Canadian True Crime - 148 The Murderous Mountie–Part 1

Episode Date: December 13, 2023

[Part 1 of 2] The twisted story of Sergeant John Wilson: a mountie at the centre of a sordid love triangle that played out as World War I raged on. Put together from an archive of hundreds of rea...l love letters, forged letters and police and court memos, this gripping, action-packed miniseries offers a vivid snapshot of Canada at a pivotal moment in history.Part 2 available now ad-free on CTC Premium feeds - Amazon Music (included with Prime), Apple Podcasts, Patreon and Supercast. Available to all December 20.Canadian True Crime donates monthly to help those facing injustice.This month we have donated to Women’s Shelters Canada, an organization that supports over 600 shelters across the country for women and children fleeing violence. You can find a shelter near you by going to sheltersafe dot ca.Credits:Voice actor - Sgt John Wilson: Paul WarrenVoice actor - Elizabeth Craig and John’s “sister”: Jesse HawkePolice memos and news articles: AI voices-Original concept, research: Danielle ParadisAdditional research, writing, development: Nate HendleyAdditional research, writing, sound design, narration: Kristi LeeAudio editing and production: Nico from the Inky PawprintProduction assistance: Jesse Hawke from the Inky PawprintScript consulting: Carol WeinbergDisclaimer voiced by Erik KrosbyFull list of resources, information sources, credits and music credits:See the page for this episode at Hosted on Acast. See for more information.

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Starting point is 00:02:04 It's not for everyone. Please take care when listening. Hi everyone, I hope you're well and thank you so much for all the supportive messages and positive feedback after the major case updates episodes. Just a few short updates before we start today. I'm excited to tell you that Canadian True Crime was named the Number 5 podcast in Canada by Apple Podcasts who just released their end-of-year top shows list. We're also the number 2 True Crime podcast in Canada, eclipsed only by date line.
Starting point is 00:02:36 And I was thrilled to see one of our episodes was the number 7 in Canada this past year. That's 122, the trial of Jacob Hogard Part 1. We couldn't have done this without you, so a huge thank you to everyone for listening and subscribing to the podcast, leaving positive reviews and sharing episodes with friends and family. I can't thank you enough. Today, we have a two-part series for you, and it's a pretty special one that's been a long time coming. Journalist Danielle Parody suggested this case to me a few years ago, and she came across a treasure trove of materials from Library and Archives Canada.
Starting point is 00:03:17 There were hundreds of pages of love letters, forged letters, police and court memos documenting a strange love triangle that played out as World War I raged on, and resulted in the only bounty ever being hanged for murder in Canada. I knew I wanted to make something out of all of this amazing archival material, so we purchased a scanned copy of everything they had. The problem is, finding the time to go through it all, but I realized I knew someone who might be able to take on the job. Toronto True Crime Author, Nate Hendley,
Starting point is 00:03:52 who you might remember from our series based on his award-winning book, The Beatles Bandit. Nate combed through every page, combined it all with additional research to form a narrative and wrote out the story, which I adapted into the podcast series you're about to listen to. This is part one of a two-part series. Part two will be released in a week, and it's available ad-free right now for those listening on premium feeds. After that, we're taking a break for the holidays and plan to be back with a new episode in late January.
Starting point is 00:04:26 And with that, it's on with the show. I wish you and your loved ones a safe and content holiday season. The date was September 27, 1918, and 32-year-old Mary Wilson was on a train from Regina in the Prairie Province of Saskatchewan. Just a month or two earlier, she'd been living with her husband John Wilson in Regina, where he worked with the Dominion Police. But then, he was suddenly posted to Saskatoon, about 260 kilometres north. Mary was newly pregnant, and John told her to stay put in Regina until he had purchased a home for them to live in, and then he would send for her to join him in Saskatoon. Born Mary Hutchison in Scotland, she was a very long way from home.
Starting point is 00:05:23 And although it wasn't ideal for her to be pregnant and alone in a foreign city, at the time she really had no choice but to agree to her husband's plan. But that was over now. Mary Wilson was finally on that train to Saskatoon and would soon be reunited with her husband. Photographs of Mary reveal a pleasant-looking woman with dark eyes and hair, neatly arrayed upwards in a popular style of the day.
Starting point is 00:05:53 That September, the temperature hit 24 degrees Celsius, but Mary had been living in the prairies long enough to know that autumn evenings could be cold, so she was bundled in multiple layers, a white button-down blouse and blue skirt over her underclothes with lace-up boots. Mary's train pulled into Saskatoon at 4pm, and her husband John was waiting for her in the new car he had recently purchased for work. A grey dought, a Canadian-made vehicle that resembled the iconic Ford compact Model T. After the couple had exchanged greetings,
Starting point is 00:06:34 John threw Mary's small suitcase in the car and invited her to get into the passenger side. At his instruction, she left all her other luggage and personal items in Regina, with the plan to send for them separately, likely because of her delicate condition. Mary already knew that they had to make one stop for John to take care of some police business, but after that, they would be headed onwards to their new home. John drove out to the countryside north of Saskatoon. The flat landscape consisting of farms, trees, grain crops, and vast empty spaces. Mary had plenty of time to look at the scenery because the grey dought could only go about 30 kilometers an hour and
Starting point is 00:07:26 the roads were not exactly smooth. As John drove the car, he occasionally sipped from a bottle of liquor and he didn't talk much. He certainly didn't mention to his wife that he had a fresh marriage license in his pocket made out to himself and his secret girlfriend, Jesse. On the marriage license paperwork, John had declared himself a bachelor. John Wilson and Mary Hutchison met in their early 20s while working at a drapery company in Car Look, a village near Glasgow, Scotland.
