MURDER IN ’47: Monsters, boozehounds and battered women – Toronto Sun

Freddie Bussey was a carnie from Regina.

Hed drift into a town, then hed drift out.

Bussey could have gotten away with one of the most heinous murders of the 1940s, but he couldnt keep his mouth shut.

On the outskirts of Owen Sound on Sept. 21, 1947, Betty Playford, 11, went out to play with neighbourhood kids.

By 11 p.m. the popular little girl had not returned. She and a pal reportedly got soaked in the rain and stripped off, dancing naked in the late summer rain.

Then she disappeared.

Betty Playford, murdered my a monster.

OPP detectives found the body at 9:30 the next morning. She had a fractured skull and there was an attempted sexual assault.

And true to form, Bussey hit the road after defiling and killing Betty. But no one accused the man of being a Mensa calibre intellect.

On a whim, Bussey told a Montreal Star reporter he was Betty Playfords killer.

Just five months after his murder trial, the drifter was taken care of by Canadas apparatus of death.

Bussey died swinging from the hangmans rope on Feb. 4, 1948.


Beneath the happiness of the post-war years when soldiers, sailors and airmen came home was a sewer. POSTMEDIA

Most of Canadas soldiers, sailors and airmen had returned home from the killing fields of Europe, Asia and the high seas.

They were ready to settle down to life in the suburbs with a white picket fence, a steady job at GM or the railways, and a wife and kids.

These men would build Canada into an international powerhouse admired around the world.

But the country still tied tightly to the United Kingdom and the crown had a sewer lurking just beneath the surface.

Film noir classic Dark Passage was in the theatres.

In 1947, Canada sent five men to the gallows, with another dozen dead men hanged in 1948.

In the Ontario Archives, almost every OPP murder investigation in the year 1947 is listed. Here are a few of them. They are not all top of the page stories.

All are tragedies in their own right.


On Feb. 9, 1947, the OPP was alerted to the death of Mary Maseau at Fox Lake in the Espanola district. She had been beaten to death by her sister at the home of one Wilbert Guay. Her sister, Laura Nahwegeshik, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months at the Ontario Reformatory. It isnt clear why Maseau was murdered.


Charlie Martin was being held in a Moose Jaw jail by the RCMP when he said he had a tale to tell. He implicated himself in the double murder of Joseph Grant and Marcel Duchesneau near Schreiber. The slayings had not even been reported to cops. The dead men were working at a mining prospect called the Antelope Mine. Martin confessed Grant had $1,200 on him. Charlie Martin was convicted and was hanged on Jan. 8, 1948.


Joseph M. Sherk, 73, was found shot to death in his Haldimand County home on March 4, 1947. Asmall combination safe located in another room in the house had been opened and the contents scattered about the room. Its believed Sherks murder went unsolved.


Robert Todd, 72, lived alone in a shack near Kirkland Lake. The hermit had not been seen in a while and cops were called. They found his remains under the floorboards. He had been beaten to death. John Gagne was arrested in Sherbrooke, QC, convicted and sentenced to hang. He swung on Jan. 14, 1948.


Geraldton taxi driver Albert Richer was shot and killed on April 20, 1947. His body was discovered on a highway east of town. His taxi was found in Hearst the next day. Richer had been shot. An intensive investigation failed to ID the killer. The slaying remains unsolved.


Farmer John Starchuk, 72, was found knifed to death on April 23rd, 1947, in Essex County. Nick Stoyan, 70, of the same address, was found to be suffering from knife wounds to the throat in an obvious suicide attempt. The two oldtimers had been boozing for three days and bad feelings developed. Stoyan was found unfit to stand trial.


Frederick Desjardins had escaped from the notorious St. Johns Training School for Boys. He was found dead north of Kingston on May 7, 1947. Fellow escapee Victor Martin, 14, was charged with murder. The two boys had escaped and broke into a store, stealing a rifle, money and food. Martin told cops he killed Desjardins but his statement was not admitted at trial. Court heard Martin was a feral child with little education and the mental age of 10. He was acquitted andtransferred to the Training School for Boys at Guelph.


CIBC night security guard Sidney F. Hall was shot to death by robbers on June 7, 1947, at a branch in Middlesex County. He squeezed off at least two shots at the bandits. His murder remains unsolved.


Max Von Matt was waiting for his mother to bring him breakfast. The 31-year-old was told to get it himself. He shot her in the chest. Matt was deemed insane and locked up at her majestys pleasure.

Her accused killers walked.


On June 21, 1947, Velair Vandebelt, 23, was a nurse at the Lady Minto Hospital in Cochrane. That night she attended a party with five friends at a cottage outside town. It is quite evident a good deal of drinking took place, one detective noted, adding there was a good deal of banter and horseplay going on. The nurse wanted to stay for the weekend with the two men. And then she disappeared. Her body was found in the bush. She had been strangled and her skull was fractured. Rocco Sisco and Roger Gauthier were charged with the murder, but the charges were dismissed.

Troubled Henry Cada murdered his sister Ida. The two reportedly had an incestuous relationship.


U.S. Army vet Henry Leo Cada, 28, of River Rouge, Mich. confessed at the home of a Kent County doctor he had murdered his sister. The body of Ida Cada, 21, was found in a barn loft down the road. Her jugular vein had been slashed. According to cops, an unnatural love existed between them. The two eloped to Canada. The family had a history of insanity and Henry Cada was locked away forever.


Clayton Cottrell a reported wife abuser had his head blown off by his long-suffering spouse Edna on July 27, 1947, at their Muskoka home. Not only did Edna live in terror for herself, she worried herself sick about hubbys licentious intentions towards his young daughters. On his last night, he came home drunk and sex crazy towards the girls, so mom took him off the board. Not guilty.

Toronto taxi driver Ralph Margeson left, was murdered along the QEW.


Ralph Margeson was a hard-working cab driver who was shot to death on Nov. 11, 1947. His body was found just north of the QEW. Despite police efforts, the killer was never found.


On Dec. 28, 1947, cops came upon the grisly scene of a quadruple murder-suicide near Kitchener. Dead was Walter P. Letson, found with a .12 gauge shotgun between his legs. Also dead were Percy Letson, 28, Hugh Letson, 45, Mary Letson, 45, (wife of Hugh), and Wilson Letson, 42. Walter had been keeping company with a woman named Eleanor Springer, 18, who had recently transferred her affections to Wilson Letson. Walter Letson met them when they came home from a party and began the massacre.


Isabel, 16, was in trouble. The Bruce County teen was pregnant. A post-mortem revealed she died from an illegal abortion. George L. Murphy was charged with manslaughter by means of committing an abortion. He was sentenced to seven years in the Kingston Pen.


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MURDER IN '47: Monsters, boozehounds and battered women - Toronto Sun

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