Author Topic: Molly Justice - January 18, 1943 - Age 15 - Murdered - Saanich  (Read 6467 times)


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Anneta Margaret "Molly" Justice
Age: 15
COD: Stabbed - multiple
Date last seen: January 18, 1953
Location last seen: Saanich, BC
Date found: January 18, 1953
Location found: Saanich, BC

Cold Cases: Seeking justice for Molly, 65 years later
Saanich police take new look at case of teen girl stabbed to death at Swan Lake in 1943
Lindsay Kines and Rob Shaw, Times Colonist
Published: Sunday, October 19, 2008

Homicide file #98-12253 -- the killing of Molly Justice -- sits on a metal shelf in a locked storage room at the Saanich police station.

A single brown cardboard box filled with letters, notebooks, an unidentified knife, three leather gloves and other curious bits of evidence is all that remains of one of the most famous cold cases in Victoria's history.

Last reviewed in 1996, the file officially remains open, inactive and unsolved. But Saanich police have long believed they know who killed the 15-year-old seamstress on Jan. 18, 1943; they just never got a chance to prove it.

"As I read the evidence at the disposal of investigators, I'm saying to myself, 'If I had that much evidence today, I think I could make that fly," Insp. Rob McColl, head of the Saanich police major crime section, said in a recent interview at his office -- which, in a case rich with irony, now overlooks the spot where a girl named Justice fell 65 years ago.

Few crimes still resonate on Vancouver Island like Molly's killing.

The Times Colonist's recent efforts to highlight cold cases of missing or murdered people prompted numerous calls from readers wondering about the status of the 65-year-old homicide.

So, at the newspaper's request, Saanich police pulled the file from a storage locker one more time and pored over the evidence.

- - -

It was just after 6 p.m. when Anneta Margaret Clive "Molly" Justice stepped off the bus on Douglas Street near Swan Lake on her way home from work at a Victoria garment factory on Jan. 18, 1943.

Taking a shortcut, the 15-year-old headed along the CN rail line at what is now the Galloping Goose Trail near Saanich municipal hall, but never made it to her home on Brett Avenue.

Her body was found beside the tracks four hours later. She had been beaten and stabbed. One of the more than 30 wounds severed her jugular vein. There were no signs of sexual assault.

Retired lawyer Cecil Branson, who spent years researching and writing an unpublished manuscript about the case, was eight years old in 1943. He still remembers the shock of reading about Molly's death.

"It was in the middle of a war where people were dying overseas, but nobody at home," he said. "It's the thing that I remember from that time, other than the war news."

For three months, the police investigation failed to turn up a suspect. Then, in May, an 11-year-old girl reported being sexually assaulted near Swan Lake by a boy who threatened to do to her what he had done to Molly Justice.

Later that day, police arrested 15-year-old Frank Hulbert, also known as Frank Pepler. But, although he was charged and convicted of the assault two weeks later, Hulbert managed to convince investigators that he was no killer.

Instead, he pointed the finger at William Mitchell, a 49-year-old former RCMP officer with no criminal record who worked with Hulbert at a Victoria paint factory. Hulbert claimed Mitchell had confessed to the crime.

Police arrested Mitchell on June 15, 1943, charged him with first-degree murder and seized a bloodstained knife from his rooming house.

Fortunately for Mitchell, another co-worker, Lewis Kamann, testified at the trial five months later that Mitchell left work too late on the night of the murder to have been at the scene when the girl was killed. Mitchell, testifying in his own defence, said the blood on the knife was his own.

The jury believed Mitchell and Kamann over Hulbert and acquitted Mitchell, saving him from the death penalty.

For the next 25 years, the case appeared stalled, despite the fact Hulbert, on a number of occasions, reportedly admitted to killing Molly himself.

Then, in 1967, Saanich police succeeded in getting Hulbert charged with perjury for lying about Mitchell's involvement. After two trials, he was convicted and sentenced to four and half years in prison.

Police, however, were never able to convince the Crown to lay a murder charge. Hulbert died in 1996 in Port Alberni, and Saanich police subsequently announced their belief that he was Molly's killer.

The flurry of stories at the time raised new questions about whether Hulbert had escaped punishment because he was related to Eric Pepler, deputy attorney general from 1934 to 1954. To restore confidence in the justice system, then-attorney general Ujjal Dosanjh asked a former judge to investigate.

But Martin Taylor found no conclusive evidence that Pepler was related to Hulbert, let alone that he interfered in the case. Nor was Taylor able to say for sure that Hulbert was guilty.

