Tuesday, 20 March 2012

On This Day in Murder... March 20th, 1921

Louisa Warlow is Shot and Killed by Her Husband, Who Also Attempts Unsuccessfully to Take His Own Life

The tragedy unfolded on the night of March 19th, 1921, in the former town of Walkerville, now part of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. When Hiram Walker, the owner of Canadian Club Whiskey, founded the town in 1890 with the intent of making it a "model" town, one that would be the envy of others, he probably did not envision the story of family betrayal, and infidelity that would occur 30 years later, and result in a man on trial for the murder of his wife.

Walkerville, Ontario, the Hiram Walker Distillery, taken between 1895-1899 (Library of Congress)

John James Warlow was born in 1883 in Egham, Surrey, England to John Warlow & Mary Harrington. He moved around a bit when he was young, living in both London & Wales, where he worked as a bricklayer before he met and married Louisa Tree, daughter of Henry Tree in the town of her birth, Croyden, Surrey, in 1911. He & Louisa came to Canada sometime around 1913. They settled in the Walkerville/Windsor area, where John's sister Gertrude and brother George, who was a police officer before becoming a Windsor Police court clerk in 1917, also settled. His cousin Norman Warlow, who was also a Windsor Police court clerk, lived in the area as well.

On that night 91 years ago, 37 year old Louisa Warlow was just leaving Clegg Bakery located on Ottawa St., after a long day of work, and was walking to the house of a friend Mrs. John Tierney at 67 Ottawa St., whom she was staying with. Louisa had worked at the Clegg Bakery for a number of years, as had her husband John, whom she was separated from in January of that year. The bakery was owned by the family of his brother-in-law, James Clegg, who had married his sister Gertrude just 11 months before the shocking story unfolded.

When Louisa Warlow started her walk home from work that night, she had no clue it would be her last. She knew her estranged husband John was angry. She was planning to leave Walkerville and move to Windsor the next day, it was rumoured, to live with Norman Warlow, her husband's cousin. Unfortunately, the rumours reached John before she left, and she was at the corner of Ottawa St. and Kildare Rd., which was a very short distance from the bakery, when John approached her. Apparently, he approached her with the intent to make a plea with her to return to him. That is when she refused and turned to walk away, getting just as far as the outside of the Tierney house, which was just a short distance away on Ottawa St.

Photo of Kildare Rd. in Walkerville, looking north, taken between 1905-1915 (Library of Congress)

It was 10:30pm when he followed her to the Tierney house, and continued to quarrel with her.  Mrs. Tierney testified in the trial that she turned on the porch light, and went outside to see what was going on. Seeing the pair together, she tried to break up the argument, telling Warlow to "leave her alone tonight", and pulling Louisa by the arm to try and bring her inside the house. To which Warlow apparently replied "No you don't!", pulled out his gun, and fired at his wife. Mrs. Tierney described how Mrs. Warlow had slumped over her arm and fallen over, the bullet having pierced her abdomen. Then she heard another shot, and looked over to see John Warlow lying on the lawn, bleeding from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the chest. They were both rushed to the hospital, Louisa was unconscious at the time and feared dead, but she was revived briefly, and was able to tell the police what had occurred. Louisa Warlow died less than two hours later, at 12:20am on March 20th, 1921. John Warlow, though seriously wounded, had not caused any fatal damage, and recovered from the wound. He was then charged with the murder of his wife, on March 25th, he was moved from the Hotel Dieu hospital and taken to Sandwich jail to await his trial.

Death registration record of Louisa Warlow (Archives of Ontario)

Mrs. Tierney also told the court that there had been frequent visits between Louisa Warlow and Norman Warlow, her husband's cousin.  James Clegg, John's brother in law, testified against him in the trial as well. He told the court that he had seen frequent arguments between John and his wife Louisa. They had agreed to separate in January, which is when Louisa went to live with the Mr & Mrs. Tierney. He further testified that 10 days before the murder, John Warlow had shown him the revolver, and had explained that he was carrying it because his cousin Norman was "carrying on" with his wife.

The defense did not deny that Warlow had shot his wife, but they argued that Louisa had provoked the crime. The jury was out for more than three hours before returning with a verdict. John Warlow was found guilty of manslaughter, and sentenced to serve 15 years in prison.

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