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Would you live in a house where there’s been a murder?

Oct 28, 2023 | 2023 Toronto Star Property Law Columns

By Bob Aaron
Toronto Star contributing columnist

When the value of a house is affected by a history of murder, suicide, ghosts, or hauntings, it is generally referred to as stigmatized.

Would you live in a house where the dismembered body of the owner’s husband was cremated in the furnace, and the body of a newborn infant was found encased in concrete in a suitcase hidden in the attic?

One of Ontario’s most notorious murder cases centred on this house at 23 Carrick Ave. in Hamilton.

With Hallowe’en coming up next week, I was reminded of this famous house once owned by Evelyn Dick who was the central figure in one of Canada’s most grisly murder cases.

Evelyn met John Dick in the summer of 1945, and although he was 15 years her senior, they married in October of the same year. Their marriage was stormy, and she deserted him the following March to live with another man.

John Dick was last seen alive on March 6, 1946. Ten days later some children hiking on Hamilton mountain found his headless and limbless torso. It had two gunshot wounds to the chest.

The police took Evelyn in for questioning, and during a search of her house on Carrick Ave. they found a suitcase containing the concrete-encased body of her infant son. In the furnace they also found the charred remains of her husband’s head and limbs.

Evelyn was charged with his murder, convicted and sentenced to hang. She retained the famous criminal lawyer John J. Robinette to appeal her case. The Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a new trial, and she was ultimately acquitted since the evidence against her was mainly circumstantial.

She was also tried and convicted of manslaughter in the murder of her baby and sentenced to life in prison. She served 11 years, was paroled in 1958, given a new identity and disappeared from public view. She was pardoned in 1985.

In August, 1947, the Carrick Ave. house was sold to an investor who flipped it for a profit two months later. It was bought by the current owners in September, 1991, for $138,900.

In the real estate field, when the value of a house might be affected by a history of murder, suicide, ghosts, hauntings or other unexplained happenings, it is referred to as stigmatized or psychologically impacted – even if there are no scientific grounds for this belief.

Some homebuyers might be concerned about the history of such a house, either from fear or believing that its value could be reduced. Others would not.

In Ontario, if a house like 23 Carrick Ave. ever comes on the market, the owners would have no obligation to disclose its notorious history to a potential purchaser. But a real estate agent with knowledge of the history of the property does have a disclosure obligation.

Whether or not there is a time limit on disclosure is an open question. The house at 169 Walmer Rd. in Toronto achieved some notoriety in 1915 when Bert Massey, grandson of Hart Massey of the Massey manufacturing company, was shot and killed by his 18-year-old housemaid on the front steps. Ultimately she was acquitted by a jury.

Personally, I wouldn’t live in any house with this kind of history. Would you?


Contact Bob Aaron

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents.
He can be reached by email at bob@aaron.ca, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.

Aaron & Aaron specialize in Real Estate Law, specifically Sale of Rental, Condominium, Residential, Rural Recreation, Offer to Lease, Commercial, and New Construction

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