The Toronto Sun, that is…a cheesy newspaper with more advertisements than columns and the infamous Sunshine Girl who often determined whether or not men buy the newspaper. Once upon a time, many of the Girls were, meh, average or downright nasty, but nowadays, ‘twould seem more “professional” women are displayed at the back of the paper….gotta make those sales I suppose. But I digress.
Max Haines once had the best 2-page spread in the Sunday version of the Sun. Crime Flashback presented true murder story, and occasionally they were even Canadian (yes, we have our nasty types too, eh). He reported on nasty tales of mayhem from around the globe, mostly North America, Britain and a smattering of European countries. They were awesome. It was in Haines’ column that I first learned the names Elizabeth Bathory, Amy Pinning, the Moor murders, Typhoid Mary, and Lizzie Borden. Lizzie, in fact, was his first column, written in 1972. Best of all there were pictures!
At 14, I was already a fan of the gothic side of life and Haines’ column fuelled my appetite. Haines even appeared as a detective, in ritzy Toronto hotels for Murder Mystery dinners, solving the case of the poor victim (fortunately there wasn’t a real victim in this Murder Mystery, as was the case in his biographies.
Max Haines’ Crime Flashback: a tale or two
“Kate: Exhibit A – Off with her Head” (I like the sound of that already). Not long before the turn of the century, n Irish girl named Kate Webster became one of the most notorious criminals in the annals of crime. As a youngster she was a happy pickpocket. By 16, Kate used her stolen money to cross the Irish Sea into Merrie England. She stole enough coin to live on until she was 18. Finally Kate was arrested and thrown into jail for four years for her light-fingered prowess.
By 22, Kate became a prostitute and became pregnant. Here’s something you didn’t expect: she kept her son and attempted to bring him up as best she could. She made ends meet by picking pockets and through prostitution. Kate was a better hooker than she was a thief. She was in and out of jail more than 30 separate times. Probably somewhere around the age of 30, Kate moved in with Julia Thomas, a reclusive 60-year-old widow and a regular church-attending Presbyterian. Julia was thrilled that she had such a hard-working maid as Kate Webster. Julia was not a good judge of character. After 10 days Julia ordered Kate to leave.
After a heated argument, Kate vacated the premises. To calm her nerves, Julia went to church. When she returned, Julia changed out of her church clothing. When she exited her room, she was confronted by an axe-wielding Kate. Julia struggled with Kate, but was no match for her enraged maid. Julia tumbled down the stairs and Kate was upon her, planting the axe directly into Julia’s skull. She dragged the body into the kitchen. Working in a meticulous manner, Kate boiled water then turned to an assortment of sharp knives including a large meat cleaver.
Kate undressed her victim and hacked off her head, which was placed in a leather bag. She chopped Julia up into small, manageable portions. Utilizing her training as a maid, Kate worked hard until all utensils and the floor were as clean as could be. It took a couple of days. Kate’s skills at dissecting Julia Thomas were superior to her ability to dispose of the body. Days later, a fisherman spotted a box stuck in the mud on a river bank and upon opening the box he recoiled in horror at the sight of the boiled Julia.
Meanwhile, Kate attempted to sell Julia’s furniture and other affects, pretending that they were her own. Mrs. Ives, the owner of Julia’s residence, became suspicious and called police. A detective arrived and concluded murder had indeed taken place in the residence, however Kate was long gone. Police traced her to an uncle in Ireland and she was returned to England to stand trial. Kate was found guilty and sentenced to death. She confessed the murder and dissection to the prison chaplain and the warden of the prison. The only thing she never revealed was what she had done with the head of Julia Thomas. On July 27, 1879, Kate Webster was hanged at Wandsworth Prison.
Some criminals never reveal the reasons for their perverse and violent actions. Such a sicko criminal was George Kent Wallace. On Feb. 17, 1987, 15-year-old Bill Domer was sent to the grocery store by his parents. The Fort Smith, Ark., boy never returned home. His body was found by small boys playing near a pond adjacent to Leard Cemetery. Bill had been shot twice in the back.
Four years later, on Nov. 11, 1990, Mark McLaughlin, 14, left his home in nearby Van Buren to go to the grocery store. Next morning, a fisherman found Mark’s body in the same pond where Bill Domer had been found years earlier. Like Bill, Mark had been shot in the back. He also had bruises on his buttocks. Two weeks passed. Chris Ferguson, 18, a Westark Community College student, finished his work at a grocery store in Van Buren and was about to drive away when a four-door 1981 Chevrolet pulled up. A man approached Chris, indicating he was a police officer and asking for Chris’ driver’s licence. He ordered Chris to get out of his vehicle and lock the doors. The officer placed handcuffs and leg irons on Chris and forced him into his Chevrolet. He told Chris he was a strong suspect in a grocery store robbery in Booneville.
The Chevy pulled off the road. The man climbed into the back seat, pulled down Chris’ pants and inflicted a severe beating to his buttocks with a stick. Finally, his assailant tired and pulled up Chris’ pants. He then forced Chris to walk through the woods, and plunged a knife into Chris’s back. Thinking Chris was dead, Chris’ attacker undid his handcuffs and leg irons. Chris jumped to his feet and ran for his life. He made it to the parked Chevrolet and as luck would have it, the key was in the ignition. Chris roared away, stopped at the first house, and the occupants called police. Chris was rushed to hospital where he was treated for five stab sounds in his back and one in his arm. Meanwhile, police had no difficulty picking up George Kent Wallace.
In 1975, Wallace was convicted of kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. For this infraction, he received a sentence of eight to 10 years, but was paroled after serving only three years. The kidnapping charges for which Wallace was convicted involved the paddling of his victims across their buttocks. Wallace was charged with attempted first-degree murder and kidnapping in the Chris Ferguson case. He admitted to the murders of Bill Domer and Mark McLaughlin. Wallace received a 60-year sentence for the abduction and attempted murder of Chris Ferguson. For the Domer and McLaughlin murders, Wallace was sentenced to death. Chris Ferguson, by escaping the clutches of this madman, is believed to have saved many lives. He has received several civic rewards for his actions.
Haines must have written his Toronto Sun column for 20 years, then suddenly he vanished. According to recent sources, his columns still appear in the Toronto Sun. Not so. I have checked out several issues and it is nowhere to be seen. No, I do not believe Haines was murdered and his body disposed of by a pissed off reader. At least, I hope not, (although it would make for a wonderfully ironic ending….no offence, Max).
The Toronto Sun just hasn’t been the same without him.