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David Alexander SNOW





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 2 +
Date of murder: April 7, 1992
Date of arrest: July 12, 1992
Date of birth: 1955
Victims profile: Ian Blackburn, 55, and his wife, Nancy, 49
Method of murder: Suffocation - Strangulation
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in 1997

Random Reflections

'Based on a true story'- really?

Tom Claridge - Orageville Citizen

August 31, 2006

No doubt most residents of Dufferin and Caledon will be glued to their TV sets this Sunday evening, when CTV airs A Friend of the Family, a two-hour original movie that's promoted by the network as "based on a true story."

Having received a DVD of the movie along with a press kit last week, I wasted no time in having a look at the unusual production.

After all, it was something I should have found doubly interesting. Not only did the plot involve the most sensational murder case in the area's history, but it led to a trial I had covered (somewhat sporadically) for The Globe and Mail.

As the press release put it, the movie was "inspired by the real-life memoir of Alison Shaw, 'A Friend of the Family: The True Story of David Snow.' "

The main truth in the story is that Alison Shaw and her then-husband, Darris, knew David Alexander Snow, to the point where Darris was a business partner in a venture that involved demolishing old buildings and selling antiques and other collectibles.

Also true is the fact Snow was close enough to the Shaws' first child that they came to call him "uncle David."

However, much of the movie is fictitious, particularly toward the end when Alison meets up with the serial killer at the Shaws' new home in Vancouver.

Among the major fictions is the movie's suggestion that the serial killings were of young women and included several in B.C.

In reality, the loner described by CTV as having been dubbed "The Cottage Killer," was dubbed "The House Hermit" before his identity was known, and had vanished in the fall of 1992 after apparently taking the life of his first victim, Etobicoke shop owner Carolyn Case.

All we really know is that after Ms. Case's car was found near Highway 10 in Caledon, David Snow went to various locations to the north an east, holing up in empty cottages and at one point kidnapping and robbing a Penetanguishene couple, before picking the weekend retreat of Ian and Nancy Blackburn on Caledon's Grange Sideroad, where he likely killed either the husband or wife. (We do know that he didn't drive, yet their bodies were in the trunk of their car when it was found in the driveway of their Toronto home.)

After the Blackburn killings he decided to head west, and it was about three months later that he began kidnapping a new and almost killed one of his three female victims, at least one of whom was repeatedly raped.

However, none of the known or suspected murder victims was a young female who, as depicted in the movie, bore a remarkable resemblance to Alison Shaw.

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the movie is that none of the scenes was filmed in Orangeville, Caledon, or the North Shore area of Greater Vancouver, where he kidnapped all three women and tried to strangle two of them. In fact, all you see of Vancouver is a perhaps 15-second clip shown of Burrard Inlet with North Vancouver in the background.

And the only shooting in Ontario was apparently in Dundas, which supposedly resembles either Orangeville or the fictitious Ontario location where the Shaws and Snow had supposedly been neighbours.

However, the movie does have its good points, among them the acting by the three lead characters, Laura Harris as Alison Shaw, Eric Johnson as Darris Shaw and Kim Coates as David Snow, although Coates, a star in the movie Assault on Precinct 13, doesn't really resemble Snow, even to the point of not wearing glasses.

It's a shame, really, that no one has produced the real "true story," which obviously is known only by Snow himself, and presumably could be obtained by a capable writer who was prepared to interview the deranged killer in Kingston Penitentiary or wherever else he might be found in Canada's federal prison system.

The legal proceedings themselves were almost as bizarre as the various criminal offences. Despite the fact his last victim when found had a ligature around her neck, David Snow was acquitted of a charge of attempted murder, yet was ultimately declared a dangerous offender and sentenced to an indeterminate jail term for the North Shore kidnappings and rapes.

Equally bizarre was the Toronto trial, which went on for weeks because of an incomprehensible defence by Vancouver lawyer Sheldon Goldberg, who had also represented him out west. The lawyer's conduct led to the trial judge, Justice Eugene Ewaschuk, frequently becoming exasperated to the point where he regularly interrupted the cross-examination of Crown witnesses.

