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Part 1

Part 2Dan Beckon – Murder or Suicide? (Part 2)

Part 3Dan Beckon – Murder or Suicide? Part 3

Dan Beckon

On July 2, 1987, well known Canadian horse jockey Dan Beckon’s dead body was found at a farm in Bolton, Ontario. The police ruled the matter as a suicide. The family and their lawyers called in William C. Deer of Dallas, Texas, known (arguably) to be the best Investigator in North America. The family maintained Beckon had been murdered.

On March 22, 1988, William Deer (right) and Corpa’s President, Kevin Bousquet (left) and a team of other investigators reenacted Beckon’s death.

The police investigation maintained that Beckon shot himself in the head with a Winchester .22 rifle. The spent .22 casing was measured metres away from the body. The investigative team reenacted the scene several times, both as a murder and a suicide. When reenacted as a suicide, the casings fell no further than one metre. However, when reenacted as a murder the casings landed approximately the same distance as measured by police. The conclusion of the video taped reenactment gave every indication that Beckon could not possibly have shot himself, as the casings were found too far from the body at the crime scene.

Further notes:

• Found dead beside a deserted Bolton barn from a .22 rifle shot to his right temple hours after being told he tested positive for a third time for cocaine use.
• The man (Stan Wos) who spotted the body at the same time spotted a blue car on the only road connecting the scene of Beckon’s death to the main road (Note: this appears to refer to refer to the blue car that was seen on driveway leading into the abandoned farm).
• Wos may have told Dear the car was leaving the scene while his testimony at the inquest says it was parked facing into the farm.
• Where was the exact location of the farm? Check the Caledon newspaper archives.
• There was a swelling on Beckon’s face, from the cheekbone to his jaw on the right side of his face.
• Was the swelling consistent with the gunshot wound? (Note: no, the swelling was never properly explained).
• Wos found the body accidentally when he was going to the abandoned farm with his daughter to check on some hay he had stored there.
• Some reports say the farm was six kilometers from Beckon’s farm, other’s say it was the next farm over. Possibly a big farm.
• There was a mysterious man who was never identified who said he information on the blue car seen at the death scene.
• The Ontario Jockey Club agreed to pay $200,000 to an anonymous man on information on the individual seen in the blue car.
• However, part of the OJC’s offer were 15 separate conditions.
• One condition said he would only get paid if his information proved useful “In a material way.”
• That meant that the man would have to be able to say whether Beckon had committed suicide or been murdered.
• He said he didn’t know that but only knew the identities of the two men seen at the scene in the blue car.

Woodbine and Drug Test

• Beckon had told several people he was under pressure from racing officials to furnish them with specific information
• They wanted him to identify someone in a specific photograph and to turn over his address book
• Beckon refused and told an aunt, Shirley Scime of Ancaster, that if he if identified the photography as requested, “My life wouldn’t be worth shit.”
• Upon being told of the third positive test over the phone in the Woodbine Jockey’s Room, Beckon angrily informed his valet, Leo Davison, he was off his mounts for the afternoon.
• Jimmy Santha, his agent, says he received the same news shortly afterwards on the backstretch.
• Santha has said Beckon indicated he expected to be back at work Saturday, two days later.
• Beckon apparently had been certain that the June 21st test would be negative.
• Brian Swatuk was fined $2000 by the Ontario Racing Commission for refusing to submit a urine sample. (If this was an alternative to taking the test why didn’t Beckon choose to pay the fine if he even had a hint he wouldn’t pass the test?)
• Swatuk avoided providing the urine sample on the same day Beckon was caught
• Fellow jockey Pat Souter said “You can always get cocaine around Rexdale.”
• Souter: “Cocaine is everywhere around here. The big gamblers always have it and they’re always trying to give it to the guys.”
• Jockey Lloyd Duffy said “I’ve never seen drugs in the jocks room. I’ve never seen any of the guys really high.”
• The random drugs tests are given not only to jockey’s but to exercise riders, members of the starting crew and racing officials as well.
• Dr. Richard Roelofson supervises thoroughbred racing for the Ontario Racing Commission and the drug testing
• Roelofson admits, “There have been some others who tested positive, but I’m not prepared to reveal the number.”
• Beckon’s third test was on June 21, 1987
• Beckon was one of the jockey’s who sat on a committee in 1986 that revised the rules of racing for Ontario
• Beckon’s first drug test was in October 1986
• The second test was in May 1987
• Jockey Gary Stahlbaum, “When his (Beckon’s) name was drawn for that third test on June 21, I offered to piss for him, because I knew I was clean.”
• Stahlbaum, “Danny said it wasn’t necessary because he knew he was okay.”
• Diane Beckon said her husband had said “These aren’t the names they’re looking for. I’ll start at the top … and I can go on and on.”
• Before Beckon went before the Ontario Racing Commission in May 1987, he said, “This better not be a witch hunt.”

