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Gilbert Paul Jordan: The 'Boozing Barber' Who Targeted Alcoholic First Nation Women

People | March 12, 2021

Kingsway Avenue, where Jordan's barber shop was located. (Flying Penguin/Wikimedia Commons)

From the Grim Sleeper to Jeffrey Dahmer, too many serial killers get away with their crimes because they target marginalized populations that society at large doesn't really care about. Gilbert Paul Jordan, otherwise known as "The Boozing Barber," walked (and killed) free for more than 20 years because authorities turned a blind eye to the deaths of the indigenous women who became his victims, making his crimes some of the most frustrating of the 20th century.

The Demon Barber Of Kingsway

Gilbert Paul Elsie was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1931 and spent his formative years blending into the background. He watched, he learned to cut hair, but what he really liked to do was drink. He was an alcoholic by the time he was a teenager, and by 1961, he'd thrown himself into a life of crime. He abducted a five-year-old girl that May, and two years later, he was accused of theft and rape by two women who he coerced into a car, but both times, he escaped justice.

Instead, he opened his own barber shop on Vancouver's Kingsway Avenue, where he spent the next few decades forcing women to drink to their deaths. He trawled the area's bars for First Nation women, plied them with booze, and then took them to a hotel or his barber shop, where he poured more liquor down their throats after they inevitably passed out. His first victim was Ivy Rose Oswald, who was found dead on the floor of a motel room on April 28, 1965 with a staggering 0.51 blood alcohol level. Even though she was seen in the company of Elsie all night, no charges were pressed, as her death was deemed accidental.

The Clifton Hotel, where Jordan's alleged final victim died. (Canadian2006/Wikimedia Commons)

Decades Of Death

Days after he killed Oswald, Elsie changed his last name to Jordan and carried on with his life. It's unclear if he murdered anyone during the next decade, but because his victims were largely invisible to society, it's entirely possible that many of them were never documented. He definitely picked things up by the '80s, when he allegedly targeted as many as 200 women per year for his one-on-one binge-drinking parties, though he was only legally linked to the deaths of fewer than a dozen women.

Jordan didn't come under the suspicion of local law enforcement until October 12, 1987, when they received an anonymous tip that led them to the Niagara Hotel and the body of Vanessa Lee Buckner. Several of the drinking glasses in her room were covered in Jordan's fingerprints, which he must have known they would find, because the call to the police was traced to Jordan's room at the Marble Arch Hotel. That's right: He called the cops on himself. Why? Nobody knows.

Still, it wasn't until Jordan's fingerprints were found at the scene of Edna Shade's death that police finally started tailing him. Between October 12 and November 26, 1987, they witnessed Jordan lead at least four First Nation to his hotel room, where they heard him offer the women money to continue drinking before becoming more forceful. According to court records, police stopped Jordan each time they feared the women were in mortal peril, but he wasn't arrested until late November, when he was seen on top of a woman, attempting to shove a bottle of vodka down her throat.

Glenaird Hotel, another location where Jordan allegedly killed. (Canadian2006/Wikimedia Commons)

Trial And Fairly Light Punishment

When Jordan finally went on trial in 1988, he showed no remorse for his crimes. "They were all on their last legs," he said. "I didn’t give a damn who I was with. I mean, we're all dying sooner or later." Despite such horrific dismissals, Jordan was only found guilty of one count of manslaughter for Buckner's death, for which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison but only served six.

After he was released in 2000, he immediately violated his probation when he attempted to sexually assault a woman who he forced to ingest alcohol in a similar manner to his previous murders and again in 2002, when he was found drinking with a severely intoxicated woman. Jordan attempted to change his name again, but the courts weren't having it, and in 2005, the Saanich Police Department issued a warning to the public about Jordan. It was too little, too late: One year later, he died at the age of 74.

Tags: alcohol | Canada | serial killers

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.