ne of the most fascinating aspects of The Torso Murder is how the media dealt with the case and presented it to the general public. The case that had everything a post-war public, now settling back into everyday life, could want: sex, greed, love, and murder. And lies. Lots of lies.
This true story follows the headline grabbing murder investigation and trial of Evelyn Dick. The short of it is that she was accused of sawing the head and limbs from her husband's dead body, attempting to burn them in her furnace to hide the evidence. However, she gets a new trial, and subsequent acquittal, based on appeal. This isn't the end, though - she is then tried for the death of a baby found encased in cement in a suitcase in her attic. Brian Vallée's new book on this case brings to life a far more complex portrait.
Evelyn Dick comes across as a troubled and manipulative woman who has the ambition to be someone. She is raised in an abusive household with a drunken father who steals a great sum of money from his employer. After this troublesome upbringing, Evelyn goes on to marry a man who she thinks will provide for her and elevate her lifestyle. He proves to be not what he at first seemed, and Evelyn is thrown into despair.
From this point the story of what actually happens is complex and blurred, but Vallée does a fine job in conveying what happened as far as the courts were concerned, and then suggests a more probable version of events.
The Torso Murder is a captivating tale that precedes the notorious Karla Homolka saga in terms of its effect on the public imagination. Evelyn Dick's whereabouts (she was released from prison in 1958, complete with a new identity) is unknown - if in fact she is still alive.
Vallée's search to understand the real Evelyn Dick teaches us a great deal about the development of both the media and criminal justice systems in Canada. The Torso Murder is at once a history lesson and a tale of suspense - creating nothing less than a compelling page turner.
Check out some of Brian Vallée's articles about the Dick case from the Hamilton Spectator
published by key porter books