Excerpt from "In The Mind of A Mountie" by T.M. 'Scotty' Gardiner
Chapter 51: Murder -- Trunk -- Beausejour
In July 1961, Staff Sergeant Jack McCullough arrived from Headquarters, Ottawa to assume the In-charge CIB position from the retiring Duke Hannah. He was a man near my own build, six-foot two-inches, around 160 pounds, immaculate, soft spoken and keen to become involved with the variety of major investigations conducted by the CIB. With a career more in the personnel and administrative work within the Force, Jack was intrigued by the intricacies of plainclothes investigations and the need for respect and cooperation with the local Police Forces. He wisely saw his first requirement was to know more closely the personnel within the CIB. To that end on the Friday of his second week in his new role, he invited the CIB staff after their day's work to his home which was one of the Force duplex residences adjacent to the Headquarters building. Of those available to attend there were Constables Bill McFarland, Phil Aubrey, Dave Whyte, one other whose name now escapes me and myself.
The group was nicely seated in the living room preparing to give a brief commentary on past service, areas of work preference and our careers in general. Staff McCullough had gone to his bar and was returning to the living room with a tray of refreshments when the telephone rang. He stopped in his tracks, tray in one hand and answered the phone with the other.
We heard his part of the conversation: "Yes, Communications, this is Staff Sergeant McCullough... (pause)... a body in the river? ... (pause)... near the locks at Selkirk? ... (pause)... a crease across the forehead? ... (pause)... possibly murder? ... (pause with excited expression)... yes, I'll assign two members right away."
Knowing that we had all heard what he said, the Staff Sergeant tried to conceal some agitation.
"Where is Selkirk, what are the locks, a crease over the forehead, murder seems likely?"
Without one sip of their drinks Bill McFarland and the now-forgotten member were assigned and they left.
Jack now sat with Dave, Phil and me. No sooner had he sat down than the telephone rang again. Up jumped Jack and took the telephone.
"Yes, Communications, this is Staff Sergeant McCullough... (pause)... a what? ... (pause)... a body in a trunk? ... (pause)... a blood-soaked towel around the head, oh my oh my... (pause)... where is that again? ... (pause)... Gull Lake? Where is Gull Lake? ... (pause)... near Beausejour and where is Beausejour? ... (pause)... 40-odd miles out from Winnipeg! O.K., I shall assign two investigators right away."
By now Dave and Phil, knowing I was then immersed with a very heavy investigative load, set down their drinks as Staff Sergeant McCullough replaced the telephone on its cradle. Turning to us his expression was one of total disbelief. Capturing the opportunity our chorus rang out, "Oh don't worry, Staff, just a normal start to a CIB weekend."
Appreciating my investigative load, Jack agreed that Dave and Phil take the investigation and they went on their way.
Sitting alone with Jack I had a short discussion about CIB work, but knowing the night had been designed for many staff to be there I soon left for home.
Saturday, July 29th found me up early to greet a truckload of gravel I had ordered for our residence driveway at 37 Saturn Bay in the Fort Garry district of Greater Winnipeg. The gravel came somewhere around 8:30 a.m. Before starting to spread it I felt I should attend at the Headquarters building to clear any CIB work that may have come in overnight and also to find out about the body-in-the river and the body-in-the-trunk investigations. I went into the Communications office at about 9:00 a.m. I found the body-in-the-river case to be a simple drowning, the crease in the forehead being a scar from an injury long ago. There was nothing untoward about it.
However the body-in-the-trunk was different. The preliminary report was in. A rural resident who engaged in the activity of manufacturing home-brew as did his neighbour, was, at about four o'clock on the Friday, walking across wooded land adjacent to both his own land and that of his home-brew-making neighbour. Strolling down a seldom-used and partially-overgrown road he saw that the grass and small brush vegetation were bent over leaving a sort of trail going off into thicker bush. Thinking he had discovered something interesting -- home-brew makers frequently had their stills and mash on neighbouring land as a defence against ownership -- he followed this bent-over vegetation path. Sure enough the path stopped and there the disturbed ground was mounded upwards, clear evidence something had been recently buried. Such burials were standard practice used by himself and his neighbour to conceal their own home-brew.
