Friday, January 24, 2014

Murder at Johnson's Storage

It was the wee hours of the morning - 2:47 a.m. to be exact - on September 2, 1959 when the complaint centre of the Vancouver Police receive a call from an unknown male. "The watchman is injured at Johnson Storage under the Cambie Bridge," he stated before hanging up the phone.

Constable Bailey received the call and dispatched a patrol car to check the storage yard before contacting the telephone company to try to trace the call. The telephone company called back a few moments later to inform the |Constable the call was made from a pay phone at First and Commercial. So a car was set there to check it out and stand-by until someone could go and dust the phone for fingerprints.
Meanwhile, at Johnson's yard, Constables Weeks and Trent had arrived within minutes of receiving the call. The two officers found the gates locked and everything looked secure but there was no sign of the watchman. They radioed in for a key holder to come and open the facility and one arrived in about fifteen minutes to open the gates. The constables, along with Sergeant Robbins, entered the yard.

The keyholder had told the officers the watchman was stationed in the Drivers' Room. The watchman's duties included checking in the drivers who had made deliveries during the day. He would ensure they deposited the day's receipts into the office safe by dropping them in a slot on the top. The watchman was to clock in every thirty minutes.

Upon entering the Drivers' Room, the police officers immediately found the watchman. He lay face down on the floor, his hands tied behind his back with a length of cord, a towel and a piece of cloth were wrapped around his face - apparently as a gag. His clothing and wallet were undisturbed.
Beside the watchmen were a set of upper and lower dentures and a pair of glasses with one lens broken. Two hats were also there: one being the watchman's cap and the other an 'ivy league' hat made of linen with a checkered pattern design.

Apparently, the watchman had been sitting at a long table since his logbook and the time clock were there. The watchman had last logged in at 1:30 a.m.

The officers checked for signs of life but found none. They removed the towel and saw that watchman had vomited and bled from his mouth. There was also a bruise on his cheek - perhaps from falling to the floor?

The key holder identified the body as Vaino Alto. This 69-year-old had been with the company for a number of years and was a conscientious and reliable employee.

Are you intrigued? Are you wondering what happened to the watchman and what makes this case special enough to end up in the book Policebeat, 24 Vancouver Murders by Joe Swan? I will tell you more on Monday.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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