The Mysterious death of Janet Smith

Updated: Jan 12

Janet Smith


Location: Vancouver, BC

Year: 1924

This is the case of Janet Kennedy Smith, born in Perth Scotland on June 25, 1902. Janet was the daughter of Arthur Mitchell Tooner and Johanna Benzies, Arthur was a Railway Firemen, this gave Janet a modest childhood.

The family moved to London when she was 11 years old, this is where she completed her education and received a certificate to become a nursemaid.

In January 1923, Doreen and Frederick Lefevre Baker, Canadians who lived in Kensington, hired Janet as their nursemaid to care for their newborn baby.

When the Baker family moved to Paris, Janet went with them. In October that year, the Baker family made the decision to move back to Vancouver, BC.

Janet chose to move to Canada with the Baker family with the promise of a monthly salary of $30 and a return ticket home at the end of her employment.

- $30 in 1923 is he equivalent to $472 today.

They lived in a house on the West End, this area was richer than Janet was accustomed to. There was a park nearby called Stanley Park, near her new home and she took the baby for walks there very often.


According to her journal, she enjoyed meeting Vancouver’s available bachelor’s at these outings. These encounters soon brought on relationships that tend to be flirtatious, but some became serious.

Janet wrote in her journal regularly and has many entries. Biographi.ca described some entries to be quite dramatic; and example would be “Heavenly night, immense moon and nobody nice to love me” others were quite cryptic, for example “I suppose I will always play with fire. I expect that is what the fortune teller meant when she said I have a girdle of Venus.”

In May 1924, the Bakers, for some reason moved into Fredericks brothers home. Richard Plunkett Baker, he lived in the Elite Shaughnessy Heights neighborhood of Point Grey. I would just like to add, Point Grey was not a part of Vancouver until 1929. It does not state why the family moved in with Richard but of course Janet made the move with them.


This is when Ms. Smith met Richards 25 years old houseboy, called Wong Foon Sing. Mr. Sing seemed to have developed an interest in Janet but it had not been mutual. Her diary states that he would regularly shower her with gifts as much as he could, for example he gave her a silk Nightdress. It also states that she was fully aware of the effect she had on Mr. Sing. She absolute enjoyed the attention she received from men. I mean, she was only 22 years old, in a new country with men swooning over her.


Wong Foon Sing


The morning of the 26th of July 1924 is when everything changed. Mr. Sing and Janet were the only people at the house at the time. Mr. Sing claims he heard a loud pop and assumed it was a car back firing, he looks outside but doesn’t see any vehicles on the road. He then searches the house and finds Janet Smiths lifeless body next to the ironing board.

There are two different descriptions on where Smith was shot. One claims it was shot in her right temple and the other says it was directly above her right eye but both stated there was a 45. Caliber revolver near her right hand.

Wong then phones Frederick Baker to inform him of this gruesome discovery. Mr. Baker went straight to the house to confirm that Smith was in fact dead, and then proceeded to contact the Point Grey Police department. The gun found near Janet was owned by Richard Baker, the owner of the house. At the time of the incident, Richard and Blanche were vacationing in Europe.

Point Grey Police constable James Green arrives at the house and picks up the revolver, making it impossible to obtain fingerprints. I checked if fingerprint testing was a thing back in the 20s in Canada and it sure was.

Undertakers then came to do their job and were requested by both the police and coroner to embalm the body, which would remove more possible clues to what actually happened. They also didn’t test for signs of sexual assault and the embalmment would remove any evidence. Don’t come for me but according to Wikipedia, this was the undertakers first time he embalmed a victim of a violent crime without an autopsy prior the embalmment. He did find unexplained burns on her right side.

Dr. Hunter, had in fact been hired on to conduct an autopsy and he did the best he could after an embalmment. Although, the Doctor found no bullet, no powder burns on her face, and the fact that her scalp had been partially removed from her skull and her cranium cracked. According the Forbidden Vancouver, it would have made more sense if she died from a blow to the head rather than from a bullet. The police also did not find any blood or brain matter on the floor or on the walls. With all of this evidence, they still called it a “self-inflicting but accidental death.”

Although Dr. Hunter vocalized his concerns regarding his findings, the jury believed that Janet Smith’s death was an accident. The partially removed scalp and cracked cranium were explained away by Smiths head hitting the laundry tub when she accidentally shot herself and fell to the ground.

