British Columbia Murders: Mysteries, Crimes, and Scandals


140 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55153-963-2
DDC 364.152'3'09711




Reviewed by Geoff Hamilton

Geoff Hamilton is a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of
British Columbia.


Six British Columbia murder cases are discussed in this engrossing book:
radio personality René Castellani’s poisoning of his wife, Esther, in
1965; the unresolved beating death of Chinese theatre manager Man Quong
in 1904; Elizabeth Coward’s alleged shooting of her husband, James, in
a remote part of the province in 1915; the stabbing death of Molly
Justice in 1943, a crime Frank Hulbert was posthumously determined to
have committed; the 1991 killing of Daniel Schraeder by Billy Faulconer,
in which canine blood proved decisive evidence; and the mysterious death
of Janet Smith in 1924, for which the innocent Wong Foon Sing was
tortured by police officers. All of the crimes have proved difficult or
impossible to solve.

The stories are well researched and well told. McNicoll has a keen eye
for lurid detail, and her narratives move along with compelling force.
Describing the forensic experiments conducted in the investigation of
Janet Smith’s death, she writes: “A gasp came from the crowd at
Cruickshank’s next statement. He said that a decapitated human head
had been used in the final experiment—the head of a dead mental
patient at Essondale Hospital in New Westminster who had had no family
or friends to claim his body.” The Smith case is particularly gripping
because of its exposure of the widespread racism—especially among
those in positions of institutional power—that led to the vicious
persecution of Wong Foon Sing, a Chinese immigrant living in Vancouver.


McNicoll, Susan., “British Columbia Murders: Mysteries, Crimes, and Scandals,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 25, 2024,