"Before saying today that we believe on reasonable grounds that Frank Hulbert murdered Molly Justice, we would do well to remember that those responsible for the Saanich police investigation said the same thing of William Mitchell," Taylor wrote in his 147-page report.

Today, police might have been able to provide a more definitive answer, given advances in forensic techniques. Hair that was apparently found underneath Molly's fingernails could have been analyzed to obtain a DNA profile. A fingerprint recovered from the contents of her discarded purse could have been run through a databank system for a possible match.

But both those pieces of evidence have been lost to history.

"We believe all the real evidence was destroyed at some point, or it never made it back here and where it went we don't know," Saanich Sgt. John Price said.

"If we could locate the exhibits that I know of, which are limited to the print and the hair, then yes, modern technology could assist us there," added Saanich Insp. Rob McColl.

There's no paper record to show where they went for sure, but they aren't in today's police evidence box. Without them, McColl admits, investigators can only reread old letters and previous reviews of the file. All the witnesses and suspects are dead.

The Molly Justice file bears little resemblance to the meticulous work demanded of police today. In preparation for this story, Saanich police reread documents and submitted evidence to the department's forensic identification division. A set of previously unlabelled fingerprints were found to belong to Molly, taken after she was killed.

Nobody is quite sure of the significance of a small, unlabelled brown-handled knife found in an envelope in the evidence box. The forensics division determined there were no traces of blood on the blade.

"Is it the murder weapon? I don't know," said McColl.

The case appears to both frustrate and fascinate the veteran cop. But McColl said there's not enough hope of solving it to pull busy detectives off other files.

It would require new evidence, and a court order, to exhume Molly's or Hulbert's body for DNA collection, and even then there's no guarantee of finding samples or having anything to compare them to, said McColl.

For the most part, the surviving members of Molly's family say they've also moved on. Molly's sister-in-law, Marjorie, was instrumental in pushing police to review the case in 1996. She passed away last November.

"I don't think we talk about it anymore," said Ken Justice, 56, Marjorie's son and Molly's nephew. "Her feelings were that it was put to rest."

Using DNA to find evidence seems pointless, he added. "There's no real source of justice going to happen, because the fella has passed away himself."

"We've left it alone and we ourselves as a family haven't gone into it any more. It was so long ago now. But the generation of Justices is still going on, right in Victoria. Dad had six of us, four girls, myself and a brother. There's 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren."

The killing of Molly Justice is one of only four unsolved murders in Saanich. Pregnant teenager Cheri Lynn Smith was found dead in the bushes on Munns Road in 1990. Bobby Johal was gunned down in his Cordova Bay driveway in 2003. Realtor Lindsay Buziak, 24, was stabbed to death Feb. 2 in an empty house she was trying to sell in Gordon Head.

Molly's killing is also one of the oldest on Vancouver Island. But her case seems destined to remain officially open, partially solved, and perhaps permanently stalled.

"You can't say unequivocally that Frank Hulbert did it, and I'm not prepared to say that either," McColl said. "I think that's a matter that has to be decided by a competent court.

"However, all of the evidence would lead an ordinary, normal, common individual, a person of sound mind, to come to a reasonable conclusion that there's a strong likelihood Frank Hulbert was responsible for this homicide."

If you have information about any cold cases, or suggestions for future stories, you can reach Lindsay Kines at 250-381-7890 or and Rob Shaw at 250-380-5350 or

The story of the killing of Molly Justice is part of an ongoing Times Colonist series by reporters Lindsay Kines and Rob Shaw that highlights unsolved cases of missing or murdered people from the Island, and examines new techniques being used to solve old crimes.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008


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Re: Molly Justice - January 18, 1943 - Age 15 - Murdered - Saanich
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2009, 10:08:49 PM »
OMG this is so sad, due to lost evidence, this case may never be solved..Yes they say that it looks as if Hulbert was her killer.. but to never be able to close this file really sux.. I am glad that her surviving family has moved on, it must have been very hard for them to put this behind them..


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Re: Molly Justice - January 18, 1943 - Age 15 - Murdered - Saanich
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2010, 05:38:00 PM »
The Canadian Press has listed this person as Anita Marguerite (Molly) Justice.

At the time of November 4, 1943, Warren Mitchell had already turned 50 years old (to give an idea of his birth year). One of the reasons he was acquitted was due to the instructions of Justice Coady. Coady instructed the jury that portions of the evidence of Frank James Hulburt, should be considered with caution if not suspicion. Mitchell's occupation at this time was listed as a logger.