In the end, the Ontario Court of Appeal took the unusual step of agreeing that the trial wasn't fair while upholding the conviction, based on the strength of the Crown's case.


"A Friend of the Family"

Plot: After moving into a seemingly nice small town, Alison learns that a dangerous serial killer is on the loose there. She suspects her neighbor David, but when she shares her theory, Alison loses support from those closest to her. As she becomes more isolated, Alison is convinced that she's next on David's list!

Reality: This story is based on the book by Alison Shaw about serial killer David Snow.

Her night of terror

Grandmother, 58, recounts sex attack by accused double killer

The Toronto Sun

June 4, 1997, Wednesday

A North Vancouver grandmother says she waged "World War III" against accused double-killer David Snow when he robbed, stripped and choked her unconscious.

Snow, 42, an Orangeville antique dealer, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the April 7, 1992, deaths of realtor Ian Blackburn, 55, and his wife, Nancy, 49, a nurse.

Dalia Gelineau, 58, who asked court to lift a publication ban on her name and photo, yesterday testified a gun-toting Snow forced her to the ground behind a restaurant as she closed up about 3:20 a.m. July 12, 1992 and beat her.

Court heard Snow was apprehended at the scene of the attack on Gelineau, who had alerted security guards when she failed to disarm her restaurant's security system.

The attack on Gelineau occurred less than 24 hours after Snow fled from Mount Seymour Park, where the RCMP freed two women who had been held hostage by Snow, court was told.

Gelineau is the third witness to testify that Snow attacked them in the Vancouver area in July 1992, shortly after the Blackburns were murdered."

'There's nothing I have - I'm a grandmother'," a teary-eyed Gelineau recalled pleading with Snow."I'm going to f--- you to death," she quoted Snow as saying while he stomped on her stomach as she lay on the ground.

"Like hell you are," she snapped back at him. "This is where my World War III started. By magic, I felt my skirt come up and over my head and I was naked. I was fighting here like crazy and he's trying to tear my T-shirt."

Gelineau told Crown attorney Hank Goody that Snow punched her repeatedly and ripped off her clothing to bind her wrists behind her back and her legs.

Gelineau said Snow stuffed her slip down her throat, gagged her and covered her head with a bag."I was already having difficulty breathing and then I felt something extremely sharp cutting into my neck," Gelineau told court. "Then I was gone. I lost consciousness."And then it was very, very calm - very, very bright and I was feeling something warm ... I'm in Heaven," she testified.

Gelineau spent five days in hospital. When she first saw herself in a mirror, her reaction was: "I saw a monster from another planet. My breast bone and rib cage had separated. I was in a great deal of pain. "Snow was arrested at the scene of the attack, Goody has told court.

The trial continues.


Drifter charged in couple's deaths Remains found near Caledon may also be linked to 'house hermit'

The Globe and Mail

November 6, 1992

Almost seven months after the bodies of a Toronto couple were found inthe trunk of their car, police have charged David Snow, who is in a British Columbia jail, with first-degree murder in their deaths.

The bodies of Ian Blackburn, 54, and his wife, Nancy, 49, were found on April 13 in their car, which was parked outside their St. Leonard's Avenue home near Yonge Street and Lawrence Avenue. An autopsy showed that he haddied of asphyxia and she had been strangled.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Provincial Police found human remains yesterday near Caledon while searching for the body of Caroline Case, who disappeared on Oct. 2, 1991, from her Bloor Street gift shop, The Jewelled Elephant.

The remains, found near the First Line East, south of 10 Sideroad, had not been identified last night. Metro Toronto Police said yesterday that Mr. Snow is a "good suspect" in Ms. Case's disappearance.

A bloodstained Mercedes-Benz belonging to the 47-year-old woman was found in a ditch near Caledon - not far from the farm where police believe that the Blackburns met their killer - the day after her family reported her missing. The search for Ms. Case was resumed because of new information about the methods of attack Mr. Snow used, the OPP said last month.

Metro Police also want Mr. Snow on kidnapping charges in connection with the March 18 abduction of an elderly North York couple, who were forced at gunpoint to drive a man from a Midland-area cottage to downtown Toronto. They were robbed and released unharmed.

