The Torso murder case is one of the most sensational and talked about murder cases in Canada’s history. 75 years later, it has spawned a play, a movie, inspired music, books, and podcasts.

The Story

When And Where?

Hamilton, Ontario Canada. March, 1946


Evelyn Dick was born to Donald and Alexandra MacLean on October 13, 1920. A year after her birth in Beamsville, near Niagara Falls, the family moved to 214 Rosslyn Avenue in Hamilton. The elder MacLean worked for the Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) as a streetcar conductor. He later attained an office position that gave him access to company revenues.

Evelyn’s childhood was not particularly happy. Her father indulged too much in alcohol, and her mother demonstrated a wicked temper. The parents didn’t get along and often spent time apart. Evelyn didn’t associate much with the neighbourhood children. Her parents considered her too fragile to be out playing on the streets. Rumours abounded that Donald was dipping into the coffers of the HSR.  They lived very well, always had huge sums in the bank and would send Evelyn shopping with handfuls of nickels, the fee collected for a fare in those days.

With parental encouragement, Evelyn tried hard to become recognized in the finer circles in town. Her parents pulled her out of public school and sent her to the prestigious Loretto Academy attended by the daughters of Hamilton’s elite.  She would host lavish parties at the Royal Connaught Hotel, Hamilton’s finest, and spend money freely on acquaintances.  Her social acceptance was never reciprocated in the way that she wanted.

The attractive Evelyn became the focus of rumours while still in her mid-teens. She had more expensive jewelry and furs than was considered proper. She spent time in the company of much older men and at places out of town and at race tracks. In 1942, Evelyn gave birth to a daughter, Heather. This further fueled rumours. Evelyn announced that it was OK, that she was married to a man stationed overseas by the last name of White. Later examination of military records failed to prove the existence of such a person.  In June of 1945, Evelyn. Heather and Alexandra MacLean, who had recently separated from Donald, moved into an apartment together in downtown Hamilton. After a month or so together, Evelyn astounded her mother by announcing that in two weeks she was going to marry John Dick. Alexandra MacLean had never heard of him.  On October 4, 1945, Evelyn and John were married at the Church of the Ascension.

The Murder(s):

It was Saturday, March 16, 1946 when a group of five children found what they thought looked like the body of a headless pig laying part way down the side of Hamilton’s escarpment, or what locals call ‘The Mountain’. Their find proved to be more gruesome.  It was, in fact the torso of an adult male. The head, arms and legs were missing and no where to be found. A deep wound in the abdomen told investigators that someone had tried to cut the torso itself in two. An identification of the remains by doctors and a positive i.d. by his brother-in-law led police to the conclusion that they had found the remains of John Dick, a conductor for the Hamilton Street railway. Dick’s cousin, Alexander Kammerer, had reported to police that John had been missing since March 6. He told them that he became worried when he heard reports of the torso and began to suspect that something awful may have happened to the man who had been living with him since his short-lived marriage had apparently failed. Kammerer had wondered whether Dick had returned to the house on Carrick Avenue where he, his wife and step-daughter had resided together for only a brief period of time.

Strange as it seemed, John and Evelyn had been married for almost a month before they began to reside together. She remained in an apartment with her mother and Heather, telling John that there wasn’t enough room for all of them. Alexandra wondered about Evelyn and John, all the while remembering the name, Bill Bohozuk, the man that she believed her daughter to be very much involved with when Evelyn’s perplexing marriage announcement was made. It was Evelyn herself who bought the Carrick Avenue home. John Dick’s name was not on the mortgage, and it is believed that he put none of the initial deposit money down. A few stormy months resulted in John’s departure. Evelyn was taken to police headquarters for questioning by Detective-Sergeant Clarence Preston soon after the body was identified. What followed was astounding to investigators. Evelyn Dick responded to the news that the torso belonged to her husband by remarking, “Don’t look at me. I don’t know anything about it”, then proceeded to tell a story about a nattily dressed Italian hitman who arrived at her door looking for John. He said that he was going to “fix” him for messing around with his wife. He then left without telling Mrs. Dick who he was.

Days later, police had learned that Evelyn borrowed a large Packard car from a man named Bill Landeg. Landeg received the car back with blood covering the front seat, the seat covers missing and bloody clothing in the back. Evelyn left a note explaining that Heather had cut herself and made the mess. Investigation proved the blood to be the same type as John Dick’s. At this point, Evelyn told police that a mysterious man had called her, told her that John had made a woman pregnant and that he was getting what was coming to him. The man then asked her to meet her so that he could borrow a car. Evelyn explained that she met the man and he had a large sack with him. He told her it contained ‘part of John’. Evelyn’s story went on to say that she drove this man and his cargo to the dumping site.

