The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

September 27, 2010

The Mysterious  Death of the Bank Teller

   This week I want to tell you the true story of a young man and the mysterious circumstances that surround his death.

     J. Howard McDonald, 22, a native of Truro, was a bank teller at the Royal Bank of Canada in Springhill. McDonald came to Springhill in May of 1939 having been transferred here from Parrsboro.  He was known to have many friends both here and in Parrsboro. On December 24, 1939, he had been out to a party with friends and according to some that were at the party he left abruptly.  Upon reaching his boarding house on McFarlane Street at 1:30 am he made a phone call to the home he just left.  The young lady he spoke to said that was not unusual as he often called when he returned home.  Mr. Sumner Cooper who was sitting reading and listening to the radio told how Howard had waved and smiled at him and then turned back to the telephone and according to Mr. Cooper’s testimony said McDonald said “that’s final” and when he was about to hang up said “go to hell”.  The young lady said she did not hear him say those words.

     After hanging up the phone Howard McDonald ran up the stairs went to the bathroom and then to his room slamming both doors.  A few minutes later there was a noise from his room which sounded like someone had fallen.  At that time Mr. Cooper went to McDonald’s room and found him lying in a pool of blood on the floor. He was stretched out full length on the floor with his feet at the trunk and his head near the dresser.  He was lying on his back. Cooper then went to the room next door and got Harry Chandler up.  A call was made to Dr. Carson Murray who rushed to the scene and stopped the flow of blood, but found the boy in a very weakened condition and unconscious.  A half an hour later he passed away.

     In the meantime Eddie Thorpe, who was also a boarder, arrived home and a search was instigated by the group for the object that McDonald was thought to have fallen on.

Recalling that McDonald had a gun in his trunk, which he had seen on several occasions, Thorpe opened the closed lid of the boy’s trunk.  The gun was found in its usual place on the top tray, but blood was visible on the tray in many places.  Thorpe picked the gun up but was told to put the gun back.  Later Thorpe picked up the gun again and it was then that McDonald was examined for a gunshot wound and the opening was discovered behind the left ear.  The bullet which apparently took his life had passed through his head from a point just behind his left ear to a point just above his right eye. None of the other persons at the boarding house heard a gunshot.

     With the discovery of the gun and the fact that McDonald appeared to have been shot the police were called in.  Chief Ivan Buchanan, Patrolman Leo McDonald and Patrolman Arthur Bonnyman on conducting a closer examination of the room found an empty shell, which fit the automatic which McDonald possessed.  It was discovered behind the trunk.  The bullet was later discovered lying on some discarded clothes on his bed where it had fallen after striking the slanting wall of his bedroom.  The mark of the spent bullet was plainly visible on the wall where it penetrated the plaster before it finally fell on the bed.

On closer examination the gun smelled of cordite and the gun had recently been fired.  There were no shells in the gun which was a 32 automatic but there were more shells in the trunk.  No powder residue was found.

Dr. F.S. Bennett, who was called to the scene, ordered an inquest to be held on Christmas day.  The jury consisted of Messrs. Charlie Meagher, foreman; Harry Smith, Harry Newcombe, Ted Arseneau, Simpson Anderson, Wylie McPherson, Ronald Gillis, Morris Hatherley, Andrew Stevenson, Bion McIsaac, David Colwell and James Warren.

Next week I will tell you about the inquest and the surprising conclusion to this case. In the meantime what would be your conclusion?  Did J. Howard McDonald, shoot himself, put the gun back in the trunk, and close the lid or did someone else shoot him?  Why do you suppose no one even heard a gunshot?