Let me tell you a true story that happened in 1936. My Mom remembers this tragedy of so well. I will read from a bookby Dan Soucoup called Looking Back. If you ever go to the library see if they have it.
“This happened in a place called Pacific Junction in Westmorland County New Brunswick Canada. It is a true story.In 1936 there were about 12 families living around there and before winter’s end this little backwood community would be the scene of one of New Brunswick worst murders a brutal and senseless affair.
On a late Monday morning in early January a Mister Blakeney stopped chopping wood to go have dinner at
The home of Philip Lake who lived nearby. But when he got to the Lake yard all he could see was ashes and the remains of a fire that happened the night before.The burned body of Lake was found near the doorsill and as Mister Blakeney hurried down the snow beaten trail to the railway office, the frozen body of Philip Lake’s wife Bertha and her 20 month old daughter Jackie lay in the cold snow. The station master, the RCMP and the CNR police were all certain of one fact that murder and probably arson were commited.
The tracks in the snow went different ways but at least one set of footprints led to the Bannister home in Berry Mills where the previous day one of the Bannister Boys was seen walking along the railroad track
Going towards Pacific Junction. A mitten was found along the snow trail and when confronted at his home
Daniel Bannister age 20 claimed the lost mitten..After, his younger brother Arthur admitted to have been
On a drinking party at the Lakes on the fateful night. Both Bannister boys were arrested for murder after police were convinced that not two but three sets of footprints led from Pacific Junction to the Bannister house.,a sister Frances Bannister was also arrested and held as a material witness.
Click on the image to go to the postcard . I thought it was fitting for this story. If you don’t see a picture go to my greeting cards and postcards at
During the questioning the Bannisters offered the story of accidental fight and fire. Yet the investigating
Officers didn’t buy their stories. Even the newspapers saw the crime as cut and dried.
However , a small detail seemed out of place which let to another full blown investigation. There were only
3 bodies accounted for whereas the Lakes had two children. The youngest Lake child was still missing.
What rocked the RCMP and the entire city of Moncton was news from a Bannister neighbour was that a baby was inside the Bannister household and had been there since the day after the murders.
At first Mae Bannister the mother \said it was her baby until Mister Blakeney identified a birthmark in the
Baby’s hair as that of the missing baby of the Lakes. Mae admitted that her daughter Frances had brought the baby home from the burning Lake’s home. Despite Mae’s lies and stories a clear case of kidnapping became evident and the motive was soon established as investigators revealed that Mae was in the process
Of blackmailing a number of men claiming that the child had been fathered by them and they had to pay support. The packed courtroom was stunned when the charges were read to Mae Bannister.
“By procuring between Jan 4 and Jan 8 1936, without lawful authority seize an infant child,known as Betty Lake within Canada. Mae Bannister was sent to Dorchester to stand tried beginning Feb 25 on kidnapping and abduction.
Meanwhile xrays on Philip Lake showed he had been shot before his house was burned. And a broken 22 rifle had been found in the snow at Pacific Junction. A murder confession was take from Daniel Bannister and his sister Frances admitted she had been standing outside the Lake house on the evening of Jan.2 and was handed a baby by her brother after shots had been fired in the house.With these shocking details now
Public one of New Brunswicks most sensational murder cases began to take place in lake February of 1936 in Dorchester. Lawyer for the defense was a savvy operator and tried everyway he could to get his clients off. Since this was the first Dorchester murder trial since that of the Sullivan murders back in 1896, Dorchester was flocked my many spectators and in the courthouse it was standing room only.
Both Bannister Boys were tried separately as was the mother Mae,and while the defense lawyer argued that
The crown council had failed to prove evidence existed that pointed to an actual individual murder, the crown simply pointed out that the existence of the Lake baby provided the motive for the entire criminal case. “ In that baby was the motive for the entire affair. The motive was to kidnap the Lake baby”.At Arthur Bannister ‘s trial the judge told the jury “there is nothing in the case to warrant a reduction of charge to manslaughter it is either murder or nothing:. Three hours later the jury came back with a guilty of murder charge. Next Mae Bannister was found guilty of harbouring an infant and Daniel was later found guilty of
Murder but the jury recommended in his case that mercy be applied to his sentence.Arthur’s sentence was appealed and and second trial was held but the dramatic evidence of mother and infant’s cruel murder amid the frozen snow was too much for the jury. Arthur was again found guilty of first degree murder. Both Bannister Boys were sentenced to hang for their crimes and on Sept 22 1936 the hangman arrived in Dorchester and organized the carpenters to build a gallow. As dusk fell on Sept 23, crowds filled the outside courtyard while 14 official tense witnesses watched inside the gates as the hanging hour of 1 AM approached. At 1 AM sharp,the bodies of Arthur and Daniel dropped from the gallows to be placed in coffins after hanging for a full 21 minutes. That was the last time the dreaded black flag hung at Dorchester ‘s Court House. May Bannister the mastermind escaped death and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. She was out earlier on good behavior and never showed remorse for her actions.
What a very sad story for the Lake family and the baby Betty.
Still on the jail topic, here is a cute Christmas Card I created you can find it in my Christmas folder at
Chow for now