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Investigators’ reports

The investigation into the explosion on Canadian Pacific Car 1586 speaks volumes about the limitations of policing and police techniques in the 1920s and the remoteness of the Kootenay region of British Columbia. Police were few in this frontier region. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had become a national police force only in 1920, and throughout that decade its main activities were enforcement of narcotics laws and security and intelligence work. At the time of Verigin’s death, the RCMP had some 1,000 members spread across the country. In B.C. routine criminal investigation was in the hands of the B.C. Provincial Police, formed in 1858 and with a complement in 1924 of about 200 officers. Today, investigation of the death of nine people in an explosion on the country’s primary transportation system would bring forth hundreds of police officers. The 1924 explosion called up a dozen police and CPR investigators, most of them devoting no more than a day or two to the task.

And what a task they had. You can see one of the obstacles by tracing the route to the crime scene of two of the principal investigators, RCMP Detective Staff Sergeant G. O. Reid, and BCPP Constable G.F. Killam. What investigatory techniques did the police and CPR use? What barriers, such as language, did they face?

For reasons discernable from the reports, the police investigation hit a dead end, and the inquiry into Verigin’s death just petered out. Then, inadvertently, in1931-32 there was a revival of interest, resulting in the addition of one important piece of testimony and the most thorough summation of the case. But by the mid-1930s both the BCPP and the CPR had what they regarded as more pressing issues to pursue with the Doukhobors, with the mass arrest of over 600 adults for nudity and the seizure of 357 Doukhobor children. In such a circumstance, pursuing a 7 year-old mystery could wait. Wait it did.

Government Documents