Saturday 29 November 2014


“She never talked.”
Of the four known members of the MacLauchlan Gang – Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan, Margaret Ann MacLauchlan, Joe Sperling and Thelma Mosier – it could be said that only Thelma went “straight”. The MacLauchlans, of course, never had the chance to show what their future lives might have been, since they were murdered on March 21, 1966 in a Mafia-style hit a few days before their scheduled trial. Veteran criminal Joe Sperling served his time, got out and a few years later served 12 more for a further trafficking charge. Thelma Mosier, it appears, saw not only the errors of her ways but also understood that the best way to avoid meeting the same fate as the MacLauchlans or Joe Sperling was to keep her nose clean, her head down and her mouth shut.
“During her trial,” said her niece, Cheryl Freeman (daughter of Thelma’s step-sister Laverne Roberts), during a recent conversation we had, “My aunt never talked.” According to Cheryl, Thelma, in a way, was rewarded for her discretion.

A somewhat welcoming arrival in Kingston Pen
One of the rewards appeared to be waiting for her when she arrived at Kingston Penitentiary to begin serving her seven years. According to Cheryl, Thelma had been “terrified” of what she might experience in Kingston. However, she found instead, rather mysteriously, an indication that her incarceration might be a little more genteel than average. Her cell – unlike the usual ones waiting for “new arrivals” – had been equipped with a nice carpet and had some pictures on the wall. It wasn’t the Ritz but it was better than a cement floor with a bucket in the corner. It was not clear to Cheryl Freeman how or why this had been arranged beforehand but it was.
Thelma for the most part appears to have been treated with “kid gloves” by the other inmates. For example, there was an incident when another prisoner approached her threateningly, knife in hand. All Thelma had to do was quietly raise her hand and say, “Put it down” and the inmate backed off. It appears that someone or some organization was looking out for her.

It’s the thought that counts!
And there was more of this rather exceptional treatment. Because, according to Cheryl, Thelma had not “talked” (about the doctor or anyone else in the gang) during her Burnaby trial, a substantial amount of money had been promised to her. The source of these funds was not known for sure by Cheryl or her mother Laverne Roberts but the money was said to be held in trust by a certain lawyer. However, in that particular instance, the exceptional treatment proved more theoretical than actual. This was because, according to Cheryl’s recollection, the lawyer who was supposed to be holding the money in trust for Thelma went instead to the US and disappeared. But it’s the thought that counts, you know!
Another curious detail: Upon Thelma’s release – after serving only three years of her seven year term – when she moved out to Chilliwack to stay with her step-sister Laverne, both Thelma and the Roberts family were placed under surveillance by the police. It seems to have been the case that, upon her release from Kingston, Thelma was not forgotten by the police. Nor was she forgotten by old associates still thankful for her silence. For, after staying with the Roberts family in Chilliwack for awhile upon her release from Kingston, Thelma moved to Vancouver. Cheryl’s brother told Cheryl that, when “moving day” arrived, a black “gangster-type” limousine came to the house and gave her a lift. kingston-prison.jpg (640×480)


