Archives: KKK kidnap, torture Chinese servant

This day in Vancouver history: March 20, 1925

Hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan arrive at the Point Grey home of pharmaceutical magnate Frederick Baker and kidnap 25-year-old houseboy Wong Foon Sing, who seven months earlier had discovered the body of fellow servant Janet Smith. The 22-year-old nursemaid had been killed by a gunshot to the head. Sing is taken to the group’s Shaughnessy mansion headquarters, placed in shackles in a dark room and tortured for six weeks by captors who demanded he either confess or tell them who killed her.

Wong Foon Sing was held captive and beaten for six weeks

The men eventually let the innocent man go free on Marine Drive, where he was “found” by police and charged with Smith's murder. He was released several months later due to lack of evidence, and with hearing permanently damaged by the ordeal, returned home to China shortly afterward.

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Kidnapping charges were eventually laid against several private detectives, police officers and members of the police commission, including James Alexander Paton, who was also the publisher of the Point Grey Gazette, which later became the Vancouver Courier.

The charges came a result of a decision by one of the people involved in the kidnapping to become a Crown witness. According to his testimony, Paton and the other two police commission members had financed the crime and held a meeting to debate how long Sing should be held in captivity. Paton claimed he only learned of the kidnapping after the fact but admitted no steps had been taken to prosecute the offenders. In the end, three detectives were sent to prison but charges against Paton and his fellow commissioners were dropped.

Janet Smith

Janet Smith’s murder remains unsolved. Speculation ranges from her being the victim of a sexual assault that escalated to somehow being related to Baker’s alleged involvement in the drug trade.

Paton sold the Gazette in 1926, but continued to write for it in the years that followed. He went on to become a Conservative MLA for Point Grey and was a vocal advocate for the internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War.

The KKK's old headquarters at 1590 Matthews Ave. is now home to Canuck Place Children's Hospice
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