Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Danny Brent

This photo is from the window of the Licorice Parlour on Commercial Drive. An ideal place to buy fine chocolate and exquisite licorice.

In 1929, while Danny Brent was in Edmonton, he was jailed for theft and breach of recognizance - in other words, Brent promised in court he would do something so he wouldn't have to go to jail and he violated that agreement. Five years later, Brent had moved to Vancouver and over the next three years was charged with possession of nitro-glycerine, shop-breaking, possession of burglary tools and explosives and retaining stolen property. All charges were dismissed by the courts.

However, in 1937, he was sentenced to two years in jail for breaking and entering in Kelowna and, in 1941, the Edmonton courts sentenced the man to seven years for receiving stolen property. When Danny was released from jail, he came back to Vancouver and soon became involved with the drug trade.

The Vancouver Drug Squad were informed of Danny Brent's activities in Vancouver. The squad was kept informed of who was dealing what drug and where by their informants.

Danny dealt in 'brown' heroin that he bought in bulk from the importers in Eastern Canada. Those importers got their supply from Mexico. Danny would bundle the heroin in 50 capsule lots and hired a man by the name of Mike Clifford to 'plant' the bundles at the foot of various trees along English Bay. Clifford was paid $20 for each planting and Brent would then sell the location of each 'plant' to street 'pushers'.

Even knowing this background, the police had to try and find out why Danny was killed and who had done it.

The police checked into Danny Brent's movements the night of the murder. Brent went to work at the Press Club as usual that evening and left at 12:45 a.m., his usual leaving time. He took with him a copy of the News Herald. One of the girls at the club had been working on the crossword and it was finished except for two clues, which Danny said he would finish for her. That was the paper found under his shirt.

Danny offered a number of people a ride before leaving work but no one took advantage of his offer and he drove off alone in his 1950 Meteor Convertible. The police questioned people at the club who remarked that Danny usually carried a large sum of money with him, ranging in amounts from two or three hundred to a couple of thousand dollars. No money was found on his body.

The 1950 Meteor Convertible was found parked in the 3500 block West 11th the same day the body was recovered. Would it show any evidence that would lead to the killer?

What clues did the car give? If any? Who killed Danny Brent and why? Was it drug related? I will finish this tale on Friday. Thanks to Joe Swan and his book, Policebeat. 

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Murder on the Green

When I left on Friday, the body of Danny Brent was found on the edge of the green of the golf course at UBC. Now that the body was moved, the crime scene investigators dug up and sifted the earth beneath where the body was and found, two inches below the surface where the victim's head had been, a copper clad .45 calibre bullet. A second one was found at the depth of eight inches.

Four feet away, in the rough grass, the police found a spent cartridge marked "REM-UMC-45 ACP." Two days later, a metal detector found a second, similar casing.

A 4:15 that afternoon, pathologist Dr. Harmon performed the autopsy on Danny Brent.

Harmon reported the death was due to a hemorrhage from a bullet, which had entered the victim's back, passed through the abdomen and exited through the stomach. The two head wounds were received some 10 to 15 minutes later, but while Brent was still alive. The time of death was estimated to have been between 2 and 3 a.m. that day.

As indicated by powder marks on the head, the gun had been held no more than two or three inches away from the skin. There were no powder burns on the shirt near the rear entry would and it was concluded that his shot had been fired from some distance away.

This raised the possibility that the man was shot first at some other location, then taken by car to the golf course where the two head shots had been given to make sure the man was dead.

This murder had all the appearances of an underworld 'hit' and when the police discovered the background of Danny Brent; this is the direction the investigation took.

Danny Brent was born in Edmonton in 1911 and, at the time of his death, was working as a waiter at the Press Club at 595 Beatty Street in Vancouver. Brent lived at 2066 West 15th Avenue where he had rented rooms for the last year from his divorced first wife. Danny had remarried but he and his second wife were currently separated.

This man gave the appearance of being a respectable, hard-working man who was popular with his fellow employees and his employers. However, the police were well aware there was another, less respectable side, to Danny Brent.
What had led to Danny Brent's death? I will tell you more on Wednesday. Thanks go to Joe Swan and his book, Policebeat, for the information on this crime.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Green Murder

It was the morning of September 15, 1954 when the greens keeper of the University of British Columbia golf course noticed something was wrong. Samual Bale was a conscientious man, proud of the way he kept the course. But on this day he discovered that a car had been driven down the fairway - around the tenth green and back again - leaving deep furrows in the manicured grass.

Bale went back to the clubhouse and informed William Rees, the club manager, about the damage. Together the two went out to the greens to see what could be done to repair the damage. 

Rees stared at the deep ruts, trying to decide if they would have to close the course for the day while the damage was repaired while Bale was checking the area around the green. That was when the greens keeper made a startling discovery.

In the rough just a few feet from the west edge of the green was a body of a man.It lay on its side with the legs drawn to the chest. Bale called Rees over and the two men approached the body. The duo knew at once the man was dead when they saw the bullet hole behind his ear. Wisely, they went back to the clubhouse and called the R.C.M.P. - Royal Canadian Mounted Police - who were responsible for policing the U.B.C. campus.

Corporal Morgan and Constable Walton arrived on the scene and examined the body. The found a man in his mid-forties, dressed in a pair of grey pants, a red plaid shirt, brown shoes and argyle socks. There was a blood stained edition of the September 15, 1954 News Herald newspaper tucked inside of his pocket. The mounties also found that in addition to the bullet wound behind the ear, a second wound in the right cheek and a third in the back, the latter left a large exit wound on the stomach.

Identification in the man's pants pocket showed the man's name to be Danny Brent who lived at 2066 West 15th Avenue in Vancouver.

The officers called in the R.C.M.P. Criminal Investigation Bureau and a photographer from the Identification Branch. Since the body was found 100 yards from the city boundary, the mounties also notified the Vancouver City Police.

Then the investigation began. The body was photographed from all angles, as were the tire tracks. The tracks showed great detail of the tire-tread in the soft turf and it was determined, from those tracks, the car entered the golf course from Blanca Street and was driven directly to the area of the tenth green. Then it circled in a clockwise direction. It had stopped near where the body was found before driving out back the way it came.

Dr. Glen McDonald - the City Coroner - arrived at the scene and officially pronounced the victim dead. The body was then taken to the City Morgue.

Who was Danny Brent and why did he end up dead on the golf green? And, more importantly, who did it? I will tell you more on Monday. 

Thanks to the book Policebeat by Joe Swan for the information on this crime.

I hope you find the beauty around you and a happy Easter weekend to all of you.