In this weeks new True Crime 101, Alanna tells us about a Canadian serial killer, Gilbert Jordan, known as the “Boozing Barber”.
Gilbert Paul Jordan born on December 12, 1931 is known as the “Boozing Barber.” Not the flashiest name but he was a 100% asshole murderer. He was an alcoholic and high school dropout at the age of sixteen. By 1952, his criminal record included theft, assault, car theft and heroin possession.
Jordan is thought to have begun serial killing in 1965 but there’s a lot unknown in this case.
His victims were Aboriginal women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Typically he would find these women in bars, and buy them drinks, or pay them for sex and encourage them to drink with him. When they passed out, he would pour liquor down their throats. The resulting deaths were reported alcohol poisoning and police paid little attention, because some of his victims suffered from alcoholism along with being Aboriginals and it’s well-known the government doesn’t care unless you’re white.
Although the newspapers often described the women as sex workers, not all were involved in sex work, but it was a narrative that stuck with the media.
Jordan was known for drinking more than 50 ounces of vodka each day and could easily out-drink any of his victims.
The first woman known to have died by alcohol poisoning while in Jordan’s company was in 1965. As would become a pattern, a switchboard operator named Ivy Rose was found naked and dead in a Vancouver hotel. Her blood alcohol level was 0.51. No charges were laid.
As far as we know, Jordan the first Canadian to use alcohol as a murder weapon. Jordan’s lengthy criminal record started in 1952 and includes convictions for rape, indecent assault, abduction, hit and run, drunk driving and car theft.
Court proceedings show “he sought out approximately 200 women per year for binge-drinking episodes covering the period from 1980 to 1988. He was also typically looking for sex as well.”
Further, the Crown provided evidence that Jordan was linked to the deaths of six other Aboriginal women. Similar fact evidence showed Jordan had been with the following women at the time of their deaths:
- Mary Johnson, November 30, 1980, at the Aylmer Hotel, Blood alcohol level: .34
- Barbara Paul, September 11, 1981, at the Glenaird Hotel, Blood alcohol level: .41
- Mary Johns, July 30, 1982, at 2503 Kingsway (his barbershop) Blood alcohol level: .76
- Patricia Thomas, December 15, 1984, at 2503 Kingsway (his barbershop) Blood alcohol level: .51
- Patricia Andrew, June 28, 1985, at 2503 Kingsway (his barbershop) Blood alcohol level: .79
- Vera Harry, November 19, 1986, at the Clifton Hotel, Blood alcohol level: .04
On October 12, 1987, Vanessa Lee Buckner was found naked on the floor of the Niagara Hotel after a night of drinking with Jordan. There is some debate regarding the victim. Some sources indicate that she was a white woman, not a heavy drinker, nor was she a sex worker.
However, official court records describe Buckner’s death as the result of Jordan “supplying a lethal amount of liquor to a female alcoholic, who died as a result”. Buckner had recently lost custody of her new born baby, who had been born with a drug dependency. She “was an alcoholic and a taker of various kinds of drugs.” Jordan’s fingerprints were found and linked to Buckner’s death. A month after her death, another woman, Edna Shade, was found dead in another hotel.
After being questioned, Jordan had not been charged with any crime related to Buckner’s death. However, police initiated surveillance on Jordan. Between October 12 and November 26, 1987, police watched him “search out native Indian women in the skid row area of Vancouver. On four different occasions they [the police] rescued the woman involved before she too became a victim”. Those women were:
- Rosemary Wilson, November 20, 1987, at the Balmoral Hotel, Blood alcohol level: .52
- Verna Chartrand, November 21, 1987, at the Pacific Hotel, Blood alcohol level: .43
- Sheila Joe, November 25, 1987, at the Rainbow Hotel, Blood alcohol level: unknown
- Mabel Olson, November 26, 1987, at the Pacific Hotel, Blood alcohol level: unknown
According to the court records, police listening outside the hotel rooms heard Jordan say such things as:
“Have a drink, down the hatch baby, 20 bucks if you drink it right down; see if you’re a real woman; finish that drink, finish that drink, down the hatch hurry, right down; you need another drink, I’ll give you 50 bucks if you can take it; I’ll give you 10, 20, 50 dollars, whatever you want, come on I want to see you get it all down; you get it right down, I’ll give you the 50 bucks and the 13 bucks; I’ll give you 50 bucks. I told you that. If you finish that I’ll give you $75; finish your drink, I’ll give you $20 …”
In the 1988 trial, Jordan was tried before a judge alone. Justice Bouck found Jordan guilty of manslaughter in the death of Buckner. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, but that was reduced to nine years on appeal.
Jordan served six years for the manslaughter conviction. After his release, he was place him on probation.
In June 2000, he had been charged with sexual assault, assault, negligence causing bodily harm and administering a noxious substance—alcohol. In that same year, Jordan attempted to change his name to Paul Pearce. At the time, a name change did not require fingerprinting or a criminal check. After the loophole was closed, he dropped the application.
After spending two more years in and out of jail for parole violations, the Boozing Barber died on July 7, 2006 aged 74 in Victoria, British Columbia.