A brutal act of violence infamously known as the Mayfair Hotel Muders, stunned the City of Kelowna on Jan. 12, 1932 — leaving a haunting imprint on its history.
At the time Kelowna police chief David Murdoch was obsessed with a colleague, an undercover police officer by the alias of Genevieve Nolan. He would often write letters to Nolan, expressing his love.
Nolan became friendly with retired officer Archie McDonald, which allegedly put Murdoch into a jealous rage, murdering Nolan, McDonald and attempting to kill two others.
In August of 1931, Murdoch had been in a dust-up with McDonald while on holiday in Chilliwack, B.C. The altercation found Murdoch at the bottom of a staircase and McDonald facing assault charges. He was never found guilty, however, he was dismissed from the force.
A teaser from historian Glen Mofford’s upcoming book, Room at the Inn, a journey back to the historic hotels of British Columbia’s Southern Interior, recounts an editorialized version of the haunting events that began at the Lakeview Hotel — later renamed the Mayfair Hotel — on Jan. 12, 1932.
“Shaking and scared Jean Nolan looked over her shoulder a second time and noticed that her pursuer was getting closer. That’s when she heard the first shot as a bullet flew past her head. Nolan broke into a run while wiping away tears from her eyes and made for the steps of the Mayfair Hotel where she was staying. The frightened woman flew up the stairs and into the lobby screaming that she was being chased. Surprised staff and guests looked on as the desperate woman ran through the hotel lobby towards the dining room while a large figure in a long dark blue coat and wearing a fedora followed close behind. Arriving at the dining room doors Nolan turned the knob only to find the doors locked. She frantically shook the doors hoping that would open them for her escape but realized it was useless. She turned to face her attacker.”
According to Mofford, the police chief fired seven shots at Nolan who died at the scene.
“What made this horrendous scene even more outrageous was that the gun-wielding murderer was recognized as Chief Constable David Murdoch of the City of Kelowna and the victim, Gene Noland, was a police informant on temporary assignment for the Kelowna Police Department,” said Mofford.
A 1932 Chilliwack Progress article stated Murdoch proceeded to head to the house of barrister T.J. Norris, who was in Vancouver on business. To find no one home, Murdoch left to kill Dr. Boyce, who was warned of the first tragedy and was able to escape in time.
McDonald was also informed, but either ignored the warning or wasn’t able to able to flee his home. He was subsequently shot down at his door.
In the end, Murdoch was found at his home shortly after committing the crimes, apparently enjoying the paper and a cup of coffee. He was then arrested and charged with two counts of murder.
A jury found Murdoch not guilty, by reason of insanity in November 1932 during his third trial. His first two trials had resulted in a hung jury. David Murdoch served his 25 years sentence at Colquitz Insane Asylum in Victoria.
Glen A. Mofford is a historian and a writer with a passion for sharing the social history of British Columbia. He graduated from Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University and has been writing about BC’s historic hotels and their drinking establishments for more than ten years.
Along the E&N: A Journey Back to the Historic Hotels of Vancouver Island and Aqua Vitaeis, are two of his books.