Friday, February 1, 2013


Today I am referencing the book Policebeat by Joe Swan again for the information in this entry.

It was March 7, 1959 when Constable Gemmell entered apartment 109 at 1209 Jervis Street and discovered the body of the tenant, Robert White. The body lay in the hallway with a shirt tied tightly around his neck. Blood was on the man's face and pooled on the floor.

43-year-old Robert White was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland but had moved to Vancouver. His wife had died eleven years before this and White worked as a bartender at the Arctic Club at 724 West Pender. His employers and co-workers liked the man and considered him to be a good worker.

This was not the case with other tenants in the building. White's neighbours were constantly disturbed by the comings and goings of the men he entertained on the weekends. In fact, two days prior to the discovery of the body, the couple who lived above Robert were awakened by a loud banging in the suite below them. The couple had considered calling the manager but then the noise stopped.
Technicians scoured the apartment for clues. A number of fingerprints were gathered - most of those belonged to the victim - and a partial palm print in blood was found on the door frame. That was not the victim's.

Broken glass found on the floor was identified as coming from a pitcher that had been smashed - fragments were discovered in the victim's scalp - indicating Robert had been struck on the head with it before being strangled.

The shirt had the laundry mark 'KS43'. When the victim's clothing in the suite was examined, it was discovered that this shirt had a different mark and therefore could belong to the killer.

A search of the different cleaners was made and at the Farina Laundry on Venables Street, the investigators got the answer they were looking for. The mark was assigned to the motor vessel, 'Korsholma' - the 'KS' referred to the ship and the '43' to the crew member it was assigned to.

The ship, with the murderer, had already left Vancouver. It was due to dock in Honolulu at pier 24 on March 15.

Detective Inspector Plummer flew to Honolulu, arriving the morning of March 12. Plummer had to go through a number of legal formalities so he could get the required permission to conduct a homicide investigation where he had no jurisdiction. Fortunately, the Honolulu Police Department and the FBI were helpful and Plummer was able to obtain the necessary documentation.

Once the Korsholma docked, Plummer along with a detective from the H.P.D. and an officer from the U.S. Immigration Service boarded the ship and began a search of mess boy Constantin Dimitru's space. The officers found shirts with the same laundry mark, a gold wristwatch that was later identified as belonging to Robert White, the business card for a driver of a Diamond Cab in Vancouver (it had already been discovered that White and another male had taken that cab ride the night White was murdered) a slip of paper with Jervis Street written on it and another slip of paper with a woman's name. 
Plummer phoned Vancouver and let them know what he had found. The detectives here worked all night to get all the necessary evidence so that Dimitru could be extradited to Canada before his ship sailed.

Once arrested, Dimitru made a full and voluntary statement. He and White had been drinking at the Arctic Club then had gone to the older man's apartment. There White got very drunk and made advances on Dimitru. Dimitru rejected him but White became angry so Dimitru hit the man on the head with a water jug. However, that seemed to have no effect and White ended up tearing off the other man's shirt. Dimitru claims he wrapped the torn shirt around the other man's neck to quieten him - he did not mean to kill him. In fact, Constantin didn't even realize that White was dead.

Dimitru was taken back to Vancouver and stood trial for murder. He was represented by lawyer Harry Rankin and found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. On June 23, 1959 Dimitru was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and on December 23 of the same year, he was deported to his native Germany.

I first heard the name Kilmarnock, Scotland in a book entitled My Temporary Life by Martin Crosbie. It is a good book and one that stays with you.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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