Ms. Smith was then buried at the Mountain view cemetery on the 30th of July, I was not able to confirm this date though.

But boy this was only the beginning..

Janes friends, two of which were also Shaughnessy nurse maids didn’t think that she has accidentally shot herself and stated that she was uncomfortable around Mr. Sing, who had showed quite a bit of interests towards Ms. Smith.

They believed this strongly that they contacted the Vancouver's United Council of Sottish Societies (who had been newly established in British Columbia) and a Presbyterian church leader for their aid.

This leader, reverend Duncan McDougall was apparently a xenophobic, and fanatical preacher who spoke against elites, Catholics, Jewish people, and was in support of the KluKluxKlan within his church, according to Forbidden Vancouver.ca. McDougall contacted the Scottish Societies and convinced them that one of their own had been brutally murdered.

The Scottish Society then contacted Provincial Attorney General, Alexander Malcom Manson by telegram with the demand to reopen this case.

Attorney General Manson then hired an Inspector Forbes Cruikshank to work on the case. Cruikshank then recruited private detective Oscar Robinson to find some more information on Mr. Sing.

Robinson followed Sing and learned his daily routine. On the evening of August 12, 1924 he had met a couple of friends out in public when a black car pulls up and two men got out and grabbed Sing. He was then brought to Robinsons Detective bureau where Wong was questioned and was beaten throughout the night, but is story didn’t change and they released him.

While all these people were getting involved on the case, articles were being published by the Vancouver Star , talking about out how bizarre Janes death was and the obvious inadequate work from the police, it also pointed to Mr. Sing for being responsible to her death.




There was a lot of rumors, hearsay and speculations being used as fact.

Because of all the attention this brough on, there was a lot of pressure from the public. This led to Ms. Smiths body being exhumed on August 28, 1924 and started a second investigation in September.

It was brought to court once again and the jury found that Janet Smit had in fact been murdered. The Scottish Society really pushed the government to keep investigating to find the murderer.

Ok so this next part is uncomfortable for me to talk about..

The Scottish Society campaigned for Vancouver MLA Mary Ellen Smith to introduce a legislation to prevent employers from hiring white women and oriental people as employees within the same household.


In November, she introduced the “Janet Smith bill.”

BUT it didn’t stick, a large newspaper called “The Vancouver Province” stated that i

t went against the Anglo-Japanese Treaty from 1911 (which is there to prevent discriminatory legislation against Japanese) and that the British Columbia legislature didn’t even have the authority to pass it. It failed after its second reading.

You would think that’s the last crazy thing to happen, but you’d be wrong!

Interests gradually started dying down from the public and newspapers until March 10, 1925. So this is almost a year after Janet Smiths death.

Mr. Sing was kidnapped for a second time!

A group of men wearing KKK robes walked into Richard Bakers home and kidnapped Ms. Sing. He was then tortured for 6 whole weeks, with the attempt to get a confession out of him, but Mr. Sing didn’t break and on May 1st they finally released him but soon after, it doesn’t state how long, he was arrested for the murder of Janet Smith.



At trial, he was defended by a prominent lawyer who had been appointed to him by the Chinese Benevolent Association.

Due to lack of evidence, the case was thrown out in October 1925. Sing then went back to work at the Bakers household where Janet Smith died over a year ago but he moved to Hong Kong or Chiba in 1926.

But yet this is still not the end…

Remember the second Kidnapping?

They were discovered to be 3 prominent officials of the Scottish Society, a detective sergeant, 2 Point Grey Police commissioners and the chief of Police. 3 of these men were imprisoned for their role but the rest were acquitted.

And the Attorney General, Manson knew were Ms. Sing was the whole time of the abduction but did absolutely nothing because e hoped the men would succeed on getting a confession and solving the case. Needless to say, after tis information came out. His whole career was destroyed and I would hope so!

One theory that I kept coming across was that Ms. Smith was R word and murdered by a wealthy philanderer (playboy) during a party the Baker family was hosting and that he paid off the authorities to cover it up.

To be honest with everything the police did, I think this is more believable than Mr. Sing.

But then I think about the loud bang he heard, that was in the morning, not the evening time.

And that is the Unsolved Murder of Janet Smith


References

The Death of Janet Smith - (forbiddenvancouver.ca)

http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/smith_janet_kennedy_15E.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Smith_case#cite_note-5

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/26318176/janet-kennedy-smith






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