Saturday 15 November 2014


Before there was a double drug-related murder (of the MacLauchlans) in 1966 in New Westminster, there was what might be termed a quadruple drug bust in December 1965. 
As Ken and I have related previously, when 72 year old Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan was arrested for drug trafficking on Wednesday, December 22, 1965, three other people were also arrested – Margaret Ann “Nan” Cunningham, 50 (with whom he lived at 912 Fifth Street in New Westminster), Joe Sperling, 45 and Thelma Mosier, 40. Mosier has always struck us as being particularly mysterious; unlike Sperling and the doctor, she had no criminal history, and we have searched far and wide for some previous mention of her on the Internet and elsewhere. We have often wondered how she had adapted to life and a seven year sentence in Ontario’s Kingston Penitentiary following her transfer from Oakalla. 
Ken and I discover a niece (With help from a friendly source...)
And now some good news: In recent weeks, through the gracious assistance of Thelma Mosier’s niece, Cheryl Freeman, we have gained a minor avalanche of new information on Mosier. “But how did we find Cheryl Freeman?” our readers might ask. The answer will demonstrate how, like on several other occasions, our research has recently benefited from the multiplicity of sources that can be found on today’s Internet – and from those who cruise the World Wide Web looking for people and things whose stories interest them. Our discovery of Cheryl Freeman is a case in point.
Over the last few months, Ken McIntosh and I have benefited from information sent to us by a person  who lives in British Columbia’s West Kootenay region. About two months ago, he sent us an email attachment containing a number of digitized newspaper clippings, one of which related to an obituary for one Laverne Roberts, who was described (among other accomplishments) as being a former three-time City Councillor from Chilliwack, BC. What really caught our attention, though, was that among Mrs. Roberts’ relatives Thelma Mosier was listed! The document of course also listed her other relatives, including a daughter, Cheryl Freeman. Tips like these, coming at us from the ether, are of great assistance to us for one thing leads to another: searches through online lists such as telephone directories cause letters to be written to names pulled from the White Pages. Some such letters are never answered and yet the one to Cheryl Freeman was. 
Mrs. Freeman has graciously provided Ken and me with a lot of detail on her Aunt Thelma’s early life, how she ended up in drug trafficking and the life-long effect of her prison sentence. In her most recent letter to us she said this about Thelma’s 1966 incarceration:
She was so terrified going to Kingston. When she came out she was broken in spirit. She had toughened up in order to survive and from what I understand she became a respected person amongst the other women. I laughed that she still was able to maintain her No Swearing mantra while inside. When I was at BCIT I used to see her occasionally for tea but we never spoke of the past.
The quote above refers to Cheryl’s initial assessment to us of Thelma Mosier always having been, in her experience, a very gentle and quiet spoken person. It also occurred to us, upon reading that assessment, that there appeared to be a good deal of similarity to the other “female accomplice” in the MacLauchlan case – Margaret Ann Cunningham, whose Woodlands School co-workers also described as quiet, gentle and modest. 
Thelma Mosier – a background in Sechelt
According to Cheryl Freeman, she and Thelma are connected in the following manner: Cheryl’s grandmother, born Rachel Robson in 1908 in Durham, England, married and lived with her first husband, John Albert Anderson, in Burnaby. Unhappy in her marriage, she left him sometime during the 1940s. Taking up the life of cooking in logging camps, Rachel moved to the Sechelt Peninsula on the BC Coast, met an ambitious logger and sawmill owner from Halfmoon Bay, and married him. Her new husband, Wilhelm “Bill” Kolterman, had been married before and, from that union, he had a daughter named Thelma Kolterman, who later became Thelma Mosier. However, before she became Mrs. Mosier, she was for a time Thelma Profit. Whatever her last name, Thelma in the strictest sense was Cheryl Freeman’s step-aunt.
Expanding the story of Thelma Mosier -- as it relates to the contribution of Ken McIntosh and me to Cheryl Freeman’s knowledge of her aunt – has become quite “interactive” one might say. When we first heard from Cheryl, the essence of her message was simply that Thelma and her mother, Laverne Roberts, had been sisters, and that, yes, she remembered when Thelma had been arrested and the awful feeling of shock and dismay that had enveloped the Roberts family and her grandmother, Rachel Kolterman: 
Her arrest and circumstances took everyone by surprise. My grandmother was so upset as was my Mom. Thelma had been abandoned by everyone in her family.
The last sentence in the above quote was very provocative and it automatically led to the question of how and why had Thelma had come to such a low point in her life where she felt she had no choice but to act as a drug courier for the MacLauchlan heroin trafficking organization. As we have mentioned before, Ken and I have often wondered how Thelma came to be involved in this crime. 
Thelma – an early marriage and an airman husband lost in the war
Cheryl gave us some background. She told us that, after Thelma’s first husband, a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot named Ben Profit had been lost in a bombing mission over Europe in June 1944, leaving her with an infant son named Daniel, Thelma had married a well-respected, hardworking logger and truck driver named Richard Mosier, of Halfmoon Bay. “Dick” Mosier also had a son, Brad, from a previous marriage. 
As the decade of the 1940s turned into that of the 1950s, it appears that Bill and Rachel “Rae” Kolterman prospered – as did Richard and Thelma Mosier. By the late 1950s, the Koltermans owned a mill, a combination gas station and restaurant, and a building supply store – all located on the highway leading into Halfmoon Bay. 
Politically, Bill Kolterman was a supporter of the Liberal Party both federally and provincially. It seems also that his daughter Thelma moved in the same circles, which at times featured rather prestigious visitors to Halfmoon Bay. For example, in the middle 1950s, the Sechelt local newspaper, The Coast News, related that Thelma Mosier had acted as the hostess of a gathering to honour MP James Sinclair, the leading federal Liberal Party warhorse on the West Coast, as he toured his riding of Vancouver North. (Alert readers of a certain age of course will recognize Sinclair as the father of Margaret Sinclair and grandfather of today’s current leading Liberal light, Justin Trudeau. (Margaret Sinclair later married Pierre Trudeau, Liberal Prime Minister during the period 1968 to 1984, with one interlude 1979 to early 1980.) 
So how did Thelma Mosier, who once hosted teas for a Liberal bigwig like James “Jimmy” Sinclair end up falling into such a state of penury that she turned to making a fast buck through drug smuggling? Ken and I believe that the answer to her fall from grace may lie in the unhappy fate of her stepmother Rachel Kolterman, following the death of her husband Bill. On February 19, 1960 Wilhelm Kolterman died, after what the Coast News described as “a brief illness”. In the few years preceding, the mill owner had been briefly hospitalized at least once. One suspects a heart attack may have felled him.
Thelma’s father – a prosperous Sechelt logger and businessman
From reports in the News in the years previous to Kolterman’s death it appears that Kolterman and his extended family had prospered. For example, it was reported in the July 29, 1954 issue of the newspaper  that he had taken on as partners his son-in-law Dick Mosier, his brother-in-law Ken Anderson (Cheryl Freeman’s uncle) and Doug Roberts (Cheryl’s father) in running a combination sawmill and building supply business located on the highway leading to Half Moon Bay.
However it appears that, following Kolterman’s untimely death, disaster struck -- quite possibly in the shape of one Herman Uswell, who Rachel Kolterman had married a year or so later. As Cheryl Freeman puts it:
She only married [Uswell] as she needed help to run the Shell station and restaurant. Bill and she owned a shell station which he ran, and the restaurant was her domain. It was a devastating blow to her. She also had to sell her two house properties from what I remember.
The “devastating blow” referred to by Cheryl relates to some bad business dealings that Rachel’s new husband entered into. Her grandmother’s fortunes, following her marriage to Herman Uswell, went downhill because Uswell took out loans using her property as collateral and ultimately bankrupted her. Uswell seems to have been somewhat of an unreliable sort, as demonstrated by a story I found by searching through the Coast News: On October 18, 1962 Uswell was arrested for being drunk.
It seems to Ken and me that Thelma’s financial problems may have been connected to those of Cheryl’s grandmother Rachel. Contemplating a “timeline” of events and people, I come up with the following possible sequence: 1. Rachel Uswell (formerly Rachel Kolterman) loses her income and moves to Harrison Hot Springs in 1962; 2. Thelma Mosier and Brad Kolterman come to Harrison Hot Springs in the same year, perhaps because they were following Rachel; 3. By 1965 Thelma has moved to Fell Avenue in Burnaby, where she is listed in the voting register as sharing a house with the Bullerwells. (Cheryl has no knowledge of who the Bullerwells may have been to Thelma.)
An “old high school friend” “helps” Thelma out – and into prison!
In any case, it appears that later Thelma moved to Burnaby and eventually fell into dire financial straits. And, in a deep departure from character, she fell for a financial invitation from an acquaintance from the past. As Cheryl Freeman puts it:
My mother had told me that an old high school friend of Thelma's had convinced her to get involved in the drug business as she was having dire financial difficulties. I have very fond memories of my aunt, she was very soft-spoken, didn't stand for swearing around her, and seemed so respectable in appearance etc.
When we [Laverne and Doug Roberts and their family] moved to Burnaby, I saw her several times. I went to UBC then BCIT and then my mom left my Dad and we moved back to our house in Chilliwack. (Summer 1972). [I] heard Thelma was working in New West and just how she was having health problems over the years.
My mom, and grandmother would get phone calls from Thelma and that was pretty much the only contact they had over the years. In 1992, my mother had a stroke and my family moved down from the north and brought our Mom to live with us in Nanaimo. I spoke to Thelma several times on the phone as at the time I was caring for my grandmother and mother and kept Thelma up to date.
Ken and I have further questions (of course!)
The reminiscences of Cheryl Freeman have been very helpful to Ken and me, and we appreciate her contribution very much. Of course we also greatly appreciate the contributions of the person who first brought her to our attention. Perhaps as with any good detective story, more questions are raised. Here are a few we can think of:
1.    Who was the “old high school” friend who introduced Thelma to the MacLauchlan organization?
2.    Is there anyone out there in Internet-land who knows of a Thelma Kolterman that he or she may have gone to school with – perhaps in Sechelt, perhaps elsewhere?
3.      Daniel Milton Profit was Thelma’s son by RCAF wartime pilot Benjamin Profit. Daniel Profit was a truck driver who died in a traffic accident in Alberta in 2003. Before moving to Alberta, he and his wife, who was probably named Caroline, lived in Burnaby. Ken and I would be interested in hearing from anyone who knew Daniel Milton Profit, his wife or -- assuming they exist – children.