Starting point is 00:08:29 Mary came from a deeply religious and impoverished working-class family, who lived in Slamanan, a small village in central Scotland. Her father wanted to be a minister, but couldn't afford to attend a divinity school, so he became a coal miner instead. Mary had five siblings, including a sister named Elizabeth who was a keen writer known for her descriptive details. Here's how she would write about Mary. As a girl, she was like a wifherry.
Starting point is 00:09:01 She was so thin with a massive long golden curls, she was always brave and would have laughed at what had made me weep. Fairy qualities aside, Mary, who was known as Polly to her friends and family, was by all accounts an upbeat, pleasant young woman. A 1919 letter from a parish minister would describe her as sweet and amiable, liked and trusted by everyone who knew her. Mary's husband, John Wilson, had a considerably different upbringing. His parents had been relatively wealthy owners of a grocery store and grain business in Karlook,
Starting point is 00:09:43 but they had long since passed away. While John and his three siblings shared in a decent inheritance, John's older brother was the one who took the reins of the family business. Problem was, he was a terrible businessman, focusing on the single goal of a massing personal wealth. It didn't take long before the business was in trouble. In the meantime, John was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
Starting point is 00:10:13 He tried his hand at a preenticing at a tomato greenhouse. He took a job as a junior railway clerk, then as a draper, a person who sells cloth and dry goods. Mary Hutchison worked as a dressmaker at the same outlet and the rest was history. Literally. John Wilson and Mary Hutchison were married in 1908. In a year later, Mary gave birth to their first child, a son named George. After that, John decided to build some green houses for tomato farming and convinced a few relatives to join as partners, including Mary's sister Elizabeth and her husband.
Starting point is 00:10:57 The business did quite well, but the partners had no idea the profits were being secretly diverted to prop up the failing family business. Eventually, in 1911, the bank foreclosed on all the family's business enterprises, and both John and his older brother ended up bankrupt. John Wilson was now a failed farmer with a reputation for dubious ethics, but he soon
Starting point is 00:11:28 had a new plan. He would move to Canada and start all over, and eventually send for Mary, Little George, and the second child she was now six months pregnant with. Or maybe he would just earn some decent money in Canada and then return home with it, Don wasn't quite certain. His plan was to figure things out once he settled in Saskatchewan, with his ultimate destination being the bustling city of Saskatoon, on the flat South Central Saskatchewan Prairie. While he was gone, Mary would look after the household in Scotland
Starting point is 00:12:07 and prepare for the arrival of their second child, which she of course would have to face without him. Her husband promised to write letters and sent money back to them often. John Wilson departed for Canada in July of 1912. He didn't have a lot of money, so he couldn't afford to travel in style. He booked a ticket on a low-end ship that took two weeks to cross the Atlantic. A sluggish pace compared to speedy ocean liners which made the passage in days. Then again, just three months earlier, one of those Speedy Liners had collided with an iceberg off Newfoundland and Sink, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
Starting point is 00:12:58 No doubt, the tragedy of the Titanic played on John's mind during his lengthy voyage. Titanic played on John's mind during his lengthy voyage. He landed in Halifax Nova Scotia and took a train west to Saskatchewan, observing the rugged, stony terrain of northern Ontario, turn into the flatlands of the prairies. John had made an excellent decision in selecting his destination. He was one of countless people from the British Isles tantalized by the prospect of new beginnings in the Dominion of Canada.
Starting point is 00:13:35 The Canadian government had been particularly eager to welcome settlers to the recently established Western provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, and a flood of promotional posters, brochures, flyers, and other material was being churned out. Promotional material heavily emphasized the fertile soil, cheap land, and vast opportunities, depicting the west as some kind of rural heaven. And it was working, the western provinces were booming at the time, with plenty of jobs and opportunities for young, able-bodied men, like John Wilson. In the decade from 1901 to 1911, Saskatchewan's population had exploded from about 90,000 residents to just under half a million, and the
Starting point is 00:14:26 city of Saskatoon's growth rate was even higher. This growth, of course, came at the expense of the indigenous inhabitants of the land, who were forced into reservations. After John Wilson arrived in Saskatoon, he took a job working with a bridge construction crew, then as a city gardener. He learned that back in Scotland, Mary had given birth to their second child, a daughter she named Helen. John continued to try and get ahead in Canada, toiling in various manual labour positions. Eventually, he decided to tempt fate again and venture into the entrepreneurial world.
Starting point is 00:15:12 He was in a new country now, perhaps this time the results would be different. He purchased some property near Prince Albert Saskatchewan and started farming tomatoes once more, hoping for a taste of his past success without the problem of his older brother. But there was a new problem, the volatilities of Prairie Weather, a hell storm in the summer of 1914 wiped out his entire crop. John was done. Having failed twice in farming, he pondered his next move. In Europe, events were starting to unfold that would prove disastrous for millions, but
Starting point is 00:15:57 inadvertently for chewitus for John. The June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the next in line to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was the spark said to have ignited World War I. Armies mobilized and three months later, Europe was at war. While Canada had technically become semi-independent in 1867, the nation was still culturally and politically tied to Great Britain. So when Britain went to war against Germany, the Canadian Army scrambled to find new recruits to join the effort. And John Wilson tried to enlist, bursting with patriotism, or maybe just because he needed a job. But he was rejected on physical grounds by a military doctor and Prince Albert. As it turned out, this rejection provided him with an enormous opportunity.
