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

  • 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

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.

  • 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