Thinking he had discovered his neighbour's cache, he hurriedly with bare hands scraped away the freshly-disturbed earth. Sure enough there was a trunk, again a common storage facility for illegal liquor. Aided by a broken branch and with increasing anticipation he hurriedly pried open the trunk. The lid popped up -- and rising slowly from within the trunk came a human leg. The body lay on its back, its head a blood-soaked mass. The one leg, now free from the suppression exerted by the trunk lid, had slowly emerged until it came to rest in a rigid, flagpole-like, straight-upright position.
Completely astonished and unnerved by his unusual and gruesome find, this chap went directly to the Force's Beausejour Detachment office. He was excited to the point of being speechless, displaying the purest shade of white that any still-alive human could display. He trembled like an aspen leaf in a 40-mile-an-hour Manitoba wind. At last calming him down and understanding his reason for coming to the office, Beausejour Detachment members went with him back to the scene. There they confirmed exactly what the man had described. They removed the trunk and its bodily contents to the Beausejour Detachment garage and summoned CIB assistance.
Constables Dave Whyte and Phil Aubrey were two very fine, exceptionally-thorough and skilful investigators. We had all worked together many, many times. Having worked throughout the night they concentrated upon the trunk and its contents in an effort to establish one essential fact: the identity of the body. Their examination confirmed the body was that of a small male, possibly about 30 years old, good teeth, black bushy hair, a scar on the right forearm and dressed in army clothing. There was no significant abnormal feature, but there was one very significant old injury on the right leg shinbone. Midway between the ankle and knee was a deep dent into the shinbone. The injury was completely healed but it left this depression that could accommodate two fingers' width and depth as if part of the shinbone was missing.
The head was a mass of blood, now crusted with signs of preliminary decomposition. A small calibre gunshot to the head was suspected but it was obvious a post mortem examination would be required to confirm the full extent of injury and what the cause of death was. The examination of the trunk, the body and the clothing gave no indication of any identity. But one potential clue was found! It came from the heavily blood-soaked towel that was wrapped around the body's head. The towel still carried the manufacturer's label. On the underside of that label, still relatively bloodstain free and appearing in faint-printed lettering, apparently in ball-point pen ink, was the name 'Norman Catellier.'
As I was studying these reports Staff Sergeant McCullough walked in. I quickly explained the standing of the two investigations. He repeated the name Catellier and he offered to check the Crime Index Section for the Catellier name through the thousands of names on file as a result of some connection with the law.
Within a few minutes Jack returned, one index card in hand. He gave it to me. It read, "Norman CATELLIER, minor motor vehicle accident on January 3, 1961 at 12:30 a.m., student, born May 2, 1943, St. Malo, Manitoba, car, 1961 Pontiac, Manitoba License 1P436 owned by Aurile and Hilaire CATELLIER, St. Malo, Manitoba, investigator Cst. Proteau, St. Pierre Detachment. Approaching a stop sign, icy road, slid into rear of two-ton truck already stopped at stop sign. Accident report dated January 4, 1961."
"Look, Staff," I said, "St. Malo is just about 50 miles or so south of Winnipeg on the east side of the Red River. I'll nip down there and try to locate the Catellier family. It is an uncommon name, it could be coincidence but this chap Norman Catellier must be located and interviewed. I will leave right now -- you let Dave and Phil know I'm off to check this out. It's too bad that Cst. Proteau has been transferred [transfers were always well known to all] but I will call St. Pierre Detachment in whose area St. Malo is and see if one of the members knows of this Catellier family. I may need help from some member who speaks French."
I telephoned to St. Pierre Detachment and learned that Cst. Proteau was in fact then at his family home in the area convalescing from minor surgery. I reached him by phone.
"Yes," he knew of the Catellier family, "yes," he knew where they lived, "yes," he was sufficiently well to accompany me, and "yes," if French was needed he was capable. We arranged a meeting time and place and I started off on my task. We met and Cst. Proteau gave directions to the Catellier family's farm home. I made clear my plan: I would interrogate, Cst. Proteau would observe. If French was spoken he must make notes and immediately translate for me. We must also be prepared for a lengthy piece of work.