In a Canadian Press article from June 18, 1943, Mitchell is again listed as 50 years old. It also mentions he was charged Thursday with the murder of Molly and was being remanded until the following Thursday for a hearing. It also says he was arrested the previous Sunday (and charged on Monday) in a downtown Victoria hotel on a unrelated statuatory offense.

Much later in an article by the Canadian Press on January 7, 1944, Mitchell was awarded damages for defamation of character action against the Victoria Times (Times, Printing & Publishing Co. Ltd.). The defamation arose out of an article dated June 19, 1943. Micthell was awarded $1,000 by Justice Bird after having filed for $50,000 in damages.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2010, 07:26:44 PM by BCID »


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Re: Molly Justice - January 18, 1943 - Age 15 - Murdered - Saanich
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2010, 06:01:58 PM »
Background Info:

Canadian Press article dated January 20, 1943 says Molly was found stabbed to death. Her body was found Monday at about 10 pm after a man and a woman reported to the police they had found 2 blood-stained parcels while walking along the railroad tracks in the darkness. Molly's body lay near the railways tracks two blocks from her home and four blocks from the bus stop where Molly had dismounted on her way home. She was on her way home from working in a Victoria warehouse. Her mother, the widowed Mrs. Muriel R. Justice, had expected Molly home at the usual time of 7 pm. But when Molly did not appear, she assumed there was some transportation problems and did not call the police.

A Canadian Press article dated February 12, 1943 has Mayor Andrew McGavin of Victoria stating a contributing factor to the Molly Justice murder was the ordered "dim-out". McGavin said he was telephoned by one of the police commissioners on Thursday. The commissioner had said there had been 5 molestation attacks in Saanich Municipality in the past 3 weeks. McGavin contacted B.C. Premier Hart by letter to protest the dim-out regulations. Vancouver Mayor J.W. Cornett protested to Premier Hart a few days later. McGavin said the reasons for restricting lighting in Victoria have never been made public and that, to his knowledge, the city of Halifax was not under the same regulations.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2010, 07:28:13 PM by BCID »


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Re: Molly Justice - January 18, 1943 - Age 15 - Murdered - Saanich
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2016, 12:25:47 PM »

Ministry of Attorney General

July 3, 1996


VICTORIA -- Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh today announced the appointment of former B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Martin Taylor to review the case of Molly Justice, who was murdered in Saanich in 1943.

"Because of evident public concern over this 53-year-old case, I have asked that Mr. Justice Taylor examine whatever evidence is available and speak to anyone involved in the matter from those days," said Dosanjh. "I am hopeful that his review will get at the truth of any injustices done in another era."

Some specific issues Taylor will examine are whether the suspect in the murder, Frank Hulbert, should have been charged with the murder and with the sexual assault of another person and whether the deputy attorney general in 1943 or anyone else covered up evidence on behalf of Hulbert.

Dosanjh added that the relationship between police investigations and how charging decisions are made is very different today than in the 1940s. "Today by law, charging decisions are made independently by the Criminal Justice Branch. If a deputy attorney general or attorney general wished to direct the branch in a decision, that could only be done in writing and publicly."

Dosanjh said he was pleased Taylor agreed to review the case because Taylor brings to it his experience as a jurist and his skills as a legal historian.

Taylor's report will be made public, said Dosanjh.

- 30 -

Media Inquiries:
Francesca Tisot
Tel. (604) 387-5008 (Victoria)


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Re: Molly Justice - January 18, 1943 - Age 15 - Murdered - Saanich
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2016, 12:27:53 PM »

Ministry of Attorney General

September 4, 1996


VICTORIA -- An investigation into the case of fifteen-year old Molly Justice, murdered 53 years ago in Saanich, has found no evidence of a cover-up, Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh said today in releasing the 147-page report of the investigation.

Former B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Martin Taylor, QC, conducted the investigation, announced by the Attorney General on July 3.

"Mr. Justice Taylor was asked to examine this case from another era because of continuing public concern over possible injustices in how the matter was handled at the time," said Dosanjh.

"As an experienced jurist and legal historian, Mr. Justice Taylor was well-suited to undertake such an investigation. I thank him for his thorough report and hope that it helps lay to rest unsubstantiated rumours and offers some closure and relief to those still living who were affected by these tragic events."

Taylor's report concludes there is nothing to support suggestions the deputy attorney general of the day, Eric Pepler, covered up evidence against a suspect in the case, Frank Hulbert. Neither could Taylor find evidence that Pepler was related to Hulbert, as had been suggested in the media.

The report points out that special treatment by Pepler for Hulbert is inconsistent with Hulbert's having been charged, convicted and punished for a sexual assault on another girl four months after Molly Justice's murder. Hulbert served two years and 10 months in prison at Okalla as a teenager for that and four other offences during Pepler's term as deputy attorney general.

