Murder at the Redpath Mansion



Heading - Murder at the Redpath Mansion.JPG Shots rang out inside a closed bedroom in the Redpath mansion on Sherbrooke Street at approximately 6:00 p.m. on the evening of June 13, 1901.

 Peter Redpath rushed up the stairs and burst into his mother's bedroom where he saw the bodies of his mother, 56 year old Ada Mills Redpath, and his brother, 24 year old Jocelyn Clifford Redpath, lying on the floor a few feet apart in pools of blood. A revolver lay on the floor next to Clifford. Both mother and son had gunshot wounds to the head. Doctors were immediately called to the house. Ada Redpath died shortly thereafter; Clifford was barely alive and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds a short time later.

This was the general story reported at the time of the incident. The initial thinking was that Clifford was killed in an attempt to stop his ailing and depressed mother from committing suicide.[1]  Unfortunately, the "evidence" given by witnesses became more and more contradictory and confusing, making solving of the mystery impossible. Now, 111 years later, curiosity still abounds concerning the events of that night.

 The only stable bits of the story are that Ada Redpath, widow of the wealthy industrialist John James Redpath, of Redpath sugar fame, was indeed in poor health and her children took turns caring for her and seeing to her needs. Of five children, Amy, the only daughter, and Clifford, the youngest undertook most of the caretaking. Clifford had just graduated with a BCL from  McGill and was studying for his bar exam, scheduled for July of that year, only a month away,  Ada's net worth at the time of her death equalled approximately 5,000,000 of today's dollars. Both mother and son died of gunshot wounds to the head on the evening of June 13, 1901. Mystery and confusion clouds every other bit of the story.

Contradictory Evidence

At the coroner's inquest the very next day, Peter stated thMrs. JJ Redpath and Child.jpgat Clifford appeared ill and tired upon his arrival home that fateful evening. He proceeded directly to his mother's bedroom and a few seconds later, shots were heard.[2] Another recounting has it that an argument ensued before the shooting. Peter was also later to have said that Clifford was homosexual and went to see his mother, most probably to tell her, hence the ensuing argument.


Initial reports indiclifford.jpgcated that two shots were heard, but in the Coroner's report, three shots Peter declared to having heard three.  The number of wounds to mother and son are also contradictory. Did Ada have only one shot to the back of her head or one to the head and one in the shoulder?  Clifford was reported to have one shot to the left temple; another newspaper report had it situated in the forehead over the left eye.[3]  A change to the site could indicate something other than a self-inflicted wound.

Doctors were called to the scene, yet shockingly, police were never notified of the accident, only finding out about it incidentally. One of the doctors at the scene reported that some foam was evident in Clifford's mouth, signs of an epileptic seizure. This gave rise to the theory that Clifford had shot his mother to cease her suffering and then shot himself while experiencing a grand mal seizure, thus making him not responsible for his behaviour. Although the family's physician, Dr. Thomas Roddick, maintained that Clifford was a known epileptic, no mention is made in the extensive family diaries that Clifford ever suffered from epilepsy. If Clifford did indeed commit suicide, why are there no suicides listed for that year in the city of Montreal for June of 1901?[4]  It is interesting to note here that Dr. Roddick, the family physician who gave evidence at the inquest, later married Amy.

The number of revolvers found at the scene also differs. In the coroner's report, Peter himself reported that one revolver was found, but, at the same inquest, Dr. Hugh Patton swore that there were two. One of the household staff, Mary Rose Shallow, stated that she had never seen a revolver in Ada's bedroom. Two revolvers instead of one give rise to yet another theory, one in which someone else shot the pair.

Ada died on the scene, but Clifford, barely clinging to life, was sent to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he died a short while later. No hospital records exist documenting this crisis.

Clifford's and Ada's states of mind that night are also called into question. The fact that Clifford recently paid the fee to sit the bar exam less than one month hence does not support the theory that he was unhappy and stressed to the point of depression and suicide. A dinner party planned for that evening does not support the theory that Ada would attempt suicide, either. Amy, who controlled the household, would have been overseeing the preparations, yet there was no mention of her part in the happenings of that evening. Where was Amy in all of this? 

Finally, the speed with which the whole situation was over and done with is unusual. The deaths occurred on a Thursday, the coroner's inquest was held at the mansion the following day, and the bodies were buried within 48 hours. Amy succeeded in quashing any mention of the tragedy and in a very short time no one mentioned either Ada, Clifford, or their deaths.[5]


Reasons for the Cover Up

The Victorian sensibilities of the time were such that unpleasant or embarrassing events were not to be acknowledged in order to maintain personal privacy and public respectability. Appearances had to be kept up. [6]. The conflicting information concerning the events of that night makes for interesting theories as to what really happened and shows how easy it was for the rich elite of the time living in the Golden Square Mile to cover up and make disappear something as serious as murder. One can only speculate that perhaps the confusion was deliberately orchestrated, intended to make an unpleasant event go away and to deflect any deep investigation into the matter. While we can only guess at what really happened that evening, only those present knew what happened.


Photo credits:

 1.  Title: Mrs. John Redpath's House, Sherbrooke Street, Montreal, QC, 1899

Creator: Wm. Notman & Son

Archive or Repository: Musée McCord Museum

Reference Number: II-129781

Notes: The Redpath home at 1065 Sherbrooke St. West was designed by Montreal architect John James Browne in 1870. For more information about this image please click here.


2. Title: Mrs. J.J. Redpath and Child, Montreal, QC, 1871

Creator: William Notman

Archive or Repository: Musée McCord Museum

Notes: Photographer William Notman shot this portrait of Ada Maria Mills Redpath with her only daughter and eldest child Amy Redpath in 1871. For more information about this image please click here.


3.  Title: Mr. J.C. Redpath, Law graduate, Montreal, QC, 1900

Creator: Wm. Notman & Son

Archive or Repository: Musée McCord Museum

Reference Number: II-133577

Notes: Jocelyn Clifford Redpath graduated from law at McGill University in 1900. For more information about this image please click here.



Works Cited


[1]  Unknown. "Mother and Son Dead." The Globe (Toronto) June 14, 2021

[2]  Coroner's Report, Ada Maria Mills Redpath, June 14, 2021

[3]  Unknown. "Coroner Holds Inquest." The Gazette (Montreal), June 15, 2021

 [4]  Adams, Annmarie, Valerie Minnett, Mary Anne Poutanen, and David Theodore. ""She must not stir out of a darkened room": The Redpath Mansion Mystery." Material Culture Review / Revue de la culture matérielle [Online], 72 (2010): n. pag. Web. 13 Sep. 2012

[5] Hustak, Alan. "Redpath Mansion Mystery Revived", The Gazette (Montreal), March 31, 2022

[6] Victorian Values An Introduction, compiled by Susan Bayley, Humanities Department, Dawson College, Fall 2008, pg. 24

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