We arrived at the Catellier farm home at 1:45 p.m. to find the parents and the family of twelve children seated down for a late lunch. Soup plates were still partially full. The table was beautifully prepared, the family in total, dress, bearing and surroundings, the epitome of neatness and politeness. The home furnishings gleamed with care and comfort. I first confirmed that English was spoken and fully understood, then made a quick assessment of the best approach. Policemen face these situations frequently. By appearing unannounced and unexpected in a family's home the emotions of fear, anxiety, anger, interest, hostility and a host of others may be expected. Simultaneously cooperation with the investigation is necessary for success. To enter upon this family scene required a sensitive approach.
"Mr. and Mrs. Catellier," I started. "I am Corporal Gardiner and while I am in civilian clothes I am a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. With me is Constable Proteau who you may know because of his family living in the St. Malo area. I am investigating a serious matter and have a few questions, questions about Norman Catellier who had a small car accident at New Years."
"That is Norman there," said Mrs. Catellier pointing to the oldest child of the family.
"Fine," I went on. "We can wait until the family has finished lunch, there is no hurry."
"Oh no," replied both parents in unison, "we want to help you now. What do you want?"
By now 14 heads were looking directly at Cst. Proteau and me.
"What might be best is if Norman went through to your living room with us and I would ask that Mr. and Mrs. Catellier come along too."
That met agreement. The five of us left the kitchen/dining room area as the balance of the family hesitatingly resumed their lunch.
Now seated in the living room I continued, "I am investigating a very serious matter and, Norman, I would like to ask you some questions. My questions will be about your activities over the last year or two but not about your car accident. Now Mr. and Mrs. Catellier, I would ask that you not interrupt but you will be invited to speak later on."
Norman described how he had entered advanced academic study at Winnipeg's St. Paul's College in the year 1958/59. During the academic year he lived in residence at the college, returning home for the summer. He went back to St. Paul's for the 1959/60 year. Again he lived in residence and came home for the summer. The following year, 1960/61 he was again back at St. Paul's but was joined this year by his younger brother Clarence. For that year they chose to live off-campus and shared room #6 in the rooming-house at 384 Kennedy Street in Winnipeg's downtown area where the landlady was Rose Paul. All of this was related in a sincere and honest way. It was straight-forward and simple to follow.
My questions were then directed towards personal possessions, what clothing or other articles did Norman take to college and to the rooming-house, how did he protect them, how did he know what was his, any difficulties by losing anything or other matter of concern in this area.
"No problems at all," came the reply, "in fact we never lost a thing."
At this point to get immediate attention, Mrs. Catellier raised her hand, classroom-style.
Looking her way, she met my stare with the comment, "Can I say something?"
"Of course you may," I replied.
"He lost a towel, it had his name on it. It was one of a set, I have the others. I have the pen I wrote his name on the tab with. I have the set, one blue, one green and one red, and I used the green one."
"Mother, I never knew that," answered Norman.
"No, I didn't say anything, but I checked all of your and Clarence's things, the towel is missing. Clarence knew it."
I asked that Mrs. Catellier have Clarence join us and to also get the set of towels and the set of pens. In the shortest period of seconds Clarence joined us as Mrs. Catellier brought and handed to me one blue-coloured bath towel under whose manufacturer's tab was the name Norman Catellier printed in fading green ink, and the set of pens, one blue, one green and one red still within the cellophane holding them to the package's backing card.
"Clarence, tell me about the missing towel," I said as I watched the honest amazement now showing on Norman's face.
"Oh," he started, "our room -- room 6 -- was on the second floor, walk in the front door and up the stairs to the hallway and turn left. The one bathroom on the floor was at the other end of the hallway. I would always wash and clean-up and put my things back in the room before going down for breakfast. But this one day I was late. I was coming back from the bathroom when I heard the call for breakfast so I threw my towel over the rail at the head of the stairs. When I went back up after breakfast the towel was gone. I don't know where it went."
"Corporal Gardiner," Mrs. Catellier interjected, "that is what Clarence told me when I checked over all their clothes when they came home."
"Well now," I went on, "maybe you can help me some more. How many people lived in this rooming-house?"
"Eleven in all," came two replies. "There was us, Rose Paul the landlady and eight others."
"Could you describe these eight persons for me, giving as much detail as you can?"
"Certainly," both boys replied as the parents, totally composed but obviously concerned, sat upright in total silence.
"We have lots of time, boys, so go slowly and give me everything you can remember."
"Where do you want us to start?" came their question. "Top floor or the bottom floor?"