Starting point is 00:16:59 Two weeks after the army turned him down, a poster in Prince Albert caught his eye. It was a recruitment drive for the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, a paramilitary organization and predecessor to the RCMP, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Later John Wilson would say the reason he decided to apply for the Royal Northwest Mounties was that he was hoping the organization would send troops to Europe to fight, which would allow him to get closer to home in Scotland, while also doing his part for the war effort. But realistically, it's more likely that he just wanted secure employment and steady pay as a bounty.
Starting point is 00:17:47 After all, the Royal Northwest Mounties had enough to do at home in Canada, enforcing the law and controlling the indigenous population. So if John Wilson wasn't accepted into the Canadian Army. What made him think he would be successful with the Royal Northwest-mounted police? Well, now that Canada was officially participating in the war, the force had been tasked with searching for war spies and sabbaturs, particularly in Western Canada where there are a high number of immigrants that were being referred to as foreigners.
Starting point is 00:18:27 Obviously, these foreigners did not include the white English-speaking settlers from Britain that the Canadian government historically preferred. The prairies presented challenging terrain that wasn't so attractive to the favored settlers, so a controversial decision was made to open up immigration to farmers from Central and Eastern Europe. This included a large number of peasants and farmers from Ukraine who saw an opportunity to escape the oppressive conditions of their homeland, half of which was controlled by Russia and the other by Austria-Hungary. Ukrainian farmers had been brutalized by these authorities, who kept them indebted,
Starting point is 00:19:13 miserable and landless, but they built up a reputation for being tough, hardy and used to horrible weather. So when the Canadian government invited them over and offered them the ability to own land, they couldn't believe it. Ukrainians started pouring into the prairies in such large numbers that today, Canada is home to the largest population of Ukrainians outside of Ukraine. But the English-speaking settlers soon started to get irritated about the sudden influx of Eastern Europeans they referred to as foreigners. It's an age-old story. The main complaints were that they didn't speak English or follow British customs.
Starting point is 00:19:58 In worse, some of these foreigners harbored progressive political ideas and weird religious beliefs. A Russian Christian sect called the Dukabors liked to strip naked in public to express their grievances, a move that was particularly shocking to the Prudish and moralistic white settlers. And as World War I unfolded, their suspicions only intensified,
Starting point is 00:20:24 especially towards Ukrainians who had come from the area controlled by Austria-Hungary, which was an ally of Germany and technically the enemy of Canada in the war. Many Ukrainians, along with other nationalities in Canada, were confined in internment camps and closely monitored for most of World War I. And those who weren't confined were assigned to the Royal Northwest mounted police for strict monitoring and told to report to them regularly.
Starting point is 00:20:57 This increased scope of duty resulted in a recruitment drive to get more amounties. And that's how John Wilson, a 30-year-old army reject with no policing experience, was accepted to join the organization. John was reasonably tall and spoke English, good enough for a force that badly needed new recruits. He was given regimental number 602-0
Starting point is 00:21:24 and listed his wife Mary Wilson as his next of kin on his enlistment form. He started his training in Prince Albert's Saskatchewan that fall, with endless drills, lessons and marksmanship, fist fighting, first aid and criminal law. Recruits also had to master horseback riding as a practical move. Cars were scarce at the time, so Mounties often rode horses while on patrol. Horses were better than cars anyway when it came to chasing suspects and dense woods or across farm fields. After John's training was completed in the summer of 1915, he was assigned to a small Saskatchewan community called Blaine Lake. Part of his job was to enforce the law over vast
Starting point is 00:22:15 spaces featuring scattered settlements and dirt roads, and he was also expected to root out spies and subversives. It wasn't a fun or glamorous job, and John put in long hours for the low pay of a new recruit. The Blaine Lake area had a local dooper-bore community, known as wildly eccentric pacifists, they refused to sign up for the Army draft, which was seen as treasonous, not admirable. The reports and letters John wrote during this period contain many mentions of the dukebors
Starting point is 00:22:52 and his interactions with them. At first, Sergeant John Wilson was diligent with his duties with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, but his head was soon turned at the sight of a potential love interest. Her name was Jesse Patterson. Sixteen-year-old Jesse was one of four children who had recently moved to Blaine Lake with their parents. Jesse's father, Mr. Patterson, purchased a horse boarding stable there and rented stables to nearby horse owners while the family lived next door. One of those horses belonged to Sergeant John Wilson of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and that's how he got to know the Patterson clan.
Starting point is 00:23:45 Jesse's good-natured father figured the new Mounty might be lonely, so he invited him to Do you want to see what the world is really like? Yes. Four things is deliciously funny and spectacularly entertaining. A woman planting her course to freedom at a lot for her. It's non-stop bonkers brilliance. I love that. Four things. It's like theaters December 15th.
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Starting point is 00:26:30 It's a very odd thing. You have no idea what it's like to lose a human being on your watch. When Wendy divorce husband Gary disappeared without a trace, it was as if he'd been sucked into one of his own espionage thrillers. I had the biggest action stars in Hollywood, searching for my husband. But no one knows what happened to him, or the screenplay he was about to direct. Gary told me that this script was going to blow the lid off the CIA. From campsite media and Sony music entertainment, listen to Witness, fade to black.
