Tag Archives: British Columbia

GILBERT PAUL JORDAN—THE “BOOZING BARBER” SERIAL KILLER

A5The term “serial killer” makes us think of hi-profile monsters like Ted Bundy, who beat and strangled his victims, or the Zodiac Killer, who shot most with a gun. There’s Clifford Olson who used a hammer. Jack The Ripper who liked his knife. And Willie Pickton who drugged his ladies, cut them apart with an electric Sawzall, then fed their pieces to his pigs.

By nature, serial killers follow a specific Modus Operandi—an M.O. peculiar to their wares. Some strangle, some shoot, some smash, and some slash. But the most unique and unsuspecting method of serial killing I’ve heard of came from Gilbert Paul Jordan, aka the “Boozing Barber”, who got his victims comatose drunk then finished them off by pouring straight vodka down their throats. He intentionally alcohol-poisoned at least nine women—possibly dozens more.

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Gilbert Jordan was a monster from the 1980’s operating in the Down Town East Side of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Today, the skid row DTES of Vancouver is still one of the most dangerous, crime and drug-ridden inner cities of the world. In the DTES, the most popular drug of choice is still alcohol—ethanol as it’s known in the coroner and toxicologist world.

A6Jordan was born in 1931 and started a crime career in his twenties by kidnapping and raping a five-year-old aboriginal girl. He beat the charges and went on to commit more sexual assaults including abducting a woman from a mental institute and raping her, too. Jordan bounced in and out of jail. He continued to prey on the helpless and downtrodden, especially alcoholic women from the First Nations culture. Gilbert Jordan, himself, became a raging alcoholic and consumed over fifty ounces of vodka per day.

Jordan learned barbering skills while in prison. Between jail sentences, he set up a barber shop on East Hastings Street in the heart of Vancouver’s DTES, being a regular fixture in the seedy bar scene. He blended easily and was not at all intimidating—short, stocky, balding, with thick glasses.

Jordan was a well-known mark for buying vulnerable aboriginal women drinks and he’d take them from the bars to his barber shop or a room which he kept in a derelict hotel. Here they’d party till they passed out. It’s estimated that hundreds of women binge drank with Jordan during his spree from 1980 to 1987.

Overdose deaths in the DTES were common.

A7The majority were intravenous drug users, many having a lethal toxin level amplified with mixed use of ethanol. It’s still that way today. But overdose deaths from ethanol consumption alone are rare. Usually, heavy drinkers reach a blood-ethanol limit where they pass out—long before ethanol effects shut down their central nervous system. The few deaths from ethanol alone are almost always caused by an unconscious victim aspirating on vomit—not from reaching a lethal blood-ethanol-content. A BEC of 0.35% (35mg of ethanol per 100 milliliters of blood) is considered the start of the lethal range. Note that 0.08% is the standard for drunk driving.

During Jordan’s run, there were increasingly suspicious amounts of aboriginal women deaths from shockingly high BEC. They included:

  1. Ivy Rose — 0.51
  2. Mary Johnson — 0.44
  3. Barbara Paul — 0.47
  4. Mary Johns — 0.76
  5. Patricia Thomas — 0.51
  6. Patricia Andrew — 0.79
  7. Vera Harry — 0.49
  8. Vanessa Buckner — 0.50
  9. Edna Slade — 0.55

A8When Edna Slade was found dead in Gilbert Jordan’s hotel room, and it became apparent Jordan was the common denominator in many similar deaths, Vancouver Police put Jordan under surveillance. From October 12th to November 26th, 1987, VPD observed Jordan “search out native Indian women in the skid row area of Vancouver and take them back to his hotel room for binge-drinking”.

VPD officers listened from outside Jordan’s door and recorded him saying phrases like “Have a drink. Down the hatch, baby. Twenty bucks if you drink it right down. See if you’re a real woman. Finish that drink. Down the hatch, hurry, right down. You need another drink. I’ll give you fifty bucks if you can take it right down. I’ll give you ten, twenty, fifty dollars. Whatever you want. Come on, I want to see you get it all down. Get it right down.

On four occasions during the surveillance, police intervened and remove the comatose victims to the hospital.

