The murder weapon: a lather’s hatchet. #graphicnovel #Vancouver @Kickstarter @annatfabulous

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He brushed the leaves aside and uncovered the most baffling double murder Vancouver has ever had.

– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953

The case itself centres around two unknown children, two young brothers who deserve to be identified.

By its very nature, physical evidence is circumstantial; it provides clues to a particular course of events, but does not do so directly[1]

LATHER’S HATCHET:

The lather’s hatchet was in a deteriorated state when found in 1953.  My father noted that the hatchet might have been broken off or cut at the sharp end.

 

A shingler’s hatchet or lather and shingler axe is a typical tool used when installing Cedar shake roofs.  It may also be called a “roofing axe”.  The axe weighs about 1.5-2 pounds with a short handle to ease the installer’s work on roof.  The flat head is used to hammer the end of the shake into position under the previous shake.  It is also used to hammer the nails through the shake and into the laths, which are horizontal strips of wood 3/4” x 2” place on roof.  Shakes that are too wide are split to narrow width with the axe blade while the worker is on the roof.  There are two different roofers: Lather (aligns and nails wood strips) and Shingler (places and nails shakes to laths, including splitting shakes for fitting).

A shingle is a sawn and tapered slice of wood cut from a pie shaped “bolt” of Western Red Cedar.  A shake is a board split from a bolt by hand or a machine, producing a rough face. The Greater Vancouver area in British Columbia has a history of cedar millwork.  In the 1940’s, there were a variety Shake and Shingle Mills in Mission, Pitt Meadows, Ruskin, and Maple Ridge.  It is important to bear in mind that the buildings found around Stanley Park in the late 1940’s were (and still are) primarily cedar shingle and shake construction. Many cedar shake buildings and roofs are found around the Children’s Miniature Railway, which is in the vicinity of the crime scene.  The Miniature Railway was completed in 1947.  I interviewed two maintenance workers at the Children’s Miniature Railway.  They indicated that it was their current practice is to simply discard broken tools, such as shingler hatchets, directly onto the ground where they are working.  They noted that squatters who reside in Stanley Park sometimes collect these tools.

Video captures from Babes in the Woods Task Force meeting at Vancouver Centennial Police Museum, February 2004
Photo in evidence box of hatchet fitting wound in skull

 She waved as she made her way to the back door and out to the fire escape stairs.  The firewood was stored under a musty tarp on the landing, and the hatchet [he] used to make kindling sat rusty and dull on top.  [She] never noticed the hatchet placed in that way before, not in all the weeks and months she’d been climbing these fire escape steps.  It was a sign, she knew, and though she wondered what exactly she would do with the hatchet if the footsteps followed her again, she snatched the thing up and rested it on her shoulder. – Lori Lansens Rush Home Road [2]

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[1] From Rudin, R., Inman, K. (2002) An Introduction to Forensic Analysis. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press LLC

[2] Lansens, L. (2002) Rush Home Road, Toronto ON, Canada: Vintage Canada

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