Starting point is 00:27:04 The mysterious disappearance of Gary DeVore and the rise of the CIA in Hollywood. Available now wherever you get your podcasts. Thirty-year-old John Wilson accepted the dinner invitation with the Patisons. While eating, he took note of sixteen-year-old Jesse. He liked what he saw. John began spending a lot of time at the Paterson abode, developing a serious interest in Jesse despite the disturbing age gap between the two. John would later recount that up until that point,
Starting point is 00:27:46 he had his head down, working hard for the force. During all this time, I had nothing to do with girls, until the fall of 1916, when I became acquainted with Jesse Patterson. She was always so good to me, above everybody else. At first, Jesse had no clue that John was married, much less that he had two young children back in Scotland, one that he hadn't even met yet. He certainly didn't volunteer any information about his private life.
Starting point is 00:28:21 Jesse just thought he was a dashing Mounty Bachelor and was delighted by the attention he showered on her. Throughout 1917, as the grinding war in Europe continued, John and Jesse saw each other as frequently as possible. He received decent performance reviews for his work with the Royal Northwest Mounties, even earning a cash bonus for his work on a murder case. But he still really wanted to join the war effort, this time for a slightly different reason. John Wood claim he was having reservations about his relationship with Jesse and wanted to put some distance between them. Even though the army had rejected him before, he considered trying to enlist again, but
Starting point is 00:29:11 that plan was hampered when he suddenly developed tuberculosis. TB is a serious illness caused by bacteria that typically attacks the lungs. In an era before antibiotics, tuberculosis or TB was a killer, with no known cure beyond rest, sunshine, and nutritious food. John Wilson got so sick, he had to take a discharge from the Royal Northwest Mounties in late August of 1917 and because he was too weak to travel, he was forced to remain in blame lake. He stayed with the Patisons and became more reliant on young Jesse as she endeavoured to nurse him back to full health. Later she would enter nursing school and become a professional caregiver. enter nursing school and become a professional caregiver. For now, she was content to focus her healing efforts on one patient.
Starting point is 00:30:10 John would later write, I was very sick all that winter. Jesse Patterson looked after me and was very kind to me. She was absolutely pure and innocent in all this. And many nights I lay awake in bed trying to make up my mind to leave her for her sake. But I think I was not right in my mind by this time, and remained at Blaine Lake until April 1918." Pure and innocent as she might have been, Jesse was clearly as smitten with John as he was
Starting point is 00:30:42 with her, despite their age difference. But Blaine Lake was a small community, and soon rumours started to spread that former Sergeant John Wilson was actually already married. Jesse's parents confronted him about it point blank, and John fessed up with the truth, or a version of it at least. While he said he had been married, he was now divorced, and the reason he didn't say anything earlier was because he was ashamed. John added that divorce papers were on their way from Scotland, and once they arrived, he would show them to anyone who asked.
Starting point is 00:31:29 It was all nonsense, of course. John was still married to Mary, who was by this point barely getting by in Scotland. She was still working as a dressmaker, but it was hardly a well-paying occupation, and now she had two young children and a household to look after. John had kept his promise to send letters and money for some time but the money stopped coming. Friends and family helped out when they could but Mary was getting desperate and the letters John promised to write were arriving less
Starting point is 00:32:01 frequently and when he did send one home, it was often to offer Mary a bizarre excuse as to why he didn't send money to her and the kids. Mary's sister Elizabeth, a prolific writer, actually wrote about one of those letters. Once he told her he had 17 pounds ready to send her, but his horoscope buried in the snow on the way to the post office and had to be dug out. My sister quite believed that and other equally glaring lies.
Starting point is 00:32:35 She loved him and could see no wrong in him, and it was not for us to wound her by showing her his falseness. According to Elizabeth, the last letter her sister Mary received from her husband was dated April of 1917, right around the time that he first met Jesse Patterson. That letter was filled with cheerful news and a promise to return home. Mary joyously prepared the house for John's arrival, believing her family would soon be reunited, but months went by and she never received another word from him.
Starting point is 00:33:16 Mary Wilson was loyal, she was also determined and tough-minded and she was now extremely concerned, fearing her husband's silence meant he might be dead or ill. She decided to take things into her own hands and travel to Canada to find out for herself. Mary Wilson received government permission and booked her ticket. Leaving her children in Scotland to travel to Canada to look for her husband was not a decision lightly made.
Starting point is 00:33:54 Ship travel across the North Atlantic was dangerous at the best of times, and that danger was heightened as war raged on land and sea. German submarines were lying in weight, ordered to cut off supplies to France and Britain by sinking every vessel they encountered, including passenger ships. But Mary was unfazed by the risk of a German submarine attack. She departed Scotland in April of 1918. A year after she received her husband's last letter and she wanted answers. She didn't send him any kind of advanced letter or telegram to let him know that she was on her way. Perhaps, in the back of her mind, she
Starting point is 00:34:41 had an inkling that John may have been deliberately ignoring her. Whatever it was, she had to find out the answers for herself. As Mary set sail for Canada, John Wilson was starting to ruffle some feathers there. When he took his discharge from the Royal Northwest mounted police, he told them his plans were to wait until the weather started to turn cold, and then he would move to a warmer climate to recuperate from tuberculosis.