A9Gilbert Jordan was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Vanessa Buckner. The prosecution used similar fact evidence from the other eight identified deaths. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. This was reduced to nine years on appeal and he served only six. When Jordan was paroled in 1994, he went right back to the business of stalking alcoholic aboriginal women. He was being watched by VPD and immediately sent back to prison for parole violation and an additional sexual assault. He served out his sentenced but was released in 2000, again returning to a life of chronic alcoholism and serial predation.

Gilbert Jordan, the Boozing Barber, died of the disease called alcoholism in 2006.

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Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, has been used by humans for thousands of years for its relaxation effect of euphoria and lowering social inhibitions. Drinking ethanol is widely accepted around the western world and is an enormous economic force.

A12Ethanol abuse is a contributing factor in untold tragedies.

Despite ethanol’s popularity as a social interactor, the medical pathophysiology considers any amount of BEC to be clinically poisonous. Ethanol is metabolized by the liver at a rate of about 50 ml (1.7 fluid ounce) per 90 minutes. That’s like two beers or one 9-ounce glass of wine every hour and a half. Drink more than you can absorb and you’ll get drunk. Wake up still drunk and you’re hung-over.

A13The acute effects of an ethanol overdose vary according to many factors. The body mass and tolerance to the drug are primary as is the rate of consumption. Ultimately, acute ethanol poisoning depresses the body’s central nervous system, causing the respiratory system to shut down and the victim asphyxiates.

These are the average symptomatic presentations of ethanol poisoning in relation to BEC:

  • 02 – 0.07% — Intoxication and euphoria
  • 08 – 0.19% — Ataxia (loss of body control ), poor judgment, labile mood
  • 20 – 0.29% — Advanced ataxia, extremely poor judgment, nausea
  • 30 – 0.35% — Stage 1 anesthesia, memory collapse
  • 35 – 0.39% — Comatose
  • 40 +             — Respiratory failure, sudden death

A14In my time as a police officerthen as a coronerI attended lots of deaths where ethanol was a contributing factor. Very few were acute ethanol poisoning deaths, though. Many were mixed drug overdoses, especially mixing booze with prescription pills. Then there were suffocating on puke cases, suicides while pissed, fatal motor vehicle crashes driven by drunks, and violent homicides done during ethanol-fueled anger and inebriation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not slamming the social use of ethanol. I’ve been around the booze scene my whole life and still enjoy decent wine and good scotch, although I’ve never had a taste for beer.

A15I grew up in a socio-economic environment where rampant alcoholism was common. It was accepted. Grant RobertsonI worked with Grant in my teensGrant was proud of his breathalyzer certificate proving he was caught behind the wheel at a 0.44% BEC. True story. I saw the paper. Grant was a die-hard—a chronic alcoholic with forty years of practice. I don’t think Grant ever went below two-five.

As a young cop, I brought an old guy in for a blow. I couldn’t tell if he was drunk but he’d caused a minor car accident and slightly smelled of liquor. Legally, I had to demand a breathalyzer test. He pushed the needle to a 0.36% and I’ll never forget the breathalyzer operator’s remark “You’re no stranger to alcohol, are you?

People have different tolerances to ethanol. And different physiological responses.

A16I’ve worked with cops who were drunk on duty, seen judges half-cut on the bench, had my pilot pass out before time to depart, and I’ve woken in places unknown. I’ve had countless laughs, spent way too much money on time pissed away, and have stories from nights in the bars.

But I still can’t get clipped in my buddy Dave’s chair without thinking of Gilbert Paul Jordan, the “Boozing Barber” Serial Killer of the Down Town East Side of Vancouver.

BEAUTY IN YOUR BACKYARD

IMG_0332Nanaimo is a small city of 80,000 on the east side of Vancouver Island – twenty miles across the Pacific Ocean from Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. Nanaimo is also called The Harbour City. It’s one of the most beautiful settings in the world and it’s my backyard.

IMG_0339From my sunroom windows, where I love to write, I look over Nob Hill Park and Nanaimo’s inner harbour. In the distance are snow-capped coastal mountains, the Gulf Islands, and the happening city of Vancouver in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.

This morning I took a walk around my neighbourhood. It’s in Nanaimo’s old city section and the downtown waterfront. I do this every day that I can, but today was such a gorgeous explosion of spring that I took out my iPhone and began snapping shots. The idea popped-in that I’d share this with you.