"It makes no difference to me," I said, "but to make certain you do not miss anyone go in sequence room-by-room, floor-by-floor."
"O.K., we'll start on the bottom floor."
The following are my notebook entries, recording their descriptions:
'Room 1, surname Otto, also used a named Scriber or something like that, 20 to 25 years, 5-foot-six or so, muscular, blonde hair combed back, spoke German with an English accent, said he came from Frankfurt two years before, said he was a welder but sold magazines, neat dresser, not working but painted the house and helped with the meals, had co-ownership of a 1950 Ford car, light green with B.C. plates, claimed to have been in B.C., owned a trunk that was quite large with wooden strips on it, had a .22 calibre rifle with blank shells, liked girls but never had any at the rooming-house, felt he was good looking, last seen at the rooming-house on July 23, 1961.
'Room 2, Frank Lushien (phonetic pronunciation), 43-years-old, five-foot-seven or eight, 210 lbs., a labourer, had a room on the third floor facing Kennedy Street. Alone until near the end of June. No car, no known trunk, no .22 calibre rifle known.
'Room 3, Michael Jeffrey, 18 years, five-eight, 130 lbs., employed by CNR or CPR as a telegram carrier or such like, was from Fort William, Ontario. Not married, parents separated. Had a ring, a small school ring with initials. Came about Easter, working with the railway until the end of June then was to go back to Fort William for more money. Had suitcases but no trunk or car but said he had a 1947 Dodge at Fort William that didn't run. No firearms. Hair was dark and combed back, maybe parted on the right side and sometimes combed in from the sides. Mostly wore sports clothes. No known scars.
'Room 4, Carl or "Charlie" Binder, 26-years-old, Hungarian, five-foot-five tall, 130 to 135 lbs., few muscles, mechanic and good at it, claimed he flew jets. Wore multi-coloured sports shirt with short sleeves, wore shirt outside pants. Came with Otto from Vancouver about the end of May. Charlie had some sort of papers in his name for a car. Otto paid for the car but lost the license in Alberta. Were good at times but Charlie was stubborn and argued regularly. Charlie claimed to have had a motorcycle in Hamilton, Ontario that was in an accident and he had a large scar on the shin of his right leg.... [The scar was seen by Norman and there appeared to be no bone below, you could put two fingers in it. Although concealed, by now my investigative adrenalin was in full flight. I gave a quick glance to Cst. Proteau but said ne'er a word.] Black hair, long but clipped by himself and he made a poor job of it. Had two rings, both on the left hand, ring and little fingers maybe, both gold, one with a stone and the other small and ordinary. Reddish skin on one side of his cheek by his ear. Last seen at Kennedy Street on Sunday, July 23, 1961 at about 9:00 p.m. There were signs of friction between Charlie and Otto. Charlie said Otto forged letters and he could put Otto in jail any day.
'Room 5, Peter Lancaster, 35 years, 5-foot-11, 150 lbs., machinist with a company in St. Boniface. No car, no known trunk and no firearms known. Wore glasses to read. Grey hair all over. Left about June 23, 1961 to go to Alberta. Came from England a year before. Occupied the room next to Norman and Clarence.
'Room 6 was the one occupied by the Catellier brothers.
'Room 7, Charlie Soupay [phonetic pronunciation], 26 years, an Eskimo, had a short right leg, used a built-up boot. Worked for Bresler and Warren as a watch repairer. Left for the North about the middle of July. Was 5-foot 5-inches, light build, Chinese appearance, black hair with no scars. Leg was affected by polio or tuberculosis. Had a ring like the Knights of Columbus but he was not one. Room was on the third floor at the rear.
'Room 8, Lloyd Dawson, 25, 26 or 27-years-old, was employed as a generator repairman, was to go to school at the Manitoba Technical Institute, 5-foot-9, 185 or 190 lbs., no car, had a dirty scar on his neck at the lower right, looked like it was pushed in, Indian with Indian features. Was from a Reserve north of Winnipeg. Was still at the rooming-house when Norman and Clarence left.
'Room 9, a girl, Indian descent and cared for by the Indian Agent. About 20 years old, attending Manitoba Correspondence School. Was of small build.'
