This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  SarahWriteNow 1 year, 10 months ago.

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    My take on Doctor Macrobbie’s death:
    After reviewing the various sets of newspaper articles which so accurately and thoroughly described and captured the important details of Dr. Macrobbie’s death, I have drawn a conclusion on what I feel happened to him that night in August and who dealt the deadly blow. Forensic evidence and the legal system were much different 100 years ago than today and this was beautifully illustrated within this story. Many witnesses gave contradictory evidence and testimony about the essential facts of the case and the men involved, primarily being the Doctor, Walter Scott, Jay McAuliffe and Harry Smith. I view the testimony of what the accused said and their timeline as highly suspect.  

    There’s no real dispute that the Doctor was at Crescent Oil between 10 PM and when his body was found by police and medical personnel around 1 AM. The forensic evidence post-mortem showed he had been consuming alcohol. Three of the four men charged in the crime were without question in an intoxicated state when they were arrested.
    My feeling is due to the high level of alcohol that was consumed an altercation occurred between Dr. Macrobbie and Harry Smith, the owner of Crescent Oil ensued over a perceived serious and threatening matter which could have included illegal card games, bootlegging as the Ontario Temperance Act had certain restrictions regarding the distribution and consumption of alcohol at the time and the question of where all the alcohol was acquired was not adequately answered within the articles or another dark secret. I’m guessing Macrobbie probably began making threats to Smith or vice versa and maybe even attacked him. These actions resulted in Walter Scott spontaneously grabbing an unknown object and striking the Doctor once in the back of the head and knocking him down.  Two more strikes were landed,  another one to the back of the head and one to his hand. This would account for the large blood spatter patterns in the upper office. Following this, Harry Smith conspired a cover up. I suspect Smith and Scott left the premise and Scott and the murder weapon were dropped off at an unknown location. Smith probably suspected that although he did not kill the doctor, he would be guilty by association and needed to do everything he could to ensure he and the other men were never convicted. Smith then involved his wife and may have told her and eventually his employees that Macrobbie had been hurt in an accident. I believe he never told anyone that Scott had struck the doctor. He wanted the accident narrative to stick. What followed this initial exit of Crescent was Smith returning to the Crescent Oil building ( I don’t believe Scott returned, but if he did it was brief) and moving the Doctor’s body to make it appear as if he had fallen and placed an unlit cigarette in his hand. At this point, the Doctor was quite dead when Smith summoned his night watchman, friends from the Royal Oak hotel and employees to the scene and explained there was an accident regarding the doctor. Due to the salacious nature of their Sunday night alcohol consumption, he emphasized to all the initial witnesses that this was an accident but advised them not to say much more as he and them could be further implicated in legal prosecution, the loss of work if Crescent was to shut down or maybe even the end of the bootlegging operation which was prevalent in Hamilton at the time. 

    I believe these men had loyalty to Smith and probably wanted this to be an accident and presented their information in a manner that supported the accident narrative. Once the police were called, Smith left the scene again before their arrival to double check his blood stained clothes were disposed of with the assistance of his wife and likely consumed more alcohol to help deal with what had happened and add to his already drunken stupor and “I don’t remember” alibi.

    I suspect Mrs Smith and/or Walter Scott burned or disposed of any incrementing evidence that was taken from the scene. McAuliffe was likely legitimately passed out drunk when this altercation occurred due to how he was found asleep by police in the company parking lot wearing one shoe and his honest reaction of shock and grief when told of the doctor’s death the following morning in jail.
    Although it’s impossible to ever know what happened to Dr. Macrobbie, this theory is closest to what I believe happened based on an informed evaluation of the articles, forensic evidence and the men’s who were charged in his death, behaviour. The judge got this verdict wrong and ultimately a guilty man or men were acquitted for crimes albeit done spontaneously and under the influence of heavy drink committed.

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Aaron.

    This is such a fantastic story and I commend you on the research you have undertaken. I’d like to share an excerpt from ‘The Whisky King’ written by Trevor Cole, which you may want to get a hold of – it’s a great read.

    ‘The rules of what would be called the Ontario Temperance Act (OTA) dictated that no intoxicating beverages could be sold in Ontario. And in case there was any doubt, “any liquor which contains more than 2 1/2 per cent of proof spirits shall be conclusively deemed to be intoxicating.” There was one chief exception: the sale of products with alcohol intended for medicinal or scientific purposes. Alcohol had always been the main “active ingredient” in various health tonics and potions; a product like Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, for “female complaints,” offered a 40-proof wallop. But many people believed in the curative power of straight whisky, and you could get a prescription for that too. Doctors and druggists willing to play the game had patients lining up In the two and a half years following the passage of Bill 100 more than one million quarts of liquor would be supplied to patients by doctors’ orders. One physician wrote out 222 prescriptions for liquor in a single day.’

    I’m also researching this era and I find this entirely fascinating!


    Thanks for the information. Rocco Pierri was an active bootlegger and hardened criminal in 1917. There was so much liquor that wasn’t accounted for within the story. I’m convinced there is a bootlegging angle here and wonder if in fact Pierri was one of the suppliers to Dr. Macrobbie and the men he was with.

    In fact, I have a second murder theory which I’m composing now in which I explain how it’s reasonable to suggest Pierri killed Macrobbie. More to come…


    I love it! Yes, he was, but Rocco would not have personally done away with him. He had others do his dirty work. You might want to reach out to Trevor Cole, the author, since he his research on Rocco is extensive. I think he’d find this story fascinating and may be able to fill in some pieces for you. I’ll also keep stock of August, 1917, and the names involved and see if anything lines up.

    I bought the print edition of the paper as I wanted to digest the story properly; this website is a wonderful addition to it.

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