In his report, Taylor states: "Reports concerning admissions made by Hulbert to provincial police officers, which it has been said were withheld from the Saanich police, contained information already known to the Saanich police before the reports were prepared. Eric Pepler twice suggested to the Saanich authorities that the Saanich police obtain copies of these reports from the provincial police."

Dosanjh said the uncertainty regarding the Hulbert case would be extremely unlikely today because the relationship between police investigations and how charging decisions are made has changed dramatically since 1943. "Under today's legislation, charging decisions are made independently by the criminal justice branch. If a deputy attorney general or attorney general wished to direct the branch in a decision, that could only be done in writing and publicly. In addition, there is today a formal process for police to appeal charge decisions."

Acknowledging criticism by Taylor that the justice system of the day did not inform a victim of a sexual assault by Hulbert that her assailant had been punished for assaulting her, Dosanjh said that careless disregard of the victim was shocking and unacceptable.

"This kind of re-victimizing the victim is why our government introduced the Victims of Crime Act, which came into force in July," said Dosanjh. "The act gives victims the right to information about their cases from investigation through prosecution, including the right to be informed about the status of the charged person or offender."

Dosanjh also responded to Taylor's recommendation for managing documents in the ministry. Taylor pointed out difficulties under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in receiving documents promptly for his investigation.

"A full review of the information and privacy act, mandated by the legislation itself, is coming up shortly, and I will ensure that Mr. Justice Taylor's recommendation is part of that review," said Dosanjh. "Also, our recently established special squad dedicated to unsolved murders in B.C., along with state-of-the-art DNA equipment and a forensic dentistry lab, will help decrease the likelihood that cases such as Molly Justice's will left unresolved."

Dosanjh joined Taylor in inviting anyone with further information about this case to come forward and contact either Taylor or himself.

- 30 -

Media Inquiries:
Brent Thompson
Tel. (604) 387-5008 (Victoria)

Copies of Mr. Justice Taylor's report may be ordered from the Communications and Education Division of the Ministry of Attorney General, 10th Floor, 1001 Douglas Street, Victoria, British Columbia V8V 1X4.


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Re: Molly Justice - January 18, 1943 - Age 15 - Murdered - Saanich
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2016, 12:35:25 PM »

Excerpt from a long article:

‘Justice’ for Molly Justice was late in coming
In a way, Molly did finally receive the justice originally denied her. Not the nice and neat, tied-with-a-ribbon kind we like in our fiction, but a justice of sorts. Late in 1967, police charged a 40-year-old Port Alberni man, Frank Hulbert, aka Frank Pepler, with having given false testimony as a youth at William Mitchell’s trial. Two years later, Hulbert was convicted of perjury and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
During a second trial in January 1969, his first conviction having been overturned on grounds of an error in direction by the judge, former City of Victoria policemanLewis T. Kamann testified that Hulbert had admitted to him, in 1947 or ‘48, that he’d killed Molly–and defied Kamann to prove it.
In March 1996, the month following Francis James Pepler’s death, aged 68, Saanich Insp. Al Hickman reopened the 53-year-old case at the request of Molly’s sister-in-law, Marjorie Justice. He identified the killer as Frank Pepler, who was 15 at the time of the murder and stepson to Eric Pepler, British Columbia attorney-general for 20 years who, he charged, had intervened personally in the murder case and that of a sexual assault on an 11-year-old girl, four months later. Hulbert had been given an indefinite sentence ‘for an unnamed charge’ under the Juvenile Delinquent Act and shipped off to the Industrial School for Boys on the Mainland. He also served time at Oakalla Penitentiary.
Saanich police had repeatedly tried to lay a murder charge against Hulbert/Pepler through the ‘60s but Crown prosecutors thought too much time had passed and investigators had to settle for the upheld perjury conviction and a four and a-half year sentence.
Suspected murderer died ‘peacefully’
The alleged killer ended his life as a recluse, living in a converted bus. He died ‘peacefully,’ according to his obituary. A damn sight more peacefully than did 15-year-old Molly Justice, that snowy evening beside the railway tracks in January 1943. If he suffered any remorse over those 53 years it can’t have been any greater than the heartache suffered by my grandmother who went to her own grave without seeing the case resolved.
She was loyal right up until that last January 18th “JUSTICE–In loving memory of Molly…”


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Re: Molly Justice - January 18, 1943 - Age 15 - Murdered - Saanich
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2016, 04:48:43 PM »
I thought I was seeing things and then seeing them missing, however now I see there were two threads on the go back some years.