IMG_0576Across the street from my front door I cut through Nob Hill Park. It was developed in the 1800’s when Nanaimo was a booming coal and lumber town. Thankfully, they preserved this little gem which is the rocky, high-point of downtown. It’s dotted in huge Douglas Firs, Garry Oaks, Big-leaf Maples, and Flowering Dogwoods. Twenty years ago this was a dangerous place where hookers turned tricks, junkies shot-up, and one vicious murder that I remember. Today there’s moms pushing toddlers on swings, dogs running free, and teenagers smoking pot in fresh ocean air.

Heading down Old Victoria Road, I passed the old firehall. It’s now a trendy grille that serves the best sushi ever. Outside, on the boulevard, a stop-in-your-tracks trio of Dogwoods blooms full. They’re British Columbia’s official tree and you can see why.

IMG_0445Rounding Victoria Crescent, I passed daffodils, tulips, rhododendrons, and flowering cherries. The old Cambie hotel on the left was open early and slinging beer, but the Queens on the right waited a crowd come the night.

The usual street suspects appeared.

I see them every day and nick-named some. Mister Mann is out for a stroll. Lifer was talking to Osama Bin Ladin. As a cop who put him away, I supported Lifer’s early release – he’s on life parole for 2nd degree murder. I don’t know Osama’s story, but he looks for all the world like the guy who the Seals smoked in Abbottabad. Gary strummed his guitar and talked to himself and some new kid squatted with cap out for money. None of them bothered anybody.

IMG_0519I started the China Steps, passing The Thirsty Camel which has a Middle-Eastern bench outside made of dried straw and horseshit. Serious. There was a face I hadn’t seen in a while, so I stopped and asked her what’s up.  Vivian had all her worldly possessions in a folded cart; two leashed cats attached. She called herself an educated poor person with a Bachelor of Science but suffered depression. I gave her 10 bucks for breakfast.

Commercial Street made me smile. On the west are buildings from the turn of last century, perfectly preserved. On the east – the new Conference Center where they did an architectural masterpiece blending new with old. The street was bustling with people. Sidewalk café’s served eggs bennies with hash-browns and Serious Coffee at the museum had long lineups.

rsz_img_0457Diana Krall Plaza is tributed to… Diana Krall, the world famous jazz musician who still calls Nanaimo home. Intriguing wood and metal sculptures resembling piano key strikers mixed into planters with flowers and palm trees. Tourists and locals sat drinking coffee, reading books, and scanning newspapers.

 

IMG_0488A roar of a Harley with strait-pipes turned my head. I followed him up to The Palace Hotel, wondering if he had Hell’s Angels colours. We’ve got a chapter in Nanaimo, but most of the bikers are old and decrepit like The Palace itself. He parked his bike and got off. Nope, no death-head backpatch, but he swore in disgust, then picked garbage from the sidewalk and stuffed it in a black, metal trash can.

I passed the Flying Fish, where you can spend half your day and half your fortune, the Modern Café which reflects the 50’s, the Elephant Room, and at the end of the street, Nanaimo’s showpiece – the Great National Land Building – constructed of local sandstone and brick.

IMG_0541Ahead was St. Pauls Anglican church and the cenotaph which honors the dead from two world wars, Korea, and thankfully no one from Afghanistan. A block up – the old courthouse where the police and sheriffs hosted an open house. I looked at the second floor and thought back to testifying in that majestic, old room with maple panelling, stained glass, and royal-red carpets. A hundred years ago prisoners were sentenced to death in that court. I looked east and saw Gallows Point on Protection Island. No need to wonder the name.

IMG_0549I scooted down concrete stairs and onto the seawall. Float planes noisily came and went. Ferries busted wakes in glass-calm water with trips to nearby islands and Vancouver. Boats of all sizes and prices were there. Tugboats and seineboats. Sailboats and rowboats. Gillnetters, crab fishers, prawners, and trollers. Dragonboats practised races. Pleasure boats headed out. A research vessel and a multi-million dollar executive yacht tied themselves a float.

rsz1_img_0470The seawall gathers people. Coffeshops, nicknacks, clothing stores, and restaurants. Old couples walked hand-in-hand, dad’s pushed strollers, and dogs walked bent on a purpose. Troller’s fish & chips, a floating eatery, shouted the smell of deep-fried halibut, cod, and fresh salmon.

Nanaimo’s waterfront experience is far more than material. It’s the sights and sounds of the wildlife.