Starting point is 00:35:17 But he didn't do that. A memo from the police organization at the time states, it was later learned after taking his discharge that Wilson opened an automobile agency in Blaine Lake and did not leave the country as stated. Apparently, John Wilson's recovery from tuberculosis was not hampered by the cold weather. As soon as he felt well enough,
Starting point is 00:35:39 he had moved out of the Patterson family home, but decided to stay and blame Lake and become a car salesman. When John wasn't busy selling cars, he was taking care of other matters, like maintaining that house of cars he had built on a foundation of lies. John suggested to his secret teenage girlfriend, Jesse Patterson, that it would be nice for her to write a letter to his sister back in Scotland. He even offered to take Jesse's letter to the post office
Starting point is 00:36:13 and post it himself, helpful guy that he was. After an appropriate amount of time, Jesse received a lengthy response from John's sister, apparently written from her deathbed at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow. The letter dated March 4 of 1918 began, after this dramatic opening, John's sister heaped I could only have lived until I had seen you and John I would have died content." After this dramatic opening, John's sister heaped praise on him, describing him as a good boy and her mother's favorite child.
Starting point is 00:36:55 She also described him as a super trooper, who joined the Scottish Highlanders and made a splendid looking soldier. It used to be proud to walk down the street with him as people would turn round and look at him. He had lots of money and met friends with all the boys in his regiment. He got the gold medal for two years in succession for being the smartest soldier in the brigade. John never served in the Scottish military, but no matter the nonsense continued unabated. Apparently, John's sister really liked him. Jesse continued reading as the letter turned to John's sister disparaging Mary,
Starting point is 00:37:36 depicting her sister-in-law as a shameless gold digger from the very first second she entered John's life. One glass go holiday. John hired a pleasure steamer and took all the boys in his company on a pleasure trip. He took all the girls from a dress making shop on the trip, and that was where he met the women who ruined him. A few weeks later, he told me he was getting married. He had hardly known the girl a month, and I did not like her. I was sure she was only after his money."
Starting point is 00:38:07 John's sister wrote that he had tried to break off the engagement but alas, Mary Thretton legal action. So through Gritted Teeth, John went through with the marriage, which, according to his sister, cost him $1,000. Now, Jesse was too young and inexperienced to know that a Scottish person would never have described money in terms of dollars. Their currency was shillings and pounds. The letter continued, John's sister writing that he was miserable in his marriage to Mary,
Starting point is 00:38:41 and that the couple never indulged in any husband and wife connections. If the point was unclear, the letter went on to claim that John was not the biological father of his own son, George. Apparently, poor John came home one day to find his scheming wife in bed with another man, a devastating discovery apparently. The letter ended with John's sister making a pathetic plea. He has had a hard life, Jesse, but you are his first love, and I know he will make you happy.
Starting point is 00:39:16 He must love you very dear, or he would not give up all his property for you. He is upright and honorable, and you can trust your life to him. I can die happier now knowing that he is in your care." This letter reportedly sent from John's sister in Scotland to his mistress Jesse in Canada, had read Flag's galore, especially for anyone familiar with rural Scottish life in the early 20th century. For starters, Mary Wilson had come from a strict religious family where marriage fows were taken very seriously, so it was extremely unlikely that she would have jumped in bed with another man.
Starting point is 00:40:00 And as for John's sister, why would a person dying in hospice expend so much energy glorifying a sibling they hadn't seen in years to a girlfriend they'd never met? But as ridiculous as it was, John's forgery had Jesse fooled, and now he was on a roll. He followed up by forging an even more unbelievable letter to Jesse, this time from a Scottish reverend then in his mid-70s who knew the Wilson family well. In this letter, supposedly from Reverend Francis M. Huxwell, Jesse read that all of John siblings were now dead, which wasn't true, but tied up the loose end with a dying sister. Echoing the same details that sister had written in her letter, which of course was also forged,
Starting point is 00:40:54 the Reverend told Jesse that John was the favorite child, and his wife Mary was an awful woman. The Reverend wrote that he was willing to bend his own principles after seeing how miserable John was in that marriage. I do not usually approve of divorce, but in this case I advised John to get one long ago. The idea of an elderly Scottish minister urging a husband to ditch his wife seemed unlikely. But again, Jesse was too young and inexperienced to understand these nuances and never challenged John about whether the letters were authentic.
Starting point is 00:41:34 John's reasons for this forgery campaign soon became clear. He proposed to Jesse Patterson and she agreed to marry him. Jesse wasn't completely naive, however. She reminded her new fiancé about his promise to produce his divorce papers. John assured her they would turn up any day now. He had no idea that the woman he said he had divorced was on a ship headed for Canada to find him. Divorced papers did not arrive, but Mary Wilson did.
Starting point is 00:42:14 Her ship docked in Halifax Nova Scotia on April 12, 1918, and after she passed the requisite medical exam, she headed west to find her husband. She took a train to the Prairies, likely marveling at the immensity of the land outside her train window during the journey, and the changing terrain. But Mary Wilson was on a mission. She wasn't in Canada to sightseeing. The train took her to Regina Saskatchewan. The last place she believed her husband had been posted with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. She immediately placed a call to the local detachment, identifying herself as John Wilson's wife, who was trying to get in contact with him.
