1966 New Westminster double murder -- a Mafia hit?
|Graduating a 1919 McGill Medical School prize winner was the most worthy thing Robert Henry MacLauchlan ever did. The greatest tragedy he ever initiated was when he seduced and misled Margaret Ann Cunningham, a modest teacher from New Westminster’s Woodlands School for the Handicapped.
Shock rippled through the city: first near Christmas 1965 when they were arrested for heroin smuggling. Secondly, on March 21, 1966 in their 5th Street bungalow, when both were executed Mafia style – shot in the face by the nostril and then in the stomach. Newspapers speculated the underworld had silenced them just before the upcoming trial.
The story of a long unsolved March 1966 double murder in New Westminster, British Columbia, NO DOG BARKED: Who Killed the MacLauchlans? by New Westminster authors Rod Drown and Ken McIntosh is about the Mafia-inspired murder of thrice-married abortionist and heroin smuggler Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan and his wife, Woodlands School teacher Margaret Ann “Nan” MacLauchlan.
The former “Nan” Herring, Margaret Ann MacLauchlan was a daughter of one of New Westminster’s most prestigious pioneering families.
Graduating in 1919 as a prize winner from Montreal’s McGill Medical School was probably the best thing Robert Henry MacLauchlan ever did. The greatest tragedy he ever inflicted was when, late in the 1950’s, he seduced and misled Margaret Ann “Nan” Cunningham, a quiet and modest teacher from New Westminster’s Woodlands School for the Handicapped. She died alongside him when MacLauchlan was murdered in cold blood
Following his initial academic triumph at McGill, MacLauchlan’s life had taken a much less heroic path involving drug addiction, illegal abortions and heroin smuggling. Along the way he charmed and philandered his way through 1920’s San Francisco, 1930’s Shanghai (the “Paris of the Orient”) and the exotic settlements of the French overseas community. After his first wife Montrealer Mamie Hoy died, the doctor hooked up with a prominent Calgary stage actress, Evelyn Hambly. She dumped him when he was arrested in Calgary for performing abortions in the late 1950’s.
After serving jail time in Alberta, MacLauchlan showed up in New Westminster, where Margaret Ann first passed him off as her “uncle”. Meanwhile the RCMP had had him tabbed for several years as a heroin smuggler operating between Hong Kong and Vancouver.
Thus shock rippled through placid New Westminster twice – first, when a few days before Christmas 1965, the doc tor and “Nan” were arrested for heroin smuggling and again when, on March 21, 1966 in the couple’s small 5th Street bungalow, MacLauchlan was executed Mafia style – a shot in the face just to the side of the nostril and another in the stomach. Nan, who he had recently married, met the same fate. Newspapers called it a Mafia hit, speculating the underworld had silenced him just in time for his upcoming trial, a suggestion undisputed by the police. Dead men tell no tales.
Drown and McIntosh have spent six years thoroughly probing the murders and the drug trafficking underworld of Vancouver during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. They have tried to answer certain important questions: just how high up in the international drug trade was MacLauchlan, with his award for a “million miles of flying” from United Airlines? Was “Nan” something more than a modest schoolteacher? (After all, her former husband was rumoured to have had her tailed by a private investigator). Who were the likely suspects in their murders?
Reading this book, you will get to meet 1960’s and 70’s Vancouver underworld luminaries like Joe Gentile, Fats Robertson and the Palmer Gang. You will become somewhat familiar with local hit men like Mickey Smith and Murray Allan Boyd. You will shake your head over basic tough guy Andy Bruce.
You will become acquainted with MacLauchlan’s little crew: fallen Sechelt socialite Thelma Mosier, lifetime loser Joe Sperling and the others who existed on the fringe of the Lower Mainland Underworld. You will hear of tough 1960’s prosecutors William Heffernan and Oscar Orr. Police Officers like RCMP Drug Squad Sgt Steve Bunyk will cross your path. And, last but not least, let’s not forget those wife-swapping swingers of the late 1960’s Karl and Lieselotte Weber. All of them and many dozen more are mentioned in this well-researched and deeply contextualized book.
This book comes in two versions – a Basic Edition (397 pages) and a Library Edition (495 pages). The former tells the basic story of the MacLauchlans’ demise and comes with footnotes, photographs and charts. The Library Edition has the same information as the Basic Edition but also has a 100 page “Succinct Directory to Certain Crimes, Criminals & Interested Observers with an emphasis on Vancouver & the Province of British Columbia during the decades of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s & early 1980’s.” The Basic Edition sells for $25 per copy and the Library Edition for $30. NOTE The Library Edition is now sold out.