Mr. Snow, a 37-year-old drifter who spent several years in Orangeville, was sometimes called the "house hermit" because police investigating cottage break-ins in Caledon and other nearby areas believed that he wastaking shelter in empty buildings.

Metro Toronto Police suspected Mr. Snow early in the investigation of the Blackburn killings, but they were unable to locate him. In June, police issued a Canada-wide warrant for the man they described as a moody loner and a military buff.

He is awaiting sentencing in Victoria on charges of sexual assault, unlawful confinement, attempted strangulation and robbery after pleading guilty in the abduction of two B.C. women and sexual attacks on them. He also was tried and convicted in August of choking and sexually assaulting a 53-year-old Vancouver woman on July 12.

Police said yesterday that Mr. Snow will be transferred to Toronto in January to face two charges of first-degree murder and two counts of kidnapping after he is sentenced in British Columbia.

Before that sentencing, however, the court will hear an application to have him declared a dangerous offender. If the Crown's application is successful, Mr. Snow could receive an indefinite prison sentence, with little chance of ever being released.

Mr. Blackburn was a partner in the real-estate firm of Harrison and Blackburn. His wife was a public health nurse. They had no children. Metro police believe that the car, with the bodies inside the trunk, was driven to Toronto from the couple's Caledon farm, where they spent most weekends.

Police think that Mr. Blackburn went to the farm alone to prepare it for the arrival of his wife, who was not well. They believe Mrs. Blackburn drove up the following day. A maroon Cadillac belonging to the couple was found not far from the farm.


Briefcase had links to accused, slain pair Brother testifies at man's murder trial

By Thomas Claridge - The Globe and Mail

February 19, 1997

At about the time Ian and Nancy Blackburn were meeting their deaths, the older brother of their alleged killer was examining a briefcase with links to both his brother and the Blackburns.

Called as a Crown witness at the murder trial of his brother, David, Victor Snow, 49, testified yesterday that in March or April of 1992, he came across the briefcase while cleaning out a closet in an Orangeville, Ont., house once occupied by David and their mother.

Victor Snow said the black briefcase contained, among other things, "pornographic pictures," sheets of paper with "what seemed to be listings of ships or submarines" in his brother's handwriting, and photographs of an octagonal barn on the Blackburns' Caledon farm.

The Ontario Court jury has heard that Mr. Blackburn, 54, and Mrs. Blackburn, 49, were last seen alive on April 7, 1992. Their bodies were found six days later in Mrs. Blackburn's Chevrolet, parked in the driveway of their North Toronto home.

In his opening address to the jury, Crown attorney Hank Goody said evidence would show that after the killings, the accused took a train to Vancouver, where he kidnapped, stripped and sexually assaulted four young female victims.

He said he would also call witnesses to identify pages of "hand-printed military lists" found at locations Mr. Snow was believed to have occupied in Ontario and British Columbia.

Shown some of the proposed exhibits yesterday, Victor Snow said that in his opinion all were in his brother's handwriting and several were "almost identical" to the lists he had seen in the briefcase.

Questioned by Mr. Goody, he said the last time he saw his younger brother was in April of 1991, when David was winding down an antique dealership in Orangeville.

Earlier yesterday, an Orangeville man told the jury that in the summer of 1991 David Snow ordered ammunition for a revolver he had been carrying in his briefcase to a job they were working on near Madoc, Ont.

The witness, Kevin Desaulniers, said that when Mr. Snow tried to purchase the bullets at a Madoc gun shop he was told none were in stock and they would have to be ordered. Three weeks later, the accused had returned to the shop only to be told the bullets had not arrived.

During cross-examination by defence lawyer Sheldon Goldberg, Mr. Desaulniers conceded that he had only recently told police about the revolver. He explained that the subject had not arisen in earlier interviews and he offered the information on being asked whether there was anything else he could recall about his dealings with Mr. Snow, who had hired him to work as a labourer.

The witness also told the trial of having the Blackburn barn pointed out to him one day as he drove Mr. Snow to the Madoc job, which involved re-erecting a frame house that Mr. Snow and a partner, Darris Shaw, had disassembled near Bolton, Ont., in 1990.

