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Scary true stories: The Redpath Mansion Murders

The Redpaths had it all. They were one of the richest families in Canada, heirs to an impressive sugar fortune.

John James Redpath and his wife Ada had five children. By all reports, the Redpaths were a close family, although they seemed to keep to themselves. On the surface, the only thing extraordinary about them was their great wealth.

That was about to change.

At 6 p.m. on June 13th, 1901, John and Ada’s eldest son Peter, 31, heard gunshots coming from his mother’s bedroom. Rushing to help, he found a grisly scene–his younger brother Clifford, 25, and their mother Ada were lying on the floor, mortally wounded.

But that was not the strangest part of this bizarre event.

The police were not called to the home. A coroner’s investigation was opened, closed, and the bodies were buried within 48 hours of the shots being fired. The Redpaths never discussed the tragic events, either among themselves or publicly.

Ada and Amy.

Ada and Amy Redpath when Amy was young.

So what happened to Ada and Clifford? Who murdered them, and why wouldn’t their family want a full investigation?

The secretiveness was blamed on two family illnesses. Clifford had epilepsy, which at that time was little understood and greatly feared. His mother suffered from an illness that we now know was most likely depression.

Many people who have studied the case concluded that Clifford killed his mother before turning the gun on himself. But why? Clifford was a promising law student–only days before his death, he had submitted an application to write the bar examination. It was therorized that his epilepsy drove him to commit the brutal act.

345916_2

Clifford Redpath

 

As the only son at home, Clifford was responsible for managing the family fortune. He was devoted and attentive to his mother–as an adult, he traveled with her to New York State in the summer, kept her company, read to her during flare-ups of ill health, and oversaw her care whenever his sister Amy was absent.

Others suspect Ada murdered her son while in the depths of depression, and then killed herself. I find this unlikely.

Women rarely use guns to kill themselves, even today. I suspect it was even more rare back then. If Ada was suffering from severe, untreated clinical depression, the chances that she’d have the energy to kill her son seem slim to none. And why kill Clifford when he had always been so kind to her?

Amy Redpath, the eldest child and only daughter, raised some eyebrows by being controlling at the scene of the crime. But with her mother being so ill, she’d assumed the role of family matriarch for some time. She was also a devoted daughter and sister, and kept a vigil at Ada’s bedside during her mother’s most difficult days and nights. She even rewrote Clifford’s law lectures to help him study.

The deaths of Clifford and Ada did not revert control of the fortune to Amy, as eldest son Peter was still alive. (John James Redpath had passed away a couple of years earlier.) A few uncles also acted as financial advisors.

There were several servants in the house at the time of the murder, but none were obvious suspects.

Although many believe the Redpath case was a murder-suicide, no suicides were reported in Montreal in 1901.

What do you think happened in that bedroom?

Is there an unsolved mystery that keeps you awake at night? Please share it in the comments.

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46 Comments

  1. Whatever happened, they definitely wanted to keep it hidden under the rug.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, and that is so strange. That’s what led to people’s convictions that someone in the family committed the murders.

      Reply
  2. I wonder what happened… My bet is, it was a member of the family, since there were others in the house, they would have given out the killer unless it was too embarrassing to do so…

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

    Reply
    • JH

      I just don’t understand why someone in the family would have killed them, although I agree with you–it’s the only thing that makes sense. Unless, everyone thought it was someone in the family, when really it wasn’t.

      It’s a very troubling case. I wish a proper investigation had been done.

      Reply
  3. I never heard of the Redpaths. How tragic. I sense a murder, not a murder-suicide. Hut who did it? I guess we’ll never know.

    Great post!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Chrys.

      Since it’s a Canadian story, a lot of people don’t know about it. And it seems the family tried their best to keep it quiet.

      Reply
  4. Sounds like a Supernatural episode, what happens in real life really surpasses fiction, reality wins every time 😐

    Reply
    • JH

      I’ve never seen Supernatural, but it sounds like a great show. A few people have referenced it on these posts.

      It’s probably something I should look into. 😉

      Reply
      • Omg! Supernatural has horror and eye candy! Must watch it! And awesome music.