Saturday 13 September 2014


Yesterday we spent several quite helpful hours with Kristin Hardie, Curator of the Vancouver Police Museum, who kindly assisted us in running down some possibilities. One angle we were particularly interested in pursuing was the fact that the investigation into the December 22, 1965 take-down of MacLauchlan and his coterie of drug traffickers was three-pronged, involving the RCMP, the Vancouver Police Department and the New Westminster Police Service. Although we will be following up on Kristen’s suggestion that we find out who the members of the 1965 VPD Narcotics Squad by contacting that agency directly, we are also throwing the question out to our readership. Does anyone in our far flung audience (Canada, United States, Germany, France, Romania, South Korea, Russia, China, Ukraine, Mexico etc) know any of the surviving members of that group of police officers? If you do, please contact us via our home page information.

Somewhat of an aside: an interesting document from 1969 that we came across yesterday was part of a presentation by the Vancouver Police Chief and his senior staff for a budget increase for all the major squads, including the Narcotics Squad. The brief featured two sets of statistics in support of a budget increase – crime figures from 1960 and the same from 1969. In the case of the Narcotics Squad, drug arrests had increased from 333 to 1232. Drug charges had increased from 347 to 879, a rise of 154%. VPD senior staff were pushing for an increase in staff from 11 detectives to 17. The VPD Narcotics Squad in 1969 consisted of one Staff Sergeant, one Sergeant and 11 detectives. The document estimated that the average drug addict was responsible for about $180 worth of theft per day.
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Tuesday 22 July 2014