Mr. Desaulniers testified that he last saw Mr. Snow in August of 1991, about a week after his employer had abandoned the house project without notice.In the trial, presided over by Mr. Justice Eugene Ewaschuk of the Ontario Court's General Division, Mr. Snow, 42, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder.


Accused's printing familiar, trial hears Wife of Snow's former partner called police

By Thomas Claridge - The Globe and Mail

May 22, 1997

The jury trying a former Orangeville, Ont., antique dealer in the deaths of a Toronto couple heard yesterday that police were put on his trail by the wife of his former business partner. Alison Shaw, 38, of Richmond, B.C., testified that she called police on May 28, 1992, after seeing a Toronto newspaper's account of the six-week-old investigation into the slaying of Ian Blackburn, 55, and his wife Nancy, 49.

The story said police believed the killer was a "military buff" who had kidnapped a Toronto couple and briefly held them hostage while they drove him to Toronto from their cottage in the Midland area.

Mrs. Shaw said it was an accompanying illustration, showing a sample of handwritten military lists, that led her to advise police that David Alexander Snow must somehow be involved.

She explained that as an artist she was interested in calligraphy and had become familiar with Mr. Snow's unusual hand printing from financial entries made when he and her husband, Darris, operated Phoenix Restorations, an unincorporated business that razed old frame houses and reassembled them on new sites.

The Crown witness said she was also struck by the similarity in content between the newspaper illustration and entries in a journal she had found among items Mr. Snow had stored in a Quonset-style warehouse in Orangeville.

Mrs. Shaw said she had come across the journal about six weeks after Mr. Snow vanished in the fall of 1991, leaving behind about $1,200 in unpaid rent on the warehouse. At the time, she and her husband were preparing to vacate the warehouse.

Questioned by Crown attorney Hank Goody, the witness described the entries in the journal as "war-related -- weaponry, battleships, planes," accompanied by "a lot of numbers." As for the authorship, "I recognized it immediately. . . . It appeared to be David's."She told the trial that she saw the newspaper article while staying with her sister and her family in Barrie and preparing to move to B.C. When she noticed the hand printing "I knew I had seen it before. It looked like what I had seen in this book in the Quonset hut. . . . I concluded that it was David's."She said her call to Metropolitan Toronto Police was returned by Constable Brendan Keenoy of the Ontario Provincial Police detachment in Caledon, where the Blackburns had a summer home."I told him I could identify the author of the list as David Snow," she said, adding that she later gave two statements to police.

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Sheldon Goldberg, Mrs. Shaw agreed that her husband and the accused had been close friends.Asked why she had not called police when Mr. Snow disappeared, she replied: "I really didn't think about him because he had done it before."Mr. Snow, 42, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the couple, whose bodies were found in the trunk of Mrs. Blackburn's car in the driveway of their North Toronto home on April 13, 1992, six days after they were last seen alive.


Hostage's days of terror

Says Snow called her 'outstanding catch'

By Sam Pazzano - The Toronto Sun

May 30, 1997

A former hostage testified yesterday that accused double murderer David Snow pointed a handgun to her face, asking, "Do you want me to show you what I can do to you?"

The 26-year-old woman said Snow posed as a customer seeking a family portrait at her East Hastings Ave. photo shop in Vancouver.

Snow abducted her at gunpoint as she was closing her store at 6 p.m. and marched her 8 km into a densely wooded area in North Vancouver on the night of July 3, 1992. He kept her as his sexual toy for eight days only half a block from a Safeway store at the Westview Shopping Centre at the busy TransCanada Highway.

She said in her first weekend of captivity, Snow would lift her as his hog-tied hostage "about an inch perhaps off the ground" and drop her. Snow also molested her, she told the jury.

Snow forced to her perform sexual acts three or four times a day and "spanked" her one day, she testified. But he never punched her after the first night, she added.

She is the first of five witnesses from incidents involving Snow in Vancouver in the summer of 1992.

Snow, 42, an Orangeville antique dealer, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the April 7, 1992 deaths of Toronto realtor Ian Blackburn, 55, and his wife, Nancy, 49, a public health nurse.