IMG_0397In Maffeo-Sutton Park a family of river otters gorged on Dungenous crab, looked-on by harbour seals and a big ol’ Stellar sea lion who was pissed-off about something. Squawks of freeloading gulls were backed by conspiring calls of common crows. Canada geese honked from a low-tide beach, cautiously watched by a Great Blue Heron. Topping off was twitters of hundreds of songbirds and a fluttering fly-by of a Belted Kingfisher.

IMG_0605I circled Cameron Island, the signature waterfront residential development where condos range from 300 to a million. Across Front Street was Port Place, the new shopping plaza with all you can need. Following the sidewalk at McGregor park, I saw new sculptures near the town clock – stained glass and stainless steel in the shape of some waves. Fitting.

IMG_0479The Bastion was ahead. It’s Nanaimo’s historical prize, even ahead of Nanaimo Bars and the annual bathtub race. Built in 1853 as a Hudson’s Bay Trading Company post it was recently disassembled, refitted, and now better than new. Some jackass wrote into the local paper fearful they’d never be able to get it back together. Maybe he should’ve checked that they’d numbered the pieces.

IMG_0591Coal is what started Nanaimo.

You’d never know it from up here, but there’s a labyrinth of tunnels and shafts down below, hacked by pick and shovel in 100 years of mining the fossil fuel of the day. So much of Nanaimo’s history started with coal and it’s still with us today – Chinatown, collieries, coffins, and certified trade unions.

I crossed the Bastion bridge over Terminal Avenue and hiked up Fitzwilliam Street to the Heritage Mews in the Old City Quarter. More coffee shops, dress stores, shoes, lingerie, and a  clairvoyant named Yvonne giving readings.

IMG_0578Across the street was the Oxidental Hotel, a beer swilling joint with an excellent selection of wine for such a small store. I headed east, down the weeded tracks of the derelict Esquimalt and Nanaimo railroad, and up to J.H. Malpass’s corner store that displays produce on sidewalk stands just like back when it was built.

Now a minute from home, I reached the crest of Prideaux Street and looked past the magnificent mansion that one of the early mine managers built and overtop of downtown – across the blue sea with freighters, ferries, and cruise ships – taking in 12,000 foot peaks of the Coastal Mountain Range.

NanaimoKey in hand, and a half hour later, I unlocked my front door. I looked at Nob Hill. Kids swung on swings, dogs sniffed at stuff, and I went in with a cup of coffee from the Mews to write this in my sunroom. Here’s more photos of my beautiful backyard in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada.

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Note:  iPhone images may appear sideways on mobile and tablet applications

Great National Land Building

Great National Land Building

Commercial Street

Commercial Street

Flowering Dogwoods

Flowering Dogwoods

Old Firehouse - Best Sushi Ever

Old Firehouse – Best Sushi Ever

Harbour Seal

Harbour Seal

Heritage Mews

Heritage Mews

Maffeo-Sutton Park with SwyLana Lagoon

Maffeo-Sutton Park with SwyLana Lagoon

Harbour Tugs

Harbour Tugs

Thirsty Camels Straw  Horseshit Bench

Thirsty Camels Straw Horseshit Bench

Old City Quarter and The Heritage Mews

Old City Quarter and The Heritage Mews

Palm Trees In Diana Krall Plaza

Palm Trees In Diana Krall Plaza

The Polar Bear Winters In Nanaimo

The Polar Bear Winters In Nanaimo

Historic Commercial Street

Historic Commercial Street

Dave, My Barber, Knows Everything Going On Downtown

Dave, My Barber, Knows Everything Going On Downtown

St. Pauls Anglican Church

St. Pauls Anglican Church

The Cenotaph - Monument to Nanaimos War Dead

The Cenotaph – Monument to Nanaimos War Dead

The Gusola Block - Nanaimos Flatiron Building

The Gusola Block – Nanaimos Flatiron Building

Trollers Fish n Chips

Trollers Fish n Chips

Cameron Island Luxury Condos

Cameron Island Luxury Condos

Commercial Street

Commercial Street

Huge Douglas Firs In Nob Hill Park

Huge Douglas Firs In Nob Hill Park

Port Place Shopping Center

Port Place Shopping Center

The Oxy

The Oxy

Downtown Old Beside New

Downtown Old Beside New

Garry Oaks - Only Place In The World They Grow

Garry Oaks – Only Place In The World They Grow

Home At Nob Hill Park

Home At Nob Hill Park