As we mentioned in our posting of June 20, 2014, there was an important Ottawa conference on organized crime held in early 1966 for all the provincial ministers of justice of the day. The meeting took place in Ottawa on January 6th and 7th and, according to the press of the day, a major RCMP report was presented. 
The report, which we have now received through inter-library loan from the National Archives and which, at the time raised prominent Page 1 headlines in the Vancouver Sun, is rather disappointing upon reading. 
We had been hopeful that a report which generated such newspaper headlines as “Crime rings grow” and “Fear, payoffs aid syndicates” would have named some names. We had hoped that the RCMP report would have told the gathered provincial justice ministers and attorneys general the names of at least some of the people involved with organized crime  -- especially in Ontario and Quebec (the provinces which the report said harboured most of Canada’s organized crime). We had wanted names. Alas there were no names. Or, at least, not in the document which we have received; however it is likely that, given some of the comments in the news stories of the time clearly referring to certain individuals, during the private sessions of the conference names may have been mentioned. Probably libel laws prevented their publication. 
Some interesting definitions occur in the report: Organized crime, for example, is described “as a social organism within the social body, whose business is crime and (whose) purpose or objects are criminal.” 
Syndicated crime was described as “[an association] of criminals which is so highly organized that it has exclusive control of crime over a given area – in other words a monopoly.”
It is interesting to note that about six years earlier United States Attorney-General Robert F Kennedy had the Bureau of Narcotics draw up an 800 page dossier (one criminal per page) on organized crime in the United States. The Bureau, however, did not confine its investigations to the USA. The dossier also covers Canada and in its pages (all of which were published in 2007 under the title “Mafia” by Harper Collins) appear 21 names of people (all men except for one Grace Pine) who either lived in Canada or had business dealings there of a alleged criminal nature. The names contained in the book are Antonio Rocco CAPONIGRO, Vincenzo COTRONI, Guiseppe COTRONI, Earl CORALLUZO, Jean Baptiste CROCE, Antonio D’AGOSTINO, Frank DIOGUARDI, Dante GASBARRINI, Salvatore GIGLIO, Ange Dominique LUCIANI, Harold MELTZER, Pasquale MONACHINO, Saverio MONACHINO, Paul Damien MONDOLONI, Peter PELLEGRINO, Grace PINE, Salvatore Peter RIZZO, Salvatore SALLI, Francois SPIRITO, Antonio SYLVESTRO and Guiseppe VECCHIO. Note the preponderance of Italian-sounding names.
Then refer back to the RCMP report, which says:
...these groups [i.e. the individuals described as “an association of criminals”] maintain a close working relationship and personal ties with many of the USA based syndicates, and it is significant that many of these USA groups have recently been labelled as “Mafia” by the US Senate Sub Committee on Organized Crime. The Canadian groups also maintain connections with criminal elements in Southern Italy and Sicily, which the Italian authorities call “Mafiosa”, and with criminals in other urban areas of Canada where commercial development and high population density offers potentially fertile breeding grounds for development of lucrative crime.
The RCMP report noted that organized crime had existed in Canada for many years, particularly in narcotics trafficking, bootlegging and smuggling. It had begun in Montreal and had, for a number of years starting in the early 1950s, been run by American gangsters who, however, had been pressured out of Canada – according to the report -- on a wave of public indignation, a combination of police work and efforts by certain federal government departments. Our own research has shown us that many individuals in drug trafficking organizations in Vancouver during the 1950s, 60s and 70s had connections to Montreal, which was the port of entry for much of the heroin flowing into North America from Marseilles – the so-called “French Connection”.
The RCMP Report took a somewhat sociological approach and described organized crime as made of three levels (“a fairly efficient and well organized administrative system”):
1.      Directors
2.      Administrators (often called Lieutenants)
3.      Labourers (the common criminals)
In a comment that seems perhaps particularly appropriate to Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan who, for the approximately eight years between his release from jail in Alberta and his arrest on drug trafficking charges in late December 22, 1965, lived a quiet and apparently respectable life, the RCMP Report notes that:
The leaders seldom conform to the usual concept of the common criminal. Many pose and are accepted as members of the business world, or as members of reputable professional fields. Many have never been charged with a criminal offence. Some possess only very minor criminal records, although they have led a persistent life of crime for many years past. 
Most of the 21 people named four paragraphs above had their Canadian connection in Montreal. It is thus worth noting then that, a little over five years later in the Columbian of Monday, June 18, 1971, New Westminster Det. Sgt. Ray Thompson recounted the details of the MacLauchlan Murder case. He stated that the police had managed to pinpoint the route taken by the “executioner” from Montreal to Vancouver and back to Montreal again. He said the route had involved flying from Montreal to Chicago, then on to Detroit, Seattle and Victoria.
So, it is entirely reasonable to assume that one or more of the 21 people named above either knew the executioner or knew of him.

Sunday 29 June 2014


Those who have followed this blog closely may recall that the Pecover sisters on Vancouver Island -- Jean Hunter and Helen O’Connor who, in their youth, had been neighbours of Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan and his second wife Calgary stage actress, Evelyn Hambly – firmly believed that the doctor as well as being an abortionist had also been a bootlegger. It appears from a very interesting series of Alberta Supreme Court decisions taken during the early and middle 1920s that doctor had begun that other illicit career at that time. For, in 1925 after investigations of certain charges of misconduct on Dr MacLauchlan’s part, his name was ordered erased from the register of the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons. Some of his misconduct seems to have arisen from bootlegging while employed at a Calgary hospital. In April and May of 1927 MacLauchlan then 33 years old and seven years out of McGill Medical School (where he had been a prize-winning student) appealed the College’s decision, winning readmission on a technicality. In turn, the College appealed the decision and the appeal succeeded. Yet another appeal by MacLauchlan followed. 

Both parties hired high-powered legal help in the cases. Acting on behalf of the College was C F Adams, at the time Secretary-Treasurer of the Alberta Law Society. Acting for MacLauchlan during his first appeal was E V Robertson, a prominent Calgary lawyer (who later died young – only 40). For the second appeal he had the assistance of A.L. Smith, one of the pit bulls of the Alberta legal profession. 

What were the six charges of unbecoming and unprofessional conduct that the Court made a decision upon on May 17, 1927? Four stood out. One of these related to the excessive number of prescriptions for narcotic drugs issued by MacLauchlan over a period of time which ended in January, 1920. It is not clear if the incidents all took place in Calgary. In any case, more than five years passed before this particular complaint was looked into and, as the Court noted, MacLauchlan had not repeated the offence during that later period.  