Sampling Process:

The bottles are sealed, and the seal is signed by both the supervising guard and the jockey tested. Each bottle is put into a strongbox with two padlocks and shipped to Mann Testing Laboratories in Mississauga.

The laboratory is given only a number for each sample, never a name.

Negative results in testing can be confirmed in three hours.

To confirm a positive test takes between seven and eleven days because such samples undergo a second, confirmation test and the lab people don’t work weekends.

Beckon family lawyer John Murray also showed how a sealed urine bottle can be tampered with and the security of the sealed bottles can be circumvented in about 14 minutes

Death Scene

• Beckon’s body was found near his pickup truck.
• Note: Are there any crime scene photos?
• Note: The body was removed prior to photos being taken!
• Two suicide notes were found inside Beckon’s truck written on pages from a notebook.
• Diane Beckon confirmed it’s Dan’s writing.
• Diane Beckon said, “I don’t see the reason for the note to me. We had wills. There was no need for him to write something like that.”
• The wording of the letter was strange. Written under duress?
• Beckon borrowed a .22 calibre rifle from an acquaintance in Bolton, planning to shoot a groundhog which had been digging holes around his property.
• He kept the gun in his barn, and got it during his brief visit home that morning.
• Beckon was found with a bullet wound to his right temple and a .22 calibre rifle beneath his body.
• His locked truck was between 12 and 15 feet away from his body, according to a witness.
• An empty shell casing found three meters (about 10 feet) from the body was not checked for fingerprints because “There was no reason to.”
• Wilde said he found a red felt pen in the glovebox of Beckon’s truck, while a handwriting expert from the Forensic Centre testified that he had examined the suicide notes under a microscope and that they were written with a ballpoint pen. Note: Was the ballpoint pen ever found?
• Testified the body was found lying in a left side semi-fetal position with his hands and feet close together while lawyers and spectators crowded around for a better view of the demonstration.
• He showed how the muzzle of the barrel had been covered by Beckon’s body with the fingers of the left hand beneath the barrel and the right hand resting on top of it.
• Sent to the abandoned farm about 1:30 pm
• Beckon’s body was still warm although there were no vital signs and his eyes did not react too light.
• The ambulance arrived at the farm at 1:51 pm.
• The corporal in charge of the initial OPP investigation unit failed to check whether the vehicle found at the death scene had been investigated.