Starting point is 00:43:03 The official receiving this call checked his files and then suggested that Mary contact the Prince Albert detachment because they might have a better idea where John was. Mary hung up and prepared to make her next call. In a strange coincidence, John just happened to be hanging around the Prince Albert detachment that very day. He had recovered from tuberculosis and had opened his car dealership, but he still wanted to join the war effort. After he heard that the Mounties were forming a Calvary unit for overseas duties, John rocked
Starting point is 00:43:41 up to the Prince Albert detachment to apply, thinking he would be a shoo-in. But plenty of other men had the same idea, and the Mounties ended up with more applications than they needed. When John learned he didn't make the cut, he walked over to the office of the superintendent. As they were chatting, the phone started ringing, and the superintendent was startled to hear the person identify herself as John Wilson's long absent wife. He passed the phone over to John, who uttered a greeting before hearing the voice of his estranged wife for the first time in years. A subsequent memo from the Mounties read,
Starting point is 00:44:31 The superintendent watched as John steed himself and then made a show of appearing happy to hear from his wife. He gave Mary a very dramatic account of his bout with tuberculosis, saying he'd been so sick that it was impossible to write home. Every ounce of his strength was required to recover from the potentially deadly ailment. While Mary might have doubted this explanation, she eagerly agreed to meet. After all, she had come to Canada to find her husband and now he had been located. Mary had no idea about the existence of Jesse Patterson. All she knew was that she and John were reunited and he appeared happy to see her. The next step was them to find a place to live together. John went along with it and the pair moved into a Regina boarding house together.
Starting point is 00:45:30 But it was not a happy reunion. John mostly ignored Mary except for when he wanted sex. Before long, Mary fell pregnant with a couple's third child, and John took a new job. She had no idea that he was plotting his next move. It's fall, and you can get anything you need delivered with Uber Eats. Well almost, almost anything. So no, you can't get a maple tree on Uber Eats, but maple syrup, maple lattes, and maple bourbon.
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Starting point is 00:46:30 Product availability varies by region. See you at for details. Do you want to see what the world is really like? Yes. Four things is deliciously funny and spectacularly entertaining. A woman planting her course to free to pack in love for. It's nonstop bonkers brilliance. I love that.
Starting point is 00:46:45 Poor things. It's like theaters for December 15th. The Dominion Police was an old force founded in Canada in 1868 with a mandate to guard parliament buildings, protect government leaders, gather intelligence on enemies of the state, and later arrest counterfeiters. But in late May of 1918, the Dominion police were given a new role, in force the Controversial Military Service Act. The Canadian public generally supported the war effort, but on the ground, many were growing wary about the increasing amount of Canadian casualties, with no end to the fighting inside.
Starting point is 00:47:38 Young men were becoming decidedly unenthusiastic about signing up to go to war, so the government introduced conscription to force them. The Military Service Act required all able-bodied Canadian male citizens aged 20 to 45 to sign up for the draft, and the Dominion Police were really formulated to track down anyone who should have signed up but didn't. These people were referred to as deserters, pacifists and draft dodgers. As John Wilson learned the ropes of his new job, he penned a stream of love letters to Jesse.
Starting point is 00:48:17 He used them to garner sympathy from her, because he also had to provide some kind of explanation for his sudden absence. He wrote that he'd fall and sick again, and was in a medical tent recuperating from a lung ailment. Dearest, if only you knew how miserable it is here from your own, I chump with no one, and every night when I go to the tent, I wonder if there is any other person in this world with as few friends as I have. Jesse, I would gladly give my life any time if it would help you any.
Starting point is 00:48:52 You are all I have in this world to care for, and I love you with all my heart. You have been the kindest friend I have known since Mother died." Of course, John made no mention of the fact that he was living in Regina with his actual wife, who he had just conceived a third child with. In fact, the letters John wrote to his teenage mistress, Jessie, suggested that physical intimacy was not yet a part of their courtship. In one love note dated June 18, been, John continued to be inconsiderate and disrespectful with his wife. He never wanted to be seen
Starting point is 00:49:53 with Mary outside their apartment during the daylight hours. The way he treated her was so callous that even their boarding house landlady was shocked. According to another Royal Northwest Mounty memo, the landlady quote, John would later admit that he was a jerk, and his poor treatment of his wife was because he was struggling internally. He quote, couldn't keep away from Jesse Patterson. Mary had no idea why her husband was so moody and distant, but that was soon to change. One day after he'd hung up his coat and made himself scarce, her eye was drawn to something near his coat pocket.
Starting point is 00:50:50 There was an open letter bulging from it, practically begging Mary to read it, so she did. To her shock, it was a love note to her husband, from someone named Jesse who didn't seem to know he was married. Mary confronted John who confessed all, well, sort of. Yes, he and Jesse had a relationship, but he explained that Jesse was just a full-as-young woman who mistook friendship for love. He had no clue as to why she thought he loved her romantically. John promised Mary he would sort things out and make sure Jesse knew for sure that he was married in off
Starting point is 00:51:32 limits. Mary was hopeful for a time, but she soon found another love letter from Jesse and realized her husband had been lying. Shaken, she commiserated with their boarding-house land lady, who felt very sorry for her. That summer of 1918, Mary started to sink into a deep depression. Meanwhile, John busied himself with his duties with the Dominion police while maintaining a steady correspondence with his quote, we girl Jesse, who is now training to be a nurse in a Prince Albert hospital. In one letter, he told Jesse that his boss had praised his skill in rounding up eligible
Starting point is 00:52:18 young men who were trying to avoid the draft. When we left Regina on Tuesday, we were going to read the German wedding at Humboldt, and then come on to Prince Albert. But when we got to the dance at 11.30pm, we got only 17 of them, and found there was from 20 to 30 in the bush, so we had to wire for armed soldiers. Because John had been deemed unfit for duty multiple times, he was thrilled to be able to finally make himself useful for the war effort. In a follow-up letter to Jesse that August, he offered another disturbing anecdote.
