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

By | March 10, 2021

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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.

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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.