Forensics

• Body wasn’t measured
• No explanation for the swelling on Beckon’s face
• A toxicology test was completed. There was no confirmation that Beckon was a heavy drug user of coke.
• Urinalysis showed trace amounts of cocaine.
• There was no indication from the autopsy report of any damage to the inside of his nose and membranes which would be evidence of a subject addicted to the use of cocaine since cocaine is usually absorbed through the nose.
• There was no indication of any puncture or needle marks on the body, including toes, indicating the use of drugs intravenously.
• Phone bill shows a private lab, Mann Testing Laboratories in Mississauga had been hired by Beckon to do an independent test after he failed the June 21st test at Woodbine. Did police receive and review the results?
• Toxicology reports shows traces of cocaine. From Mann or Addiction Research Foundation? Answer: Mann
• On June 22, 1987 Beckon took an independent urine test. Appears to be a test taken at the Addiction Research Foundation.
• There was no trace of cocaine in the independent test.
• Cocaine is detectable in a person for 48 to 72 hours after it has been taken.
• Note: Why did Beckon feel he needed to take his own independent sample for testing? Clearly he felt he was clean.
• A certificate verifying the secret test that Beckon paid for at the Ontario Government’s own Addiction Research Foundation on Russell St. in Toronto was found.
• Beckon had a prescription from the track doctor for a weight control drug that is on the banned list for Olympic athletes and college football and basketball players.
• Track doctor is Alysius Teglas
• The weight control drug was Phentermine.
• Mann Testing Laboratories Chief Chemist was Pierre Baumler.
• The Addiction Research Foundation had told Beckon he would be tested starting at 9:30 AM on June 22, 1987 as part of a rehabilitation program he had agreed to undergo.
• The Addiction Research Foundation on June 23rd, confirmed that cocaine was “not detected”. Note: Try and find the actual test results.
• On May 26, Beckon took an earlier private test at Mann Testing Laboratories and later that day was told he tested positive for cocaine. Note: Was this test actually the first Woodbine test he failed?
• Beckon said it was impossible and asked if there were any other tests that could be taken to re-check this?
• “Fingerprinting” breaks down drugs into unmistakable patterns on a chart.
• Using the “fingerprinting” technique at 4:55 PM May 26th, Beckon was told the test was now “negative”. Note: If Beckon knew the “fingerprinting” test once proved a positive sample was wrong, wouldn’t he want to use this method to fight this result?
• June 10, 1987 at 11:00 AM Beckon had a medical assessment done at the Addiction Research and was declared free of cocaine.
• Ontario Solicitor-General, Joan Smith, says the police are at a disadvantage in that “they cannot be running around the way the Star is doing (investigating).”

Rifle

• The rifle found at the scene was a Winchester Model 77 .22 calibre.
• No measurements done to see if Beckon could reach the trigger.
• No records of parafin tests conducted to determine if Beckon had fired the weapon.
• Did ballistic tests tests confirm the .22 calibre rifle was actually used in the suicide?
• Were police aware of swelling from Beckon’s cheekbone to his jaw, although it was not listed on the autopsy report, and was the injury consistent with a gunshot wound?
• Beckon was shot in the right temple.
• Pathologist did not examine the wound between the skin and the skull, critical in determining the distance from which a shot was fired.
• Police were looking for a third bullet? Why?
• Diane Beckon says the police told her the rifle wouldn’t shoot unless loaded with three bullets.
• Police report of Beckon’s possessions found at the death scene lists a box of 50 bullets with 3 missing.
• Diane Beckon says as OPP officer looked in the Beckon’s barn, shifting earth around on the floor with his foot “and said he was looking for the empty cartridge.”
• Glen Wellspring, who owned the 30-year-old Winchester, says “The police said the only way they could get it to shoot was to put three bullets in the gun.”
• Winchester at the time was known as U.S. Repeating Arms of New Haven, Connecticut.
• Winchester didn’t understand the three shot description.
• The Model 77 would have held eight bullets and would have fired if loaded with just one, according to Winchester.
• Was there a record of the police doing a test firing? Does the gun still exist?
• The rifle had been retooled by a gunsmith to a left-handed weapon from a right-handed weapon.
• An empty shell casing found three meters (about 10 feet) from the body was not checked for fingerprints because “There was no reason to.”
• Tests were not done to determine the proximity between Beckon’s head and the gun that killed him.
• OPP Constable James Wilde (Identification Unit) said he did not notice or photograph an exit wound on the left side of Beckon’s head at the autopsy, although one is mentioned in the pathologist’s report, measuring 2 1/2cm (1 inch).
• Asked about a swelling on Beckon’s right cheek, Wilde testified “I would attribute nothing on his face to the traumatic effect of the gunshot wound.”
• Wilde did refer to a crack in the butt of the rifle found at the scene, saying: “The crack in the rifle butt was there, but I think you will find (out) later about it.” Note: Was the crack ever brought up again in the inquest?
• Testified the body was found lying in a left side semi-fetal position with his hands and feet close together while lawyers and spectators crowded around for a better view of the demonstration.
• He showed how the muzzle of the barrel had been covered by Beckon’s body with the fingers of the left hand beneath the barrel and the right hand resting on top of it.