My questioning went back over the main points, the obvious indication being that Charlie Binder was the deceased with the strong probability that Otto was involved with the murder. These assumptions were kept to myself but in the atmosphere then prevailing they were mentally shared by Cst. Proteau who dutifully maintained his silence. I gave the matter some fast thought. It was now mid-afternoon when it could be expected Csts. Whyte and Aubrey would have reached, or would soon reach, Winnipeg with the body to undergo the post mortem examination. They would also have any exhibits either for identification or to be sent to the Crime Detection Laboratory, or both.
I asked to use the family's telephone. I spoke with the Communications office and had it confirmed that Dave and Phil were expected to reach Headquarters momentarily. I asked that they remain at Headquarters, explaining that I was bringing in some very helpful witnesses and that, as Kennedy Street was in the Winnipeg City Police area and if the murder was committed there it would be a City Police case, and they should be present.
Only then did I explain to the Catellier family the full purpose for the investigation. The thought of murder understandably shocked them. For elimination and comparison purposes I took as exhibits one towel marked with the name Norman Catellier, the green ballpoint pen, one box of .22 calibre ammunition and two .22 calibre rifles that represented the total weaponry the family owned. The family offered full cooperation and willingly agreed to go with me forthwith to Winnipeg to finalize their assistance with the investigation.
I drove Cst. Proteau to his parent's home, then with Mr. and Mrs. Catellier, Norman and Clarence, I reached Headquarters at about five o'clock on that Saturday afternoon. As we entered we were met by Dave Whyte and Phil Aubry, both unslept, unwashed, not well-fed for the day and bearing the unavoidable odour present with a body in its early stages of decomposition.
"Dave," I said as I greeted him and handed to him my specially-prepared notes, "here is the name of the deceased: Carl "Charlie" Binder. Here is the name of the murderer: "Otto" who also used a name like Scriber, and here is the address you will find him at: #384 Kennedy Street."
"You lucky man, Scotty, you lucky man," was Dave's reply. [Not luck, Dave, preparation and opportunity, remember? Preparation and opportunity!]
Of the exhibits that Dave and Phil had seized, Mrs. Catellier positively identified the blood-soaked towel, Norman made a positive identification of one ring and of the floral, multi-coloured shirt from the body while Clarence also identified the shirt.
The investigation immediately centred upon the Kennedy Street rooming-house. At about 7:00 o'clock that evening Dave, accompanied by members of the Winnipeg City Police, was approaching the rooming-house from the rear where they were met by Otto who was en route to his 1950 Ford with car keys in hand. Found in the car's trunk was the very shovel Otto had used to bury the body of Carl Binder.
Follow-up investigation by the City Police was helped by cooperation from Otto. This confirmed that boasting and arguing took place between Otto and Charlie. Charlie claimed the injury to his leg was caused by no fault of his and that he had received a large financial settlement which he held in a bank in Eastern Canada. Evidence confirmed that Otto, desiring to claim this reported large sum of money, shot Charlie in the head in his (Otto's) room, ingeniously preceding the fatal shot by periodically firing blank cartridges which the other residents became accustomed to. By this method he successfully disguised the fatal shot. Placing the body in the trunk Otto dragged it to his car and chose as a burial spot the very area where the home-brew makers temporarily hid their wares. After the murder Otto forged a letter in Carl Binder's name, seeking the 'balance in his bank account.' The bank replied -- there was something less than five dollars in the account.
At the trial for murder, the Crown Prosecutor Gordon Pilkey led evidence to confirm Otto was from West Germany, a country with which Canada shared extradition laws. The conviction for murder was registered and a lengthy Penitentiary term imposed. This was with the firm belief that deportation would take place, as I understand it did.
As investigators we often spoke of this case. It was inspirational. It also confirmed the acute need for detail. At first there appeared to be very few if any clues. But the meticulous search of everything around the body, distasteful as the work was, and the attention to detail finally revealed the one name. Attention to detail was the key -- for myself it was the key in every investigation I undertook. From finding the name printed on the towel manufacturer's label the evidence was rapidly obtained. The investigation benefited greatly from the assistance of the Catellier family who, through the circumstance of a towel stolen from them, became innocently connected with and held crucial evidence in this murder investigation -- which was basically concluded within a span of 28 hours.
Staff Sergeant McCullough, new to CIB responsibilities, was intrigued, and impressed.
Copyright 2010, T.M. Gardiner
Read an excerpt: Chapter 83: Cockfighting.