Starting point is 00:52:57 I have to attend several big cases in the city police court on Thursday, as two of our men were trying to arrest some Germans, and the Huns used guns in evading arrest, but they are all safe under lock and key now. Jesse, you might think sometimes that I am a big silly, but dearest, I just love you with all my heart. Jesse wrote back, telling him that she was heartbroken. For starters, she wasn't feeling well, but her mother had asked her why couldn't she just marry someone else. The lack of divorce papers had become a major issue
Starting point is 00:53:34 that was driving a wedge between Jesse and her parents. Once again, she insisted that John finally produce the divorce paperwork as promised. That summer, John also wrote to his relatives back in Scotland, asking for money that he said was to buy a house for Mary and their new child. Mr. Elizabeth and her husband Archie once devastated partners in that greenhouse business fiasco generously sent John a hundred pounds, but were disappointed when he never wrote back or acknowledged it. As it turned out, no house was ever purchased. John did however buy Jesse akar, which pleased her greatly.
Starting point is 00:54:30 John actually had another opportunity to end his money troubles. He had been offered a promotion as chief inspector with a Dominion Police in Saskatoon, and it came with a $200 a month raise. In a letter to Jesse, John bragged about the possible promotion. But he decided not to take the job. John had always been obsessed with money, but in this instance he'd had a rare moment of self-reflection and decided he just wasn't qualified. He was offered another posting in Saskatoon as a sub-inspector, which he accepted.
Starting point is 00:55:12 John Wilson left his pregnant wife Mary in Regina and moved to Saskatoon. He promised her that he would buy some property and set up a home for them. And then he would arrange for her to join him there and they would start their new life together. He also wrote a creepy follow-up note to his mistress, Jesse, referring to the then 18-year-old as his little girl and promising to buy her a lady's gun. Sergeant John Wilson did not excel as a sub inspector for the Dominion Police for several reasons. For one, he was boozing openly on the job. He'd always liked a good drink, but his escalating
Starting point is 00:56:00 alcohol habits had been noted by many of his colleagues. They also noticed that when John collected fines from men who violated the Military Service Act, those fines had a way of vanishing before making their way to the Central Bookkeeper. If John was aware that his colleagues were on to him, it did not change his actions. And he remained love-struck, penning countless letters to Jesse and Prince Albert where she was nursing. And one, he mentioned the possibility of buying a wee cottage for the two of them once they were married. When he wrote to his pregnant wife Mary back in Regina, John mused about getting a nice
Starting point is 00:56:44 three-roomed house for their growing family. There was no mention about their two eldest children back in Scotland, though. Finally, Mary received the letter she was waiting for. John was ready for her to join him in Saskatoon. He asked her to catch a train north to the town of Colonce, about 70 kilometers away from Saskatoon where he would be waiting for her. Because Mary was by this point about six months pregnant, John told her to leave her
Starting point is 00:57:23 luggage behind in Regina, and they'll have it sent later. He also had some advice for her. As you remember, Mary was known as Polly to close friends and family. You will need to wear warm clothes, Polly, as it is called driving, but it is not so very bad in the car, and that will be better than you waiting for me in Regina and wearing your lifehide. I remain your loving husband, John. A week before Mary was to catch the train, John took his new car, the grey dought, in
Starting point is 00:57:59 for servicing. The morning of September 27, the day that Mary was to catch the train from Regina, he suddenly contacted her by phone with a last minute change. He asked her not to get off the train at Colonce station, but instead continue on and get off at Saskatoon station. Mary agreed. John spent the morning at the office and then headed to a retailer called Wheatley Brothers, described in the 1915 Saskatoon directory as jewelers and opticians
Starting point is 00:58:35 and issuers of marriage licenses. John had no interest in gems or glasses. He wanted the marriage license. He told the clerk he was an unmarried bachelor and wrote the name Jesse Patterson on the form as his wife to be. With the marriage license in his pocket, John got back in his grey dought and drove to the Saskatoon train station, where his real wife Mary would soon be pulling up in a train. He had already written to her to let her know that they wouldn't be driving straight to their new home in Saskatoon. He said they had one pit stop to make first so he could take care of some police business. The next morning at around 5 a.m., a farmer located about 50 kilometers north of Saskatoon near the sleepy hamlet of Waldden was just waking up.
Starting point is 00:59:45 His name was Isaac Newfeld, and something caught his eye when he glanced out the window. There was a thick plume of smoke in the distance. He went about his business only to have a stranger start banging on his door around 5.30 a.m. He opened the door to a tall, bedraggled man who seemed dazed and reaked of smoke. The stranger asked for a glass of water, and after gulping it down, he said, That damned car bon don't. He blurted out his tail of woe, which apparently started earlier that morning. He said it'd been driving along a dark country road when his car suddenly caught on fire.
Starting point is 01:00:29 He said he'd steered the car towards a bank at the side of the road, figuring there might be some water in the bank that could extinguish the flames. But instead, the car became embedded in earth and weeds, so he had to abandon it to get help. He walked up the road to the nearest farmhouse, and here he was. The farmer wasn't quite sure what to make of this. He would say that this stranger acted kind of like he was drunk or had been drinking. The man appeared to be alone, and didn't mention that there was anyone else with him.
