Murder, Mystery and Intrigue in Review: Babes in the Woods

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Babes in the Woods Mystery Vancouver Police Museum

A newspaper clipping from The Vancouver Sun, 1998.

*This is a repost of a popular blog from 2014

Written by Sheena Koo

The final lecture in the Vancouver Police Museum’s Murder Mystery and Intrigue series capped off two months of incredible storytelling by some of our city’s most notable historians, authors and police authorities. Since March 13, 2014, people from across the province have come to the museum to hear about Vancouver’s most salacious crimes, and they weren’t disappointed.

Presentations included the following: • The 1956 milkshake murder with Museum Director Robert Noon • The 1927 Janet Smith murder with author Edward Starkins • The 1963 Pauls murders with author and historian Eve Lazarus • The 2001 Vivien Morzuch murder with retired Major Crimes Detective Steve McCartney and Forensic Expert Stu Wyatt

Fitting for a grand conclusion to the series, a sold-out crowd packed seats to hear retired Unsolved Homicide Unit Detective, Brian Honeybourn, speak about the 1947 Babes in the Woods murders—a case that is arguably the city’s most famous unsolved crime to date. Honeybourn shared his findings and unveiled some facts that surprised even the most informed Babes in the Woods aficionados.

He began with the scene of the crime. On January 14, 1953, sometime during the day, a Stanley Park Parks Board employee stumbled upon a patch of leaves that made a strange crunching sound. He dug a little deeper beneath the brush and found numerous bones embedded in the earth. He notified authorities and the next day investigators showed up close to Prospect Point to unearth a shocking crime.

Beneath a heavy layer of dirt, leaves, tree branches and a decomposing fur coat, they found the bones of two young children and a layman’s hatchet—which turned out to be the murder weapon. Detectives also found two children’s aviation caps, decomposed pieces of children’s clothing, a lunchbox and a woman’s size 7 ½ penny loafer.

Original evidence from the Babes in the Woods murders, archived at The Vancouver Police Museum

Original evidence from the Babes in the Woods murders, archived at The Vancouver Police Museum

A doctor (not a forensic pathologist) was called to the site. He stated that the bones came from a young boy and girl, roughly aged 5-7, and 7-9. Detectives looked at the layers of brush and concluded that the bodies had been sitting in the woods for approximately six years, meaning that they had been murdered sometime in 1947.

Interestingly, while information from the 1953’s two-page report is still used today, Honeybourn believes that some pieces—such as the date and other facts—may be incorrect. He explained, for example, that nowadays detectives would have called in a forensic botanist among several other specialists to determine the age of the bones, brush and other evidence. Authorities in 1953 simply did not have access to these resources. This is important because Honeybourn believes that the bones may have been sitting in the park for more than six years, placing the murder much earlier.