The Scratch and Lose Caper

Written by Harold McNeill on March 12th, 2017. Posted in Police Notebook, Tim Hortons Morning Posts


lottery-tickets_0

How to scratch open a jail cell.

At 2:00 am Sunday, or at that time any other day of the week, Greater Victoria was known as the land of “Newlyweds, Nearly Deads.” As traffic thinned during those early morning hours, the hum of the tires on a car traveling at high speed could be heard for miles. On this morning, the hum was that of an early 1960’s Oldsmobile, a machine having witnessed better days, as it sped East along Pandora, then onto Oak Bay Avenue.

The four young men inside were still hooting and hollering after partying late in one of the downtown clubs. They were now heading home to Gordon Head but having missed the Fort Street cut-off that would have taken them to Foul Bay Road then north, continued East along Oak Bay Ave. All had been drinking heavily and had no particular purpose in mind other than getting home to continue the party.IMG_0975

As they approached Foul Bay Road someone hollered: “Hey man, ya gotta turn here!” However, speed and distance would soon become limiting factors given the tank in which they were riding. The driver, his sense dulled by alcohol, braked heavily then cranked the wheel hard left. As momentum and weight took over, the tires broke away in a wide yaw that led first to the sidewalk, then to West wall of Frost’s corner store.

Photo (web) A 1960’s style Oldsmobile, 4-door.

The crash was no doubt heard for several blocks as the car sliced through the stucco covered wood framed wall, then entered the store taking down book and grocery store shelves as if made of balsa. The heavy grill and steel frame of the Old’s was a first class battering ram that protected the occupants even as the fenders and hood crumpled. The shatterproof windshield and passenger side door glass blew into a thousand pieces.

A swoosh of dust from the stucco, insulation and plastered walls covered the occupants as bits magazine, other dry goods, broken confection bags, and packages, settled to the floor. The men, who suffered not a scratch, began to laugh as they gave the driver shit: “what the hell is ya doing man, trying to kill us? The owner, who wasn’t driving because he was too drunk, exclaimed, “WTF have you done to my car?”

They all laughed and, while still parked fully inside the store, piled out to have a better look. After dusting themselves off, one man started to munch on a bag of chips while another stuffed a few candy bars in his pocket. Two others, standing by the main counter called the others and pointed to the dozens of Scratch and Win tickets and pull-tabs. They all started to stuff them in every available pocket.

Three or four minutes later, having come to the realization the police might be on the way, the quartet jumped in the car, reversed direction and with the deep-throated sound of that massive V8 and the squeal of bald tires, sped North on Foul Bay Road. For several blocks, cartons, boards, plaster and sundry bits of debris laying on the car, began falling away. Less than ten minutes they reached the safety of home and parked in the back yard least some neighbour might wonder what happened.

Back on Oak Bay Avenue, even given the crash was likely heard for several blocks, not one call alerted police. It was not until a passing motorist noticed that giant hole some half hour later, a call was made. Within five minutes Constables McLean and McNeill arrived at the scene, and while McNeill checked the store, McLean followed debris trail north on Foul Bay Road as far as Lansdowne where it petered out. McLean broadcast an APB for a badly beat-up vehicle.

Mrs. Frost, owner of the store, after being contacted by the office arrived to assess the damage and make arrangements to secure the building. It did not take her long to discover most of the Scratch and Win tickets, as well as pull tabs, estimated at well over two hundred, were missing. Mrs. Frost had had a few break-ins over the years, and while she never became to fussed, the damage this time was well beyond the Frosts Corner Storenorm.

While rooting around for bit’s and pieces that might help to identify the make, year, colour and perhaps model of the car, one piece of evidence, found under a broken shelf, answered all these questions and more — a crumpled up B.C. licence plate.

Five minutes later the office came up with the answers to all the questions as well as the last registered address of the owner. Saanich Police was asked to quietly swing by the Gordon Head residence to see if there was any sign of the Oldsmobile.

Fifteen minutes later they advised a badly damaged Olds was sitting in the background and lights were on in the house. When they made a closer inspection of the house, they could see four young men sitting at a kitchen table drinking beer while pulling tabs and scratching tickets. They group were hooting and hollering each time they picked a winner and through it in the ‘winning pile.’ It seemed likely they would be well occupied for the next couple of hours. The Saanich officers advised they would keep watch on the house and occupants.

You Scratch, Police Win

At the Oak Bay office, while McLean was rooting up a Justice of the Peace, McNeill typed up an Information to Obtain a Search Warrant for the Gordon Head residence. Just over an hour later, McLean and McNeill met the Saanich officers and after knocking, made entry. While the occupants were in a jovial mood, that quickly changed upon being faced down by four police officers and that pile of Scratch and Win tickets sitting on the kitchen table between them.  All were arrested and transported back to the Oak Bay Office. quickly admitted having been at the scene and crashing into the store as well stealing various items including the Scratch and Win tickets.

All the men quickly admitted having been at the scene and crashing into the store and, as well, with helping themselves to several bags of goodies and the Scratch and Win tickets. Strangely, determining what charges might be laid was not as simple as one might expect.

Theft, was still divided between Under and Over $500, and while the value of the goods (chips, etc.) were well under the limit, the Scratch and Wins posed a different problem. Before being scratched the tickets had no value other than the cost of printing and distribution (just pieces of paper), but after being scratched, they could rapidly gain in value particularly if one happened to be a grand winner. While the four had peeked inside more than 150 tickets, a quick count suggested they had turned up less than a couple of hundred dollars in winnings. The question, could something only gain a value after being stolen, when before it had no value?  Also, as there was no intent to commit the criminal offence of Break and Enter, that was off the table.

None of the young men had criminal records and the driver no record of Motor Vehicle Act infractions. We photographed, and finger-printed each, but opted to wait until Monday to check with Crown as to what might be the options within the Criminal Code.  A charge of Impaired Driving was not possible as too much time had elapsed between the time of the accident and the arrest.

At the station, the driver was charged with Careless Driving under the MV Act. A charge of Fail to Remain at the scene of an accident was not an option as no one was injured and identity of the suspect vehicle and owner was accidently left behind (the Licence Plate)

Final decision:

Each of the four was charged with one count of Theft/Under (a summary conviction offence). I don’t remember the outcome, but it seems likely probation might well have followed any guilty plea.

It was an interesting interlude that helped to fill in the hours of early-morning on patrol.

Harold McNeill

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email: Harold@mcneillifestories.com)

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • 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.