        Reply
        • JH

          Hmm…you’re selling me, Djinnia!

          Reply
  5. Whoever was first on the scene, (Peter?) would know by looking at where the gun was, the wounds, etc. Although, it’s a horrible family tragedy, it wouldn’t need to be such a huge secret. Someone is covering her (or his) butt. It’s a cold case I’d like to learn more about.

    Reply
    • JH

      Everything was about appearances in those days, apparently. They hid Ada and Clifford’s illnesses from the rest of the world, so it makes sense they would attempt to cover up a murder in the family.

      And what if a gun wasn’t in the room? There’s no mention of where it was, or if it was even found.

      Reply
      • If the gun wasn’t found, it can’t have been a murder suicide. It’s not like the person who shot him/herself can throw the gun out the window or something.

        Although… if you say “mortally wounded”, I suppose they could still have been conscious. But that begs another question. If someone commits suicide with a gun, most people blow their brains out in some way. So they’d have been found dead.

        My money would be on Peter. Especially if he inherited after his mother’s death only. Clifford was the only son living in the house, yet Peter just happened to be there when the shots went off?

        Of course, it depends on where witnesses were at the time and whether someone had seen Peter in another room at the time that the shots were fired, but it happens a lot that the person “discovering” a murder and/or suicide is in fact the murderer trying to cover his tracks. Happens a lot when one spouse kills the other.

        Reply
        • JH

          I think that’s a great theory, Misha. Sadly, because of the lack of investigation and because the family refused to talk about it, we don’t know if a gun was found or where it was.

          But I like the way you think. My money’s on Peter too.

          Thanks for commenting!

          Reply
  6. mmmmm, interesting … wasn’t some kind of fingerprinting available in those days? On the gun? But of course they got buried pretty quickly .. thanks J.H.
    We have plenty of unsolved murders in my country .. wanna come visit? (South Africa)

    Reply
    • JH

      I do want to come visit, Susan! Are you kidding? South Africa is at the top of my bucket list. Troubled, yes, but also one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

      The family prevented any investigation, so no cops, fingerprinting, or anything else. They stopped any investigation before it started.

      Reply
  7. So nobody cared to get to the root of what happened? I guess with both parties being dead and it being fairly certain nobody but the two of them were involved, there was no reason to pursue an investigation?

    Reply
    • JH

      The family used their money and power to prevent an investigation. Can’t imagine that happening now! Someone literally got away with murder.

      Reply
  8. What a fascinating story. My money is on Peter. Either for the inheritance or in some kind of warped mercy killing– putting them out of their misery. Or to stop the embarrassment to the family. He could have even argued with his mother, shot her then his brother when he rushed in and saw the scene.

    TD Harvey
    A to Z participant
    http://www.tdharveyauthor.com

    Reply
    • JH

      I hadn’t thought of it before, TD, but Peter has my vote now too. The scoundrel!

      Reply
  9. Hmm, that is an interesting case. It’s one of those mysteries that we’ll never figure out, but always interest us.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee’s Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Patricia. I really wish they would have allowed for a police investigation, but if they had, I suspect it wouldn’t be a mystery.

      Reply
  10. A sad and mysterious story. Who knows what happened, but my guess is that what was reported was not the whole story. Maybe it was Peter, maybe it was a jilted lover of Ada’s. How odd that there wasn’t really an investigation, and yet no suicide was reported.

    Reply
    • JH

      Definitely odd, Sara. If it was my mom and brother, I’d want to know what happened.

      Reply
  11. It is sad. Too bad they covered it up, but back then the rich hid their scandals instead of basking in them like they do know. Or so it seems to me.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, and sad to think they considered epilepsy and mental illness a scandal back then. Of course, there’s still a huge stigma against mental illness today as well.

      Reply
  12. So now I will not sleep tonight trying to sort out what happened that tragic night. And how tragic that had to have been. I’m imagining the discovery and the panic and the need to hide whatever the truth was. You are ruining my sleep, but tantalizing my imagination.

    Reply
    • JH

      Sorry for the sleep deprivation, but happy to have intrigued you! That’s what unsolved mysteries are for.

