Cold Case

A centuries-old whodunit may finally have been solved

From York Factory on Hudson Bay, Letitia Mactavish Hargrave wrote to her mother in Kintyre, Scotland: “There has been nothing further of John McLoughlin’s murder, except that master and men were all drunk, firing at each other till John who was in the condition of a maniac fell dead.”

Hargrave did not have all the facts straight, and the victim’s father, Dr. John McLoughlin, later turned up evidence of premeditation. Yet the letter writer was not far off the mark when she added: “It is a fearful thing, the men will be acquitted, as it will be justifiable homicide, but how are ignorant men to be taught the distinction between that and murder.”

By coincidence, I quoted the above lines in a work in progress days before I received a review copy of Debra Komar’s The Bastard of Fort Stikine: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Murder of John McLoughlin, Jr. What? Had I stumbled onto a trending...