Another charge related to a woman upon whom he had performed an unnecessary thyroidectomy. He was criticized for his failure to confer with other members of the medical staff of the hospital, the name of which is not given in the court document. This is called the Dawson case and his failure to consult was punished by a suspension from the institution’s staff.  Writing about the matter, the judge states that “the Dawson case strikes me as being rather a case of negligence or of unskilful treatment than misconduct.”  

In the liquor-related case, it appears he was dispensing liquor to people he should not have been but whether these people were staff, patients or simply outside people is not clear. According to the documents such practices were not unusual among other medical staff. It is interesting to note that prohibition was in effect in Alberta between 1916 and 1924. However, it appears that doctors may have had the right to dispense alcohol for “medicinal purposes” and that MacLauchlan in particular took advantage of this right. As the judge wrote: 

 His abuse of his privileges as a member of the medical profession in the dispensing of liquor was unbecoming and improper and in fact quasi-criminal, it being in breach of the law. It is, of course, no defence that many others were, as he says, doing it.  

In relation to the Thyroidectomy, the judge wrote: 

I can see no excuse for his failure to make a full report on the Dawson case to the insurance company. According to the record he stated that he knew at the time of the inquiry that this was wrong and pleaded his inexperience in excuse for it, the incident having taken place in 1922, three years before the inquiry and when he had been in practice here for about three years.  

The fourth incident was called the Becthold incident. Details are extremely vague in the documents but it appears to have occurred in relation to Dr MacLauchlan being jailed – for an unknown reason -- on a very short term basis and a Mr Becthold paying the doctor’s bail. The incident, which involved an unpaid loan from Becthold to MacLauchlan, was described in the court documents as “either dishonesty or gross impropriety” since Becktold’s generosity was not repaid -- ever. Some of the money was paid to a Calgary lawyer, Gregory A Trainor, as a fee for his services on behalf of the doctor.   

Seeking to put the various charges in perspective and to be fair and sympathetic to MacLauchlan, the judge wrote: 

I think the punishment inflicted [in the earlier decision by the College to strike MacLauchlan from its list] too severe. The appellant is a young man who has been practising his profession for but about eight years. The erasure of his name from the register means the taking from him of his means of livelihood for I fancy he will not be able to practice his profession in any other country so long as he is in bad standing in this province. The result of course is the absolute waste of all the years and the money that he spent in qualifying himself to practice it and the beginning of life anew in some other calling. I do not think that his offences call for such drastic punishment. While they are six in number they cover a period of about that number of years.  

As mentioned above, the cases attracted some quite prominent members of the Alberta legal profession, including Bencher Charles F Adams, who was a former Secretary-Treasurer of the Alberta Bar Association and acted on behalf of the College, and E.V. Robertson for MacLauchlan. Acting in MacLauchlan’s final (and successful) appeal was Arthur L. Smith, K.C., a formidable criminal lawyer who was nationally respected. During his career, A.L. Smith was associated with many of Alberta's great law cases including 1933’s MacMillan vs. Brownlee, in which a sitting Premier of Alberta, John Edward Brownlee, was initially brought low by accusations of sexual misconduct brought against him by a young woman, 18 year-old Vivian MacMillan, employed as a stenographer at the government buildings and her father Allan MacMillan. Although the girl and her father initially won damages from the premier, the latter appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Alberta and had it overturned. It was A.L. Smith who handled the cross-examination of Vivian MacMillan on Brownlee’s appeal and reduced her to tears and confusion in the court.  

The upshot of the Alberta Supreme Court cases between 1925 and 1927 appears to be that it is quite easy to demonstrate that Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan always had a whiff of shadiness to his character and it appeared fairly early in his career.