Timeline – July 2, 1987

6:30 AM                Beckon prepared to leave home to go to Woodbine racetrack. Says goodbye to wife.

7:00 – 9:40 AM     Beckon gallops horses on Woodbine backstretch. Visits trainer Debi Lockhurst and assistant trainer Ron Woods at the Lockhurst barn.

10:40 AM              Called to the phone. In angry tones , tells his valet Leo Davison he is off the afternoon mounts.

10:30 – 10:45 AM  Looking for agent Jimmy Santha on backstretch, Beckon informs trainer Pat County he is not riding that day. Gets in truck and leaves the backstretch.

10:50 – 11:10 AM  After leaving Woodbine the morning of July 2nd, Beckon was seen calling from a phone booth at a service station northwest of the track. Apparently this was because of the rumour the tracks phones had been tapped. Possibly true! Witnesses describe the conversation as animated, with frequent hand gestures.

10:50 – 11:10 AM  Dr. Richard Roeloeson, Deputy Supervisor of Thoroughbred Racing, says Beckon called him “about midday” but it is not known if this was that call from the service station.

11:15 – 11:30 AM  Agent Jimmy Santha says he and Beckon spoke in the backstretch recreation room. Santha says Beckon tells him of third positive cocaine test and automatic suspension.

Note: There is a major discrepancy in times at this juncture. Santha says he and the jockey parted company at about 11:30 AM, but Beckon’s mother-in-law says he arrived home at his farm, more than 35 kms north of the track in Bolton at 11:35 AM.

11:35 AM              Beckon arrives home according to his mother-in-law, Myrna Battle, who is babysitting the Beckon’s son, Chad, 7.

11:44 AM               Beckon calls Scotiabank, makes July 16 appointment. Note: Why kill yourself if you made this appointment?

11:45 AM               Wife phones. They again discuss attending son’s soccer game that evening. Makes out deposit slip and cheque for Santha. At inquest neighbour Sid
Kirkman said he spoke to Beckon at the bottom of the driveway as he noted the
time on his watch. (Note: Seems to be another discrepancy as prior to the
inquest Kirkman had said the time had been 12:15 PM)

11:50 AM               Drives truck up lane to his barn. Son comes out of house and follows him. Beckon picks boy up, hugs him, kisses him, says he loves him.

12:03 PM                Beckon conducts business at Royal Bank in Bolton.

12:10 – 12:15 PM   Beckon is observed standing at curb, near King Rd. and Hwy. 50 waiting, by Janet Vickery, a clerk in Bolton Milk and Variety store across the street where Beckon was a regular customer.

12:20 PM                Enters Bolton Milk and Variety store, makes no purchase and leaves suddenly.

1:10 – 1:15 PM       Beckon’s body found near an unused barn, 6.6 km from Beckon’s home, by Stan Wos. He was dead of a gunshot wound to the right temple. Wos, riding a moped, sees rifle under body and returns home to call for help. He leads an ambulance and police to scene. Body removed.

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Crime Reenactment

• Beckon was 5 foot 5 3/4 inches
• Physically could he have shot himself in the head with a .22 rifle? (Yes, it was proven he could just reach the trigger with the barrel of the gun pressed directly against his head. Note: This is an important detail and is important in relation to the forensics.)
• Conducted a series of tests at the death scene with a .22 calibre rim-fire Winchester rifle, almost identical to the one found beneath Beckon’s body to determine how far it would eject a spent shell.
• He said that with the butt of the gun on the ground and using bullets identical to those found in Beckon’s pickup, the farthest the gun would eject an empty shell was 27 inches.
• With the gun held in the air, the farthest it would eject a shell was about five feet.
• A spent shell was found at the death scene near the right front wheel of Beckon’s pickup, about 10 to 12 feet from his body.

Part 2 – Dan Beckon – Murder or Suicide? (Part 2)

Part 3 – Dan Beckon – Murder or Suicide? Part 3

2 thoughts on “Dan Beckon – Murder or Suicide?

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