      If only there had been an investigation…

      Reply
  13. After reading your post I had to find out more. That did not help the confusion. From the reading, it is reported that no gun was found, a gun was found beside Clifford, and still another mentions 2 guns may have been there. Ada was shot in the back of the head but may have also been shot in the shoulder. Clifford was shot about his eye. But these are just what’s been said, we don’t have the evidence. They should be exhumed.

    My theory, Amy and Peter did it. Amy went on to marry the family doctor who gave evidence at the inquest. That’s awfully convenient.

    Reply
    • JH

      Hmm…that is convenient. Glad I didn’t miss any bit of research that would have cleared things up! Man, would I have been embarrassed.

      But it’s really cool that you were interested enough to look into it further. Thanks for sharing what you learned, Frank!

      Reply
      • I hope I didn’t offend you. I was fascinated by the mystery, mystery has always been my favorite genre. It is truly amazing how much information there is out there about the case but none of it is confirmed. So much was hidden by the family, it’s almost all hearsay.

        Reply
        • JH

          Not at all! Not the slightest bit offended. It’s cool when one of my posts interests someone enough that they dig further. 🙂

          Reply
  14. I agree with Frank I think he has come closest to solving. I have one other question with all their money why didn’t the family hire round the clock care for the mother were they afraid of someone finding out a family secret? All very interesting.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for commenting, Jane, and welcome to my blog! I think that perhaps these things were kept in the family for a reason. Maybe things have changed now, but when I was growing up, families tended to keep their issues to themselves and not involve outsiders.

      It could stem from that, especially if they felt their reputations would be at stake.

      Reply
  15. Well, my initial thought was that Peter did it. Maybe after he killed the mother the brother heard and he shot him too. Money is a great motivator. What city did this happen in?

    Reply
    • JH

      Montreal, Quebec.

      Reply
  16. I find it interesting that Peter (who didn’t live at home anymore) was present at the house during the incident. Maybe he had a problem with his youngest brother being in charge of the finances? Maybe he was jealous of the bond between his mom and brother? I wonder whether he was ever the suspect of the crime.

    I wouldn’t rule out that Ada killed her son at the height of depression and then killed herself. Or, she killed herself first and Clifford was so upset by that, he then killed himself…

    Reply
    • JH

      Ooh, Romeo & Juliet, the twisted mother-son version.

      Reply
  17. I had no idea the Redpath had this happen. I would need to know more like…where was the gun? Back in 1901, no one would want to investigate the rich and the Redpath didn’t want this to be remembered. It’s like when we find out someone in our family tree went to jail and your mother or father never mentioned it because it looks bad. I don’t think the son killed his mom because he was attentive to her. It could be her for sure bit what about the son who heard the shots? I wonder if it wasn’t murder to get rid of mom and the one son as that sons would be the ones to inherit everything.

    Reply
    • JH

      Good theory, Birgit. Quoting a great movie in your honour: “That kind of money is always a motive.”

      Reply
  18. I haven’t heard of this case, so I’m only basing this theory on what’s here. Isn’t Peter a likely suspect – he was the one who stood to make money from his mother’s death. And if he was cold blooded enough to do that for money, perhaps he was cold blooded enough to kill Clifford as well to make it look more random than that.
    Debbie

    Reply
    • JH

      Good point, Debbie. It’s a solid theory. Happy to have introduced you to something new! Well, as new as a historical cold case can be.

      Reply
  19. You make a good point that if she suffered from depression it isn’t likely she’d have the energy to kill her son. I wouldn’t have thought of that. I’m going to go with Peter having done it, although I guess we’ll never know.

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s the aggravating thing about these historical unsolved mysteries–their stubborn determination to remain that way.

      Reply
  20. It seems highly unlikely that epilepsy would drive anyone to murder. And I’m not at all convinced of the murder/suicide theory. So many missing pieces – why is Peter at home? Where is the murder weapon? Maybe the Ada and Peter plotted the murder together. I also wouldn’t rule out some scandal involving one or more of the servants – the Victorian era was rife with them. These few facts could be developed into several interesting historical mystery stories.

    Reply
    • JH

      Go for it, Lee! I can feel your creative wheels turning from here.

      Reply

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