Starting point is 01:01:08 Isaac was wary but gave him the benefit of the doubt and agreed to accompany him to the crash site, a kind gesture given how busy area farmers were. He would recall that as they walked down the road, the stranger seemed kind of nervous. About half a mile down, they came across a smashed and still burning gray dorde. Here's how Isaac would describe it as noted in a police report. Car was on wheels, but one wheel, the front one, was broken. All seats and a poultry were burned and windshield broken.
Starting point is 01:01:46 There is some brush nearby. Grass about one and a half feet high in the culvert. Top of car was not up. He said he was in the car when it went over the grade. He was not hurt, apparently. I saw no blood around where he might have cut his hands. His hands were all right. He said his overcoat was burned.
Starting point is 01:02:04 The smoke from the car fire began attracting more people, including some farm laborers from nearby who showed up to Gork and find out what happened. One of them would say, We asked the owner of the car how he got in that position, and he said he looked round to the back of the car and saw fire and at that time accidentally switched off the grade. I saw the tracks where he switched off. The tracks for about a half a mile down the road south were going all zigzag across the road.
Starting point is 01:02:32 The zigzags on the road were large and showed he was going awful fast. It didn't go unnoticed that the man originally told Farmer Isaac Newfeld that he intentionally steered off the road. He clearly wasn't thinking straight, and they would all tell the police that he acted as if he were drunk. They watched as the man went to a part of the car that wasn't on fire, grabbed a spade, and babbled as he started tossing shovel falls of dirt on the blaze to smother it. He informed those gathered that he was a member of the Dominion Police in Saskatoon, and as for the cause of the car fire, he stated that he must have put too much gas in the tank
Starting point is 01:03:16 back in town, and the fuel that dribbled out then combusted. The farmers didn't buy it. They might have been considered simple rural folk, but they were observant witnesses who quickly picked up on this Dominion Police Office's weird behavior and inconsistent recollections. One of the farm laborers would tell police that the story didn't seem reasonable or believable. At that time, Isaac Newfell's brother Jack, another farmer who lived nearby, drove up in a car and joined the group. He'd been drawn over by the smoke still billowing into the air.
Starting point is 01:03:58 He got out of his car and walked over to the dramatic scene. A man furiously shoveling dirt on a burning vehicle. He recognized that man. It was Sergeant John Wilson, one of five Dominion police officers who dropped into his place about a week earlier asking for gas, saying they'd come from Blaine Lake, and here he was again with his car burning. Despite the weird stories and behaviour, Jack knew fell generously invited the sergeant over for breakfast. John put his shovel down, grabbed a suitcase and shotgun from the vehicle, John slammed open the car door, stumbled out and threw up on the lawn. The farmer noticed his face was white and he looked pretty sick, but he soon rited himself and they went inside for breakfast.
Starting point is 01:05:00 John told the farmer he had to get to blame Lake as soon as possible to testify at a trial. There was no trial. He wanted to get married as soon as possible to his secret teenage fiancé. Jack knew Phil'd agreed to help him out and give him a ride, possibly to get rid of him. The farmer brought along four of his older children, all six of them packing into the vehicle for what must have been an animated drive to blame Lake. On the way, Jack's adult daughter Katie blanced at John Wilson's satchel and saw some stains that she instantly recognized as being blood. She asked him how they got there.
Starting point is 01:05:46 He told her he'd killed some geese. Back at the crash site, some of the farm laborers had also heard John mention something about goose hunting and tossing a trophy bird in the car. They would tell police that when they glanced inside the burning car, they saw some shotgun shells and a suitcase on the back seat. But none of them saw or smelled any sign of a dead bird. We'll continue to unravel this story in part 2, starting from when John Wilson is drop
Starting point is 01:06:29 off and blame Lake and what he does next. And back in Scotland, what Mary's family decides to do when they notice she has suddenly gone radio silent. All comments and dialogue were real, thanks to Scottish voice actor Paul Warren who provided the voice for Sergeant John Wilson. And Jesse Hawke, our production assistant, just happens to be Scottish and agreed to voice the letters written by Mary Sister Elizabeth. Special thanks to them both.
Starting point is 01:07:01 Heart2 will be released to all in a week, and if you're subscribed to one of our premium feeds, it's available ad-free right now on Amazon Music included with Prime, Apple Podcast, Patreon and Supercast. For more information and for the full list of resources we relied on to write this series, visit The podcast o'naped monthly to those facing injustice. This month we have donated to women's shelters Canada, an organization that supports over 600 shelters across the country for women and children fleeing violence. You can find a shelter near you by going to
Starting point is 01:07:45 Special thanks to Danielle Parody for research and Nate Henley for additional research and writing. Check out Nate's highly regarded true crime books, including The Beatles Bandit, which won the Crime Writers of Canada award of Excellence for Nonfiction. There's a link in the show notes. Audio editing was by Nico from the Inky Paul Print, aka We Talk of Dreams, who also composed the theme songs. Production assistance was by Jesse from the Inky Paul Print, with script consulting by Carol Weinberg, script editing, additional research and writing, and sound design was by me and the disclaimer
Starting point is 01:08:26 was voiced by Eric Crosby. We'll be back in a week with part two. See you then. you

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