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Murder Most Foul
sCottish NiGhtiNGale still hauNts VaNCouVer
By Janet Nicol
When Janet Smith’s parents reluctantly allowed their written, academics have pondered the impact and history
Scots-born daughter to cross the ocean to Canada in
guides recount the case on city tours.
Glass towers glisten against the inlet’s shores in 21st
1923, their fears were justified. The following summer the
century Vancouver as residents of diverse backgrounds
22-year-old nanny was found dead in the basement of walk the crowded streets, but when Janet Smith came to the
her employer’s home on Vancouver’s wealthy west side, a
western port, the city was more remote, with a ‘British’ image.
Though Smith arrived without family, she was surrounded
gunshot wound to the head.
by ex-patriots, with a third of Vancouver’s 250,000 inhabitants
The Smiths received the devastating news of their of Scots origin.
daughter’s ‘accidental’ death from a British minister. He had The Scots were in fact present from the city’s founding,
been requested to tell the parents by a cable telegram sent setting up the St. Andrew’s and Caledonian Society the same
from Smith’s employer, Fred Baker. year Vancouver was incorporated in 1886. By the 1920s, 18
Despite two inquests and a trial, the mystery surrounding Scottish groups existed. They lived in the wealthiest urban
the young immigrant’s death was never solved. More than areas, including Shaughnessy Heights, where Smith worked
eight decades later Smith’s story lingers on, periodically re- as a live-in nanny, as well as the working class neighbourhoods
surfacing in the Vancouver media. Books and plays have been on the east side.
18 Winter 2009
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