Saturday 21 June 2014


At various times, as Ken McIntosh and I have tracked the newspaper  coverage that followed closely upon the December 22, 1965 arrest of Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan, Margaret Anne Cunningham, Joe Sperling and Thelma Mosier for trafficking in heroin, we have noted that the police were certain that these four people had been associated with several others. However, none of the press reports from the New Westminster Columbian, the Vancouver Sun or the Vancouver Province that we had ready access to gave names of any others who were under suspicion. 
So we began to look further afield – into the local Burnaby papers of that era which, we thought, would have covered the story since Thelma Mosier was a Burnaby resident. Thus, while trolling through the microfilms of the old Burnaby Courier for March 3, 1966, we came across an interesting item. When Mosier, who pleaded guilty without contest to the charges against her, was sentenced to seven years, it was also mentioned in the Courier that one of the people that she had been selling to was a well-known trafficker and drug addict. The story described how this fellow got the capsules of heroin left for him by Mosier by digging around the base of a stop sign on Fell Avenue in Burnaby where they were contained within a cigarette box. So we now call him “The Cigarette Box Man” and we are now carefully going through the Burnaby papers’ microfilms for January and February 1966 so we can find out his name. Who knows where he will lead us?
Our discovery of the “Cigarette Box Man” shows that the “MacLauchlan gang” consists not of four people but at least five. Remember also that he was described as a “well-known trafficker and addict”. Chances are he will have been mentioned in previous newspaper accounts relating to the Vancouver drug trade and, in such accounts, likely also in relation to other people. So, once we have his name we will be able to see if he can be connected to one of our “gang organization charts” (consisting of several dozen names we have found by searching and cross referencing Vancouver criminals arrested all through the late 1950s and 1960s). You may recall that, in the early press reports of the MacLauchlan drug bust, the police were saying additional arrests were imminent. Perhaps this was one of them – the cigarette package guy. 
In a subsequent story about the March 21, 1966 murder of Dr and Mrs MacLauchlan, the New Westminster police said that any of four or five associates could have done it. This is an interesting statement because, when the story ran, Mosier was in jail and Sperling likely was too. This means the police knew of four or five other people connected with the doctor in the illicit drug trade, who could be suspects in the slaying, although indications are that a hired gunman from eastern Canada or from the United States was used. 
Ken and I discover new leads all the time, some more promising than others. In January 1966, for example, there was an important Ottawa conference on organized crime held for all the provincial ministers of justice. A major RCMP report was presented at the conference. The report, which we have requested through inter-library loan from the National Archives, seems to have been a pretty big deal because it raised prominent Page 1 headlines in the Vancouver Sun, which said, “Crime rings grow” and “Fear, payoffs aid syndicates”. The newspaper continued the story over to Page 2 and entitled that part of the story “Report shows crime rings growing.” On this latter page there was a related story concerning the province’s organized crime problem which, according to Social Credit Attorney-General Robert Bonner, was not very significant. His attitude was summarized by the paper in seven words: “Crime syndicate report “old stuff” to Bonner”. The AG’s opinion seemed to be echoed by the Chief Constable of the Vancouver Police Department.
“There is nobody operating anything here who could be classified as belonging to an international crime syndicate,” said Ralph Booth. The chief went onto say that there was no crime syndicate in Vancouver and no crime links with the Mafia. 
“It’s ridiculous to think there are any Mafia types in Vancouver, because the pickings would be mighty slim. They can’t get a foothold here,” he said.
Of course it was only about 10 weeks later that the MacLauchlans were murdered in a manner that New Westminster police were quoted as saying had the hallmarks of a Mafia “hit”. Was the chief dissembling or did he really not know that Vancouver did have some Mafia infiltration in the local gang organizations. We suspect the first and think it was probably done to protect an ongoing investigation arising out of the MacLauchlans’ December 22, 1965 – 10 weeks earlier -- arrest. Remember also that this investigation had been sparked by what was described as the biggest bagging of illegal narcotics since 1962.
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BC Attorney-General Robert Bonner

Monday 2 June 2014


When 72 year old Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan was arrested for drug trafficking following a raid, jointly undertaken by the RCMP Drug Squad and the New Westminster Police (with what might be called background assistance from the Vancouver Police), on Wednesday, December 22, 1965, three other people were arrested – Margaret Anne Cunningham 50, Joe Sperling 45 and Thelma Mosier 40. MacLauchlan, Cunningham and Sperling had their preliminary hearing in New Westminster. 
On the other hand, Thelma Mosier, who was nowhere in sight when the initial takedown occurred, was arraigned in Burnaby. We have mentioned this before. We are also wondering how she came to be involved in this crime and have recently come across some possible leads. In any case, in March 1966, Thelma Mosier pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years. 
We have done some research into Mrs Mosier and have come up with the following information: we are certain she was married to Richard Mosier, born in 1914, who died in 1984. The Mosiers first appear together in the public record in 1953, in the federal voting list for that year, when they are living on Fell Avenue in Burnaby and, again in 1957, in the federal voting list, when they are living in Half Moon Bay, near Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. In the 1953 list Richard Mosier is listed as a truck driver and, in the 1957 one, as a logger. In the 1953 electoral roll, the Mosiers are listed as living at the same address on Fell Avenue as a Mr and Mrs L Bullerwell. It appears that the couple separated at some point after that because, by the time of the 1965 voters list, only Thelma Mosier appears. She appears at a Sperling Avenue address, the same one as William and Hazel Boone, a married couple in which the husband is a sales analyst. Mrs Boone has no occupation listed. 
Remembering that Mrs Mosier was arrested in 1965 and sentenced to seven years on March 3, 1966, it is not surprising that, when her husband Richard next appears in a voters list, it is by himself – in Sechelt in the 1968 and 1972 lists. On both occasions he is listed as a logger. Richard Mosier died aged 70 on June 21, 1984 in Vancouver.
However, Thelma Mosier pops up next in a rather interesting situation. It seems reasonable to assume that the woman who, from 1982 until 1992, was listed as the Manager at the Seventh Step Society at 219 Carnarvon Street in New Westminster was the same person as the associate of Dr MacLauchlan, Margaret Anne Cunningham and Joseph Sperling. After all, the everyday management of the Seventh Step was run by ex-convicts. Probably for that reason, the organization was, during the 1970s in New Westminster, a very controversial establishment. Based on the teachings of Bill Sands and Rev. James Post, Seventh Step was basically composed of ex-convicts, who had gone “straight” and become successful citizens, helping newly paroled prisoners follow the same path of reform and re-entry into society. Incidentally, one of the directors of the organization at that time was Provincial Court Judge Nick Mussallem.
The current Seventh Step Society website states the following credo:

7th Step is a program designed to help the incorrigible and recidivist offender change their behavior and attitudes using a basic self help philosophy.  Its fundamental principles are realistic thinking and positive peer pressure.

In the history of penology there has never been a program, which could conclusively reach and motivate to change the hard-core convict population.  The Seventh Step, self-help program was initially designed to reach those men and women who are many time losers.  They are strong men and women who often are leaders within the structured institutional environment.