Prosecutor Hank Goody said in his opening statement that evidence will show that Snow strangled, gagged and hog-tied Nancy Blackburn and that Ian was also bound. The bodies of Ian and Nancy - who was nude - were found in the trunk of her car parked in the driveway of their St. Leonards Ave. home on April 13, 1992.

The photo store clerk said yesterday she made no effort to fight or flee after resisting on the first night of captivity. She said Snow punched her " so hard in the face I literally saw stars."

Later, Snow brandished three handguns - a silver one, a black 9 mm handgun and a smaller black firearm - before his hostage, whom he called his "outstanding catch," court heard."I want to show you," she quoted Snow as saying as he displayed his three stolen guns before aiming the smallest weapon at her head. "Do you want me to show you what I can do to you?"


Cancon, with a murderous twist

A bevy of expats came together in Calgary to film the grim story of killer and rapist David Snow

By Dawn Walton - The Globe and Mail

September 2, 2006

Kim Coates has played opposite such Hollywood big guns as Kevin Costner, Wesley Snipes and Bruce Willis, and grabbed roles in American war movies including Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor. But the Saskatoon-born actor, who has been based in Los Angeles since 1995, found himself back home in Canada playing an unseemly and perhaps forgotten homegrown murderer and rapist, David Snow. "Yes, yes, yes, yes," says Coates, when asked if it was the Canadian content that attracted him to the project. "That's the selling point." Many of those on the set of A Friend of the Family, a made-for-TV movie shot largely in Alberta, which airs tomorrow on CTV, seem to agree with that sentiment. Some talk about a penchant for telling homegrown stories; others are expatriates who yearn to reacquaint themselves with their roots - even if it is a psychological thriller based on a shocking moment in Canadian history. Coates, whose hair was transformed into dark, mad-scientist curls for publicity photos shot in a musty church in Calgary, said he had hoped to insert some "ehs" into the script. But director Stuart Gillard, who was born in Coronation, Alta., and is now a hard-working Hollywood director, asked him to tone it down. "I really wanted to go, 'Nice to meetcha, eh?' I really wanted to put a Canadian flavour to it," he says, but adds that the filmmakers favoured a more Canadian-American sound.

A Friend of the Family is based on Alison Shaw's 1998 book of the same name. In it, Shaw detailed how she and her husband, Darris, moved to Orangeville, Ont., in 1988, and soon became friends and business partners with Snow, the town eccentric who paid more attention to his antique dealership than his personal hygiene. Snow would later be convicted of murdering Ian and Nancy Blackburn, a Toronto couple whose bodies were found in the trunk of their car on April 14, 1992. Snow was also convicted of a string of abductions and sexual assaults in British Columbia that followed the Blackburn killings. It was Shaw who put the police onto Snow, after recognizing his handwriting, and penchant for military paraphernalia, in an article published in the Toronto Star in May, 1992. "It's very much Canada," says Jon Slan, president of Slanted Wheel Entertainment - which co-produced the movie with Calgary-based Alberta Filmworks - when describing the reasons for his own involvement in the movie. Slan, who has a penchant for turning Canadian books into movies, is a voracious reader who rifles through books with an eye to securing the rights to this country's best stories. "People watching television movies always are interested in true stories," says Slan. "A lot of people both in the East and West will remember - even though it was 10, 12 years ago - David Snow as a pretty famous serial killer." Laura Harris, who portrays Shaw, says she was either too young or too sheltered by her parents as a 15-year-old in Crescent Beach, B.C., to remember the Blackburn murders and the rampage that followed - but that she was drawn to the story nonetheless, in large part for reasons similar to those of Coates, Gillard and Slan. "I love doing Canadian stuff, true Canadian stories. They mesmerize me more than most," says Harris, who now lives in L.A. and has had roles in 1998's The Faculty, the 2003 film A Mighty Wind and TV's Dead Like Me. "I'm very patriotic . . .," she adds. "It's a chance to reconnect, even if it is about serial killers."



MO: Killed a married couple and two women; female victims raped.

DISPOSITION: Life term on two counts, 1997.



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