Friday, March 7, 2014

And the Killer is....

The detectives investigating the murder of George William Dickinson were notified that a set of fingerprints had been identified. They belonged to 15-year-old Alex Novak (not his real name), a known juvenile house burglar and ward of the Minister of Human Resources.

On July 1, 1978, police went to an address on West 23rd Avenue. There, they found Novak, another 15-year-old named Fred Ramsay and 22-year-old Jim Yablonski (both those names have been changed) sleeping in the basement. The police arrested all three and took the young men to police headquarters in separate vehicles.

The detectives questioned Ramsay and Yablonski, who both made detailed statements. Novak's father was sent for and, after he arrived, the young Novak was questioned in his presence.

Novak had spent most the day of June 18 drinking beer in Stanley Park. He got drunk and fell asleep. When he woke he left the park, hitched a ride to Kitsilano then walked around. He had no money and wondered where to get some. He had heard of the old man on 5th who was rumoured to keep a lot of money in the house.

So the young man picked up a piece of wood, banged on the door and, when it was opened, threatened the old man if he didn't give him money.

Candy Bill ran into the front room, headed towards the phone. Novak grabbed the phone and ripped it off the wall while pushing his victim onto a chesterfield. When he once again demanded money, the old man went into the bedroom and gave him fifty dollars in small bills, which he had taken from his pants pocket. Novak was counting the bills when Dickinson came at him with a straight razor the older man had taken from the dresser. The two men struggled and Novak got the razor away from the old man. Then he grabbed Dickinson by the throat and demanded more money. The old man gave him the money under the mattress before Novak forced him into a chair and tied him up with a piece of electrical cord.

Novak left the house, walked to a group home on Cypress Street where he called for a taxi. He took the cab to his friend Ramsay's house and the two then rode the taxi to the Travelodge Hotel in Surrey Place. There, they stayed for two days. They lived well on the $600 and when it was gone, the two returned to Vancouver.
Novak saw nothing on the robbery in the papers or on the television and wondered why. He, Ramsay and Yablonski went to the house on West 5th and, when they found the door locked, broke the glass to get in. They found the dead body so the trio left. A few days later, he heard the police had discovered the victim.

Alex Novak was charged in Juvenile Court with being a delinquent for killing Dickinson. Although the Crown attempted to have the case raised to adult court, they were unsuccessful. Novak was kept in a detention camp until he reached adulthood three years later.

It was the fingerprints from an earlier crime that led the police to Novak. The fingerprinting of juveniles had been a contentious issue and, just a few weeks before this murder, a test-case had been placed before the courts so that the legality of the matter could be decided. The courts ruled the police had a right to fingerprint juveniles when they were charged with an offence which, had they been adults, would be classed as 'indictable offences'. If the court had ruled the other way, the fingerprints would have been destroyed and Novak would have gotten away with his crime.

Here's the weird part. The test-case that was placed before the court involved Alex Novak's prints taken at the time of his earlier arrest.

Thanks goes to Policebeat by Joe Swan for the information in this entry.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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