So, basically it was about ex-convicts helping newly-released convicts rebuild their lives along the straight and narrow. At the time of its introduction to New Westminster, many citizens wanted nothing to do with it. The Seventh Step Society first came to public attention in New Westminster with its plans to establish a half-way house for prisoners at 131 Third Street in the Queen’s Park neighbourhood. Hundreds of angry Queen’s Park residents put their names to a petition opposed to the idea and presented it to City Council. Similarly the prospect of a convict (ex or not) settlement at 219 Carnarvon also ran into a storm of opposition – especially from business owners along that street. However, that particular hostel seems to have weathered the outrage because it operated in that location at least until 1990. By the time Thelma Mosier was manager at Seventh Step at 219 Carnarvon in 1982, it appears the organization had become an accepted part of the neighbourhood landscape.
Ken and I would be most interested in hearing from anyone who knew Mrs Mosier when she was the manager at Seventh Step and can share their impressions or anecdotes about her.

Saturday 24 May 2014


Following their arrests on December 22, 1965 for trafficking about $200,000 worth of narcotics (worth about $10 million in today’s currency) from their modest 5th Street bungalow in New Westminster, Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan, Margaret Anne Cunningham and Joseph Sperling faced the specially appointed Crown Prosecutor, Wilfred Heffernan in a bail hearing. (The fourth person arrested in the case, Burnaby waitress Thelma Mosier, was arraigned in Burnaby). Of course any trial has two sides making arguments to the judge and jury, and the three people standing in the dock two days before the Christmas of 1965 were no exception. Of the two lawyers defending MacLauchlan and his associates, one was Raymond James Westaway, whose practice dealt usually with civil, as opposed to criminal, matters. 
The MacLauchlan group’s other lawyer, as has been briefly mentioned here before, was Nick Mussallem (younger brother of former Social Credit MLA George Mussallem of Maple Ridge and son of a long time Haney mayor, Solomon Mussallem.).
Of Lebanese descent Nick Mussallem no doubt had a significant reputation as a barrister. For example, about a decade previous to defending MacLauchlan, Cunningham and Sperling at the preliminary hearing, Nick Mussallem had played a role in two other very high-profile judicial situations during the 1950s – first the Tupper Inquiry into corruption in the Vancouver City Police when Chief Walter Mulligan was investigated for taking bribes, and, second, the several-year judicial proceedings (a public inquiry and a trial) against Social Credit Forests Minister Robert Sommers during the mid-1950s when Sommers, along with several other men, was implicated in a bribe-taking scandal.
Regarding the Sommers trial, which was presided over by Chief Justice J. O. Wilson, Mussallem acted at some points in the trial in concert with another well known British Columbia jurist, East Vancouver-born Angelo Branca, one of the city’s best known criminal lawyers, who later went on to sit on the BC Supreme Court. One of Mussallem’s successes in the early part of the process was to get permission for Sommers to sit in the Legislature while the preliminary hearing (run by Magistrate Oscar Orr) was underway. It is unlikely that such a situation would prevail today – an MLA facing serious criminal charges being allowed to take his seat in the Legislature.
Like his brother George, Nick Mussallem had political ambitions. However, his were less successful. When he ran for the Liberal Party in the riding of Vancouver Burrard in the provincial election of 1963 both he and his NDP opponent, Tom Berger, (who, as mentioned above, defended Sperling after the MacLauchlans had been murdered) were defeated by Social Credit Party candidates. (Vancouver Burrard was a two-member riding). Nick Mussallem was appointed to the BC Provincial Court in July 1971.
As usual Ken and I are seeking information from anyone who may have had personal knowledge of Nick Mussallem. We understand he had a son and we are hoping that son may recall anecdotes of his father’s cases and give us some details about the MacLauchlan case. But we need to find the son first. Any assistance in this search will be greatly appreciated.

Thursday 1 May 2014


Even martinets have their sensitive side. That certainly seems to have been the case with Lt Colonel Donald George MacLauchlan, commanding officer of the Calgary Highlanders who was Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan’s younger (and more respectable) brother. Succeeding Lt Col Fred Scott in February 1942 when the regiment was in England undergoing further military training, MacLauchlan was a different kind of man. In the early part of his command, when the Highlanders were following closely upon the initial successes of the hard fought D-Day landings, he was regarded by the troops as being squeamish about being under fire.

According to sources quoted by well-known University of Calgary history professor David Bercuson in his 1994 book “Battalion of Heroes: The Calgary Highlanders in World War II”, MacLauchlan was not often seen in the front lines leading the troops. Rather, he preferred to be in his bunker doing paperwork and reports or interviewing underlings. However, by the end of his tenure as Commanding Officer (CO), MacLauchlan had gained significantly in self-confidence as a leader and had faced fire along with his men. As well, he was well-regarded when it came to organizing and undertaking set-piece engagements.

According to Bercuson and an earlier chronicler of the Highlanders, Terry Copp, battle fatigue did the regiment’s second CO in. Not insensitive, MacLauchlan was still not one to indulge in camaraderie with his fellow officers. “Remote” probably was the word that best describes his leadership style. At the same time, however, the same authors mention that MacLauchlan did suffer quite personally over the officers and men under his command when they suffered injury or death. In fact, on one of the last days of his command, Lt Col Donald George MacLauchlan did break down over the fact that he was departing from his fellow officers.

He was succeeded as CO by Lt Col Ross Ellis, a man very much admired by the men under his command – probably since they knew he had risen through the ranks to lead the regiment. Unlike MacLauchlan he never, even from the first, displayed a reluctance to be in the front lines with his troops, facing the same dangers as them.