Mrs. Dick took police on the route that she claimed they followed. When asked if it was at all alarming to her that her husband’s body was in the vehicle she said that she wasn’t happy about his demise, but that it was a “pretty mean trick to break up a home”, referring, evidently to the woman who Dick had allegedly impregnated. She emphatically denied conspiring to kill her husband.

Evelyn’s responses and demeanor were inappropriate.  Psychiatrists found her to be on the borderline between having dull normal and moron-like intelligence. In addition, it was reported that she had the mental capacity of a thirteen year old girl although this diagnosis was surprising to many who knew her to be an extremely intelligent and manipulative woman.  Later, Evelyn changed her story again and signed a second statement regarding the involvement of Italian killers, hired by Bill Bohozuk.  She took police on another tour, explaining in some detail how the crime was committed, including the location where John Dick was shot in the head on a muddy road near Glanford, south of Hamilton.

During all of this, investigators at the Dick’s Carrick Avenue residence made a gruesome discovery; a beige suitcase in an attic trunk. The suitcase was filled with concrete, and in the concrete were the remains of a baby boy borne to Evelyn on September 5, 1944.  Alexandra MacClean told police that she had seen her husband at this trunk the day before and told her to get the hell out of the room. Faced with this turn of events, and having been told that Bohozuk had been brought in for questioning, Evelyn Dick told yet another story. She said that Bill Bohozuk had murdered the child and John Dick as well. Incriminating evidence such as bullet holes in a pipe, a revolver and cartridges, saws and bloodstained shoes that were almost certainly John Dick’s were found in Donald MacLean’s basement. Evelyn Dick, Bill Bohozuk and Donald MacClean were charged with the murder of John Dick.

Trial and Outcome:

Evelyn Dick’s trial caused a media frenzy and crowds turned up at the Hamilton courthouse to catch a glimpse of the beautiful suspect.  In her first trial, Evelyn Dick, represented by lawyer John Sullivan, was found guilty of John Dick’s murder. She was sentenced to death by hanging. Although she may not have killed John with her own hands, Evelyn Dick was guilty by participating in the planning and carrying out of the crime which was enough to find her guilty of murder under the law.

When the case was heard on appeal, the verdict was overturned because her lawyer, J.J. Robinette skillfully argued that Evelyn’s statements to police were improperly admitted into evidence and that the trial judge had not properly instructed the jury. Bill Bohozuk and Donald Maclean were held for an unheard of length of time before their joint trial was to take place. Bohozuk walked because Evelyn Dick, the only witness prosecutors had, refused to testify. Donald Maclean was found to be guilty as an accessory after the fact and sentenced to five years in prison.

Evelyn however, was not so lucky. She was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of her infant son and sentenced to life in Kingston Penitentiary where she became a model inmate.  In 1958 Evelyn Dick was paroled and on November 10, 1958, she was released from prison.  In total, she served almost thirteen years behind bars between jail time in Kingston and Hamilton.  What happened to her after that is uncertain as she assumed a new name and started a new life in an unknown city.  In 1985, Evelyn was granted a pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy which meant that she no longer had to report to police or the parole board and her file was sealed forever.  No one was ever convicted for the murder of John Dick.

Extra Features section of the movie Torso:  The Evelyn Dick Story
Torso Murder: The Untold Story of Evelyn Dick

The People

The Legacy

Evelyn Dick in Popular Culture

The case of Evelyn Dick has been retold, dramatized and immortalized in popular culture:

Where are you Mrs. Dick? An 8-part true crime documentary series – Check out the podcast here.

Torso: The Evelyn Dick Story (2002)

Hamilton punk band The Forgotten Rebels penned the song Mrs. Evelyn Dick on their (Untitled) album in 1989:

Evelyn was a party girl from Hamilton south
Her hubby drove a bus ’round the Gore Park fountain
Then one day they had a terrible fight
You should have seen what happened that night.

She took the saw, and cut off his arms
Took the saw, and cut off his legs
Took the saw, and cut off his head

Why did you do it Mrs. Evelyn Dick?
How could you!? Mrs. Dick!?

Strewn the gibs down underneath the stairs
Maggots on the ground and flies in the air
Some kids playing doctor got him out of the sack
Started playing with the pieces but they didn’t put him

She took the saw, she cut off his arms
Took the saw, she cut off his legs
Took the saw, she cut off his head

Why did you do it Mrs. Evelyn Dick?
How could you? Mrs. Dick?!

Now the rot filled head stares at her in jail
With the moonlighting guards and the nightstand pail.
They didn’t make a movie, wrote a book instead
You can read it to your lover every night before bed

She took the saw, she cut off his arms
Took the saw, she cut off his legs
Took the saw, she cut off his head