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Evelyn Dick was convicted of the murder of her husband John Dick and the manslaughter of her infant son but questions remain; was Evelyn a cold blooded black window, or a victim of abuse and manipulation at the hands of her parents?
Evelyn MacLean was born on the 13th of October, 1920 to Donald and Alexandra MacLean. When she was one her family moved from Beamsville to 214 Rosslyn Avenue in Hamilton, where Donald worked as a streetcar conductor for the Hamilton street Railway. He was later reassigned to an office job and rumours that he was dipping into company money would follow the family because they “…lived very well…” and sent “…Evelyn shopping with handfuls of nickels, the fee collected for a fare in those days.” Despite being financially comfortable, Evelyn’s childhood was not a happy one. Her father was an alcoholic and it was said her mother has a “…wicked temper,” the couple argued frequently and spent much time apart. Eveyln’s parents considered her ‘fragile’ and didn’t let her play with other children in their neighbourhood, however, they did encourage her become “…recognised in the finer circles in town.” She would host lavish parties at the high end Royal Connaught Hotel in Hamilton, and was generous towards her acquaintances, but she was never accepted the way she hoped.
Evelyn was considered beautiful and despite being a teenager she had expensive jewellery and spent her time with “much older men…at places out of town and at race tracks.” In 1942 she gave birth to a daughter named Heather who was born with mental retardation. When questions and rumours about Hether’s paternity began Evelyn she claimed she was married to a man with the last name White, who was stationed overseas, however, later examinations of the military records failed to prove the existence of such a person. The following summer she gave birth to a stillborn baby, and on the 5th of September, 1944 she gave birth to a son, Peter David White. Even now, no one knows who fathered the children or if the same person fathered all three.
In June, 1945 Eveyln, Heather and Alexandrea who had left her husband moved into an apartment in downtown Hamilton together. Just a month after moving in, Evelyn surprised her mother by announcing that in two weeks she was going to marry a man named John Dick, a Hamilton streetcar conductor. This announcement caused shock for two reasons; firstly, Eveyln moved in high society and John was not part of those circles, and two, her mother had never heard Evelyn mention John before and believed her daughter was in a relationship with another man, Bill Bohozuk.
The couple were married in October, 1945 but it would be another month before they lived together when they moved into their home at 32 Carrick Avenue. Unusually it was Evelyn’s name and not John’s on the mortgage, and it’s believed she was the one who paid the deposit. It was claimed in Time Magazine that, “Five days after her marriage…she committed adultery. Shortly after, she and John separated.” John had certainly moved out and was staying with his cousin Alexander Kammerer by the beginning of March, 1946.
On Saturday the 16th of March, 1946 a group of children playing on the Niagara Escarpment, known locally as The Mountain, found what they thought was the body of a headless pig, the police were called and they soon realised it was the torso of a man. Despite a search of the area no further body parts were found. Hearing that a torso had been discovered, Alexander went to the police telling them that he was worried it belonged to John who he hadn’t seen since the 6th of March. The police were able to get a positive identification and soon began looking for the killer.
When the police told Evelyn they had found a torso belonging to her husband she allegedly replied; “Don’t look at me. I don’t know anything about it,” before telling them a story about an “Italian hitman who arrived at her door looking for John. He said that he was going to “fix” him for messing around with his wife.” A few days later new evidence would force her to change her story when the police discovered she had borrowed a car from Bill Landeg, and returned it with blood on the front seat, the seat covers missing, and bloody clothing left in the back. Evelyn had left Bill a note claiming the blood was from Heather, who had cut herself.
The police tested the blood and found that it was the same type as Johns, when they confronted Evelyn with the evidence she claimed; a man had called and told her that John had got a woman pregnant and was “getting what was coming to him.” This mystery man asked her to borrow a car, and when they met he had with him a large sack, which he said contained “part of John,” she then drove him to where John’s body was dumped. She led the police along the route they had taken but continued to deny any involvement in his death.
It was felt that Evelyn’s responses and demeanor were inappropriate, and psychiatrists later found her to be on the borderline between having dull normal and moron-like intelligence with the mental capacity of a thirteen year old child.
As part of their investigation the police searched Evelyn’s home at 32 Carrick Avenue and made two gruesome discoveries. Firstly in the yard they found “bits of human bones mixed with cinders from the furnace.”
The second discovery was even more shocking, when police searched the attic they discovered a suitcase filled with concrete, and in the concrete were the remains of a baby boy; Peter David White. When interviewed about the discovery of her grandson’s body Alexandra MacClean told police that her husband Donald had been doing something with the trunk the day before and when she had asked him what he was doing he ordered her to “…get the hell out of the room.” When confronted with their discoveries, Evelyn changed her story again, and this time claimed that Bill Bohozuk had murdered John and Peter.
The police searched Donald MacLeans house and in the basement discovered bullet holes, a revolver and cartridges, saws and bloodstained shoes that likely belonged to John. With that discovery they arrested Evelyn Dick, Bill Bohozuk and Donald MacClean charging them with John’s murder.
Although it is unlikely that she killed John with she was probably involved in planning his and participating in his death. She was found guilty of John Dick’s murder, and sentenced to death by hanging.
Both Bill Bohozuk and Donald MacClean remained in custody until their joint trial, as Evelyn would not testify Bill was found not guilty and walked free. Donald was found to be guilty as an accessory after the fact and sentenced to five years in prison.
During her appeal the judge ruled that as her “…statements to police were improperly admitted into evidence and that the trial judge had not properly instructed the jury,” the verdict was overturned. However, she was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of her son and sentenced to life in Kingston Penitentiary. In 1958 after serving eleven years, Evelyn was granted parole and what happened to her after her release is uncertain, however, Brian Vallée claims she married a wealthy man and moved to Canada’s West Coast “…where she lived without anybody knowing about her past.”
In 2002 a made for TV movie was released titled; “Torso: The Evelyn Dick Story” in which it is suggested that Evelyn protected her parents, who were also viable suspects in the murders, furthermore, it suggests she was sexually abused by her father and exploited by mother.
Which version of the story is true is unclear and we will likely never know, what we do know is Evelyn had a traumatic and possibly abusive childhood, she gave birth to three children whose paternity was never established, and that she was diagnosed as having the mental capacity of a thirteen year old child, which does raise the question was she able to plan and execute a murder? Would she have thought of cutting up the body to slow down or prevent the victim being identified?
Whatever the case a man and a child lost their lives and they deserve to be remembered.