As we have mentioned before in this blog, Ken McIntosh and I are very interested to find out if Lt Col MacLauchlan and his wartime bride, Elizabeth Loder Johnson (the daughter of Baroness Selsdon, a lower echelon member of the British Aristocracy), had any children. If that is the case, we might be able to contact them in order to find out more about their uncle, Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan. After all, the doctor along with his third wife (and fellow murder victim) Margaret Anne, remains the focus of our research.
We can be contacted through the home page of this website.
The above photo and its accompanying caption is taken from Prof. Bercuson's 1994 book on the Calgary Highlanders, which is mentioned above.

Sunday 16 March 2014


Upon his conviction for procuring abortions in early January 1955, Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan served his one year term in Lethbridge Provincial Jail (at that time called Lethbridge Provincial Gaol). It is likely he would have served only about eight months before he was released. Upon his release he came to British Columbia and, as we have reported before, by 1955 he was receiving his mail at 660 Howe Street in Vancouver but living with Margaret Anne “Nan” Cunningham at 912 5th Street in New Westminster.

We have noticed that people in Canada, USA, Germany, South Korea, Russia, Brazil, Australia, Czech Republic, France and Indonesia have been following our progress. The greatest numbers have come from Canada. It would be great if some of those Canadians are from Alberta – especially from Lethbridge!

Now – and this may be a second Mission Impossible! – we are wondering if we have any Lethbridge readers with some connection to the Lethbridge penal institution. Perhaps they are former guards, families of former guards or other corrections staff. Maybe they are even former prisoners or offspring of former prisoners. In any case, we would like to hear from anyone who has some knowledge – even second or third hand – of MacLauchlan when he was imprisoned.   

If at all possible, we want to know all sides of this rather enigmatic man. We would welcome stories or comments, and all submissions will remain confidential unless the sender desires otherwise. Please use our contact information on the home page of this website.

Thursday 13 March 2014


Following his arrest in Calgary on October 16, 1954, along with his associates druggist John Dixon and two women, Mrs. Anne Gregor, and Audrey Ekiss, Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan’s preliminary hearing took place November 1, 2 and 4, 1954 before Magistrate Royal Verne Read. All were charged with conspiring to procure an abortion. The case went before the Alberta Superior Court in mid-January 1955: MacLauchlan got one year in jail plus a $2500 fine; Dixon received a $2500 fine plus one day; the two women, Anne Gregor and Audrey Ekiss received $1000 and one day each.
MacLauchlan served his time in Lethbridge Provincial Jail. Upon his release he came to British Columbia and, as we have reported before, by 1955 he was receiving his mail at 660 Howe Street in Vancouver but living with Margaret Anne “Nan” Cunningham at 912 5th Street in New Westminster. Police at the time suspected he might have been performing abortions in Vancouver. In our search for more information on both MacLauchlan and Cunningham (who later became MacLauchlan’s wife following their arrest for trafficking in narcotics in December 1965), we have received a few tips from New Westminster residents (including former neighbours) and elsewhere.
Now – and this may be Mission Impossible given the very nature of the procedures and the length of time that has elapsed since they were carried out – we would like to hear from some of MacLauchlan’s former patients. 
Although it is hard to quantify the numbers before abortion became legal in Canada in the early 1970s, speaking very approximately the abortion rate since then has tended on average, to be about 15 per 1000 for women aged 15-44. (Source Abortion statistics and other data--Johnston`s Archive at 
However, given the social and religious stigmas attaching to abortion previous to its legalization, it may be possible to safely assume that the rate was perhaps only 1/10 of that figure before the early 1970s. Some calculations are in order: The female population of Canada in 1951 aged 15 to 44 was 22% of the total population. The Alberta population was 940,000 in 1951. If the age and gender breakdown of the Albertan population was similar to that of the Canadian population as a whole, this means that there were approximately 207,000 women aged 15 to 44 in Alberta. Taking Johnston’s ratio (that the abortion rate was 15 per thousand) and plugging it into 207,000 gives us 3100 abortions in Alberta in the early 1970s.
If we return to our starting point -- that abortion rates (i.e. illegal abortions – the only kind possible during MacLauchlan’s era of operation) were 1/10 of the early 1970s figure -- then that may mean there were about 300 abortions annually in Alberta in the 1950s. Since the Pecover sisters have told the authors that every week there were a few girls (let us assume two or three) sneaking up to MacLauchlan’s house, this would put his potential abortion total at about 100 per year. 
The point of all this calculation is to suggest that there may have been a sufficient number of abortions performed in the 1950s in Alberta that there are women still living who were among those seeking that service from MacLauchlan. However, even if that is not the case, there may still be other people – i.e. husbands, fathers, boyfriends, mothers, brothers, sisters – who are aware of these women and their situations. There may be family memories of such events.
And here’s the kicker: we would like to hear of such stories. Not for the names but more for what their teller may remember of Dr MacLauchlan himself – or have heard tell of him. Remember: our valued correspondent, Albertan author Jack Pecover, who knew MacLauchlan personally (though not well), says the consensus of Calgary neighbourhood opinion was that the doctor was fulfilling a valuable community service. If at all possible, we want to know all sides of this rather enigmatic man. We would welcome stories or comments, and all submissions will remain confidential unless the sender desires otherwise. Please use our contact information on the home page of this website.