddle just as I had been taught on the pursuit driving course a few years earlier. Doing so helped to keep the car stable in the turns and allowed me to maintain a steady 60 – 70 mph throughout the turns. I had no desire to roll another car as I had done during the driver training course.

Although, I had not yet caught site of the suspect vehicle after taking the final curve at Bowker Avenue, I accelerated toward the Will-O-Way Shopping Centre fully expecting to catch sight of the vehicle as I topped the hill. Then, nothing! I continued to accelerate along the open stretch of Cadboro Bay, scanning the side streets as I passed, but on reaching Lansdowne Road, it was clear the vehicle was long gone. I was left with nothing but a good rush of adrenalin and an accelerated heart rate. In short, I was “pissed right off.”

I was just circling back toward Fort and Foul Bay, with my heart rate finally settling back, when I overheard Victoria PD attending a silent alarm at the San Remo Restaurant on Hillside just north of Quadra.

The Net Closes

From the radio chatter it was apparent the Alarm Company, for some reason, had delayed alerting the police for ten or fifteen minutes while they contacted the reference. The officers at the scene confirmed it was a break-in and would advise further after the reference arrived.

Ten minutes later, I was still sitting on Goldsmith when I heard a car approaching along Cadboro Bay Road. Can you believe it, it was the same vehicle I had lost some ten minutes earlier. This time I jumped immediately and pulled the vehicle over on Fort Street as I called for cover. I fully expected they had been up to no good, so entered the conversation casually never telling them I had observed them a few minutes early. Perhaps they never knew a police car had taken up chase and I wanted to see what kind of story they might try to concock.

First, I inquired if they had been down around the Oak Bay Marina in south Oak Bay, telling them we had just had a break-in at that location. That, of course, was a lie and was exactly the opposite direction from the Hillside B&E and north Oak Bay.  Sure enough, in order to distance themselves  from the Marina they stated they had just been driving around, came down Hillside and eventually ended up on Lansdowne at Cadboro Bay Road.  They had then turned down Cadboro Bay Road and headed back towards the city.

Maintaining an amiable approach, one thing lead to another and after a few minutes of cordial question and answer, I told the pair a quantity of fishing gear had been stolen from the Marina and wondered if they would mind popping the trunk just to put my mind at ease. Of course there was only a small possibility they had any gear in the trunk so the driver, caught between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’, reluctantly climbed out and popped the trunk.

Of course there was no fishing gear, but there were two, nearly full cases, of wine. Bingo! Looking at the bottles, it was obvious this was not a cheap selection and it was highly unlikely these rounders would have purchased so much expensive wine. I casually asked how it came into their possession. The driver stated they had been at a large party (apparently a licenced event) and the brother-in-law of one man had asked them to return some of the left-over wine to the liquor store in the morning. Receipts? “No!” Liquor Licence? “No!”. He must have been one trusting brother-in-law!

I then asked about the crowbar laying on the floor of the trunk. Answer: “Oh, you know, from home, we were doing some renovations yesterday.” Ya, right, and pigs fly. A crowbar, better known as ‘Mr. Crowbar’, was to a burglar, as was a Gold Shield to a cop.

As I continued to ask questions, the two men were clearly becoming edgy, so I was relieved when the cover car arrived to assist just in case the pair decided to bolt.

CSI to the Rescue

As my partner kept watch, I returned to the radio and inquired of the Victoria members if they had any idea what might have been taken in the B&E. After the owner, Dino Petropoulos arrived, it did not take long to establish at least two cases of assorted wine from the bar, that had been left locked in the restaurant office, were missing.  Dino had no quick means to identify the different types of wine but stated – wait for this – he had ripped a corner flap from the side of one box and used it to make a list of the supplies he needed to purchase the next day. He was holding the the torn flap in his hand as we spoke.

After getting a quick description of the flap (size, color etc.), I returned to the trunk and it was evident the section missing from one box flap would, without doubt, match perfectly to that held at the site of the burglary. Q.E.D.

The standard Stolen Property Warning was then read to each of the suspects in turn and, when a less than a convincing explanation was given, both were placed under arrest for PSP (Possession of Stolen Property) as well as Possession of House Breaking Instruments. They were handcuffed and held for the VPD members who would take custody and process the men into the cells.

My partner and I arranged to have the suspect car towed and held onto the wine as it was always good idea to keep possession of some of the evidence – ‘for purposes of continuity’ of course and, perhaps, a few hours in court at some future date. As far as the paperwork, I was more than happy to let the two VPD members wrap up the investigation and complete the reports to Crown Counsel. A ‘leaner’ as we called it.

I headed back to the office write up myotes and prepared my part of the Crown Report, then had a cup of coffee and, of course, a game of crib. My adrenalin rush was now satisfied and knew that Blake, now in the front office, would appreciate that Oak Bay was still helping Victoria to keep up their “cleared by charge” stats as they really hated it when Oak Bay had a higher clearance rate. There was nothing better than a little inter-departmental competition and cooperation to keep the crooks off the street.

Harold McNeill

(1) Goldsmith access to Fort and Foul Bay Road, eventually disappeared with the building of the Oak Bay Recreation Centre and the two Seniors Centres.  For a link to a Map of Oak Bay that shows all street numbers and the date various area’s were developed: Map

San Remo Resturant, February 12, 2012.  Lynn and I went to dinner this evening to meet again with Dino Petropoulos, the man who held the little piece of cardboard with the wine list so many years earlier. He has owned and managed this resturant for nearly thirty years and, in recent years, has shared his life’s work with his dauther Zoi and her friends. In the picture, back left and right is Lynn and Zoi, front left and right Dino and Zoi’s friend Jasmine. Standing right is Emily, the young woman who served our table this evening.

Zoi and her dad share a quiet moment while standing behind the bar.

A couple seated next to our table celebrate an early Valentines Day dinner with wine and helping of Dino’s Special Platter. Photo below of the restaurant in 2012.

San Remo Resturant


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Comments (2)

  • February 13, 2012 at 11:20 pm |

    So, you’re retired and you still deny yourself the pleasure of telling us what happened to the wine in the end?

  • February 14, 2012 at 2:09 am |

    Sorry Lorin it’s as they say about “what happens in Las Vegas…” All I can say is some came back last night after dinner in the form of Orzo…

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  • McNeill Life Stories How to Game an Election - McNeill Life Stories

    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]

  • Harold McNeill

    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