Saturday, 24 May 2014


Following their arrests on December 22, 1965 for trafficking about $200,000 worth of narcotics (worth about $10 million in today’s currency) from their modest 5th Street bungalow in New Westminster, Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan, Margaret Anne Cunningham and Joseph Sperling faced the specially appointed Crown Prosecutor, Wilfred Heffernan in a bail hearing. (The fourth person arrested in the case, Burnaby waitress Thelma Mosier, was arraigned in Burnaby). Of course any trial has two sides making arguments to the judge and jury, and the three people standing in the dock two days before the Christmas of 1965 were no exception. Of the two lawyers defending MacLauchlan and his associates, one was Raymond James Westaway, whose practice dealt usually with civil, as opposed to criminal, matters. 
The MacLauchlan group’s other lawyer, as has been briefly mentioned here before, was Nick Mussallem (younger brother of former Social Credit MLA George Mussallem of Maple Ridge and son of a long time Haney mayor, Solomon Mussallem.).
Of Lebanese descent Nick Mussallem no doubt had a significant reputation as a barrister. For example, about a decade previous to defending MacLauchlan, Cunningham and Sperling at the preliminary hearing, Nick Mussallem had played a role in two other very high-profile judicial situations during the 1950s – first the Tupper Inquiry into corruption in the Vancouver City Police when Chief Walter Mulligan was investigated for taking bribes, and, second, the several-year judicial proceedings (a public inquiry and a trial) against Social Credit Forests Minister Robert Sommers during the mid-1950s when Sommers, along with several other men, was implicated in a bribe-taking scandal.
Regarding the Sommers trial, which was presided over by Chief Justice J. O. Wilson, Mussallem acted at some points in the trial in concert with another well known British Columbia jurist, East Vancouver-born Angelo Branca, one of the city’s best known criminal lawyers, who later went on to sit on the BC Supreme Court. One of Mussallem’s successes in the early part of the process was to get permission for Sommers to sit in the Legislature while the preliminary hearing (run by Magistrate Oscar Orr) was underway. It is unlikely that such a situation would prevail today – an MLA facing serious criminal charges being allowed to take his seat in the Legislature.
Like his brother George, Nick Mussallem had political ambitions. However, his were less successful. When he ran for the Liberal Party in the riding of Vancouver Burrard in the provincial election of 1963 both he and his NDP opponent, Tom Berger, (who, as mentioned above, defended Sperling after the MacLauchlans had been murdered) were defeated by Social Credit Party candidates. (Vancouver Burrard was a two-member riding). Nick Mussallem was appointed to the BC Provincial Court in July 1971.
As usual Ken and I are seeking information from anyone who may have had personal knowledge of Nick Mussallem. We understand he had a son and we are hoping that son may recall anecdotes of his father’s cases and give us some details about the MacLauchlan case. But we need to find the son first. Any assistance in this search will be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, 1 May 2014


Even martinets have their sensitive side. That certainly seems to have been the case with Lt Colonel Donald George MacLauchlan, commanding officer of the Calgary Highlanders who was Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan’s younger (and more respectable) brother. Succeeding Lt Col Fred Scott in February 1942 when the regiment was in England undergoing further military training, MacLauchlan was a different kind of man. In the early part of his command, when the Highlanders were following closely upon the initial successes of the hard fought D-Day landings, he was regarded by the troops as being squeamish about being under fire.

According to sources quoted by well-known University of Calgary history professor David Bercuson in his 1994 book “Battalion of Heroes: The Calgary Highlanders in World War II”, MacLauchlan was not often seen in the front lines leading the troops. Rather, he preferred to be in his bunker doing paperwork and reports or interviewing underlings. However, by the end of his tenure as Commanding Officer (CO), MacLauchlan had gained significantly in self-confidence as a leader and had faced fire along with his men. As well, he was well-regarded when it came to organizing and undertaking set-piece engagements.

According to Bercuson and an earlier chronicler of the Highlanders, Terry Copp, battle fatigue did the regiment’s second CO in. Not insensitive, MacLauchlan was still not one to indulge in camaraderie with his fellow officers. “Remote” probably was the word that best describes his leadership style. At the same time, however, the same authors mention that MacLauchlan did suffer quite personally over the officers and men under his command when they suffered injury or death. In fact, on one of the last days of his command, Lt Col Donald George MacLauchlan did break down over the fact that he was departing from his fellow officers.

He was succeeded as CO by Lt Col Ross Ellis, a man very much admired by the men under his command – probably since they knew he had risen through the ranks to lead the regiment. Unlike MacLauchlan he never, even from the first, displayed a reluctance to be in the front lines with his troops, facing the same dangers as them.

As we have mentioned before in this blog, Ken McIntosh and I are very interested to find out if Lt Col MacLauchlan and his wartime bride, Elizabeth Loder Johnson (the daughter of Baroness Selsdon, a lower echelon member of the British Aristocracy), had any children. If that is the case, we might be able to contact them in order to find out more about their uncle, Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan. After all, the doctor along with his third wife (and fellow murder victim) Margaret Anne, remains the focus of our research.
We can be contacted through the home page of this website.
The above photo and its accompanying caption is taken from Prof. Bercuson's 1994 book on the Calgary Highlanders, which is mentioned above.