6 of Canada's most bizarre murders

Tales of crime from John Wilson in 1833 to Mark Twitchell in 2008

Mark Twitchell in an undated photo from his page. (CP)

1. The last fatal duel: On June 13, 1833, John Wilson, a weaver’s son, shot Robert Lyon, a law student, in a field outside Perth, Ont. According to contemporary accounts, Lyon had disparaged the honour of Eliza- beth Hughes, a young teacher Wilson was hoping to court. The two agreed to a duel with pistols to settle the matter. Wilson hit Lyon in the chest with his second shot. A jury acquitted Wilson of murder and he later went on to marry Hughes and have a career in federal politics.

2. Belcher Islands massacre: In the winter of 1941, nine Inuit were killed on a remote island chain in Hudson Bay. All were victims of a short-lived religious cult centred around two locals—Charlie Ouyerack and Peter Sala—who had declared themselves Jesus and God, respectively. The first to die was a 13-year-old girl named Sarah, who was beaten to death after telling a public meeting she did not believe Jesus had returned. Later, a 46-year-old man named Keytow- ieack was bludgeoned with a harpoon then shot in the head after a fight with Ouyerack. Another man, Alec Keytowieack, was shot in the back after denying Ouyerack’s divinity. Sala’s sister, Mina, ultimately cajoled 12 women and children out on the sea ice. Convinced the world was ending, she stripped them of their clothes. Six, including Sala’s sons, nephews, sister and mother would die from the exposure.

3. Albert Guay: The mastermind of the worst mass murder on Canadian soil, Guay was desperate to get rid of his wife, Rita, and win back his 17-year-old mistress. In 1949, he bought his wife a ticket on a Canadian Pacific flight to Baie Comeau, Que., then got a bomb into the plane’s mail baggage. It exploded mid-flight, killing all 23 passengers and crew on board, including four children. Because the flight had taken off five minutes late, the debris was scattered on land rather than in the St. Lawrence River, and authorities used the wreckage to track down and convict Guay, along with his two accomplices, Généreux Ruest, the manufacturer of the bomb, and Marguerite Pitre, the woman who shipped it. All three were hanged.

4. Peter Demeter: Since 1974 Peter Demeter has amassed five life sentences related to kidnapping and murder, but it was the brutal execution of his wife, Christine Demeter, that remains a mystery today. In 1973, Christine was found in the garage of their Mississauga, Ont., home, with her skull split open. After trying to cash in a $1-million life insurance policy on his wife, Demeter was found guilty of the murder, though her actual killer was never found. In the 1980s, Demeter was found guilty of attempting to have his nephew murdered, as well as planning the kidnapping and death of his lawyer’s teenage daughter. During sentencing in 1988 for the last crime, Judge John O’Driscoll told him, “You ooze evil out of every pore and contaminate everyone around you.”

5. Albert Johnson Walker: After fleecing dozens of Canadian clients out of $3 million, Albert Walker and his daughter Sheena fled to Europe in 1990 to avoid fraud charges. While in Britain, Sheena posed as Walker’s wife and they befriended Englishman Ronald Platt. Walker arranged and paid for Platt and his girlfriend Elaine to emigrate to Canada in 1993, but to leave Platt’s driver’s licence and birth certifi- cate behind. With Platt in Canada, Walker assumed his identity. Then in 1996 Platt surprised Walker by returning to England. Walker took him on a fishing trip and killed him. But while Walker had stolen Platt’s identity, he failed to grab the Rolex watch from the dead man’s wrist, and the serial number led police to the killer. Most of the money remains unaccounted for.

6. Mark Twitchell: Inspired by the serial killer TV show Dexter, Edmonton-born Mark Twitchell posed as a woman online in 2008, and lured John Altinger to a rented garage where he killed him and dismembered the body. While Twitchell would later be dubbed the “Dexter killer,” he was in no way as meticulous as the show’s lead character, Dexter Morgan. When police arrested Twitchell two weeks after the crime, traces of blood were found on the clothes he was wearing. Police also recovered a deleted file from his hard drive that was essentially a transcript of his crimes. Named SKConfessions, which authorities took to mean “serial killer confessions,” the document began: “This story is based on true events. The names and events were altered slightly to protect the guilty. This is the story of my progression into becoming a serial killer.” Last year Twitchell was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

Sources: Twenty Mortal Murders; heritage plaques; Locations of the Sacred; National Post; Canadian Encyclopedia; Maclean’s; Edmonton Journal