Author: Catriona Misfeldt
Editors: Ilan Danjoux, Ruth Sandwell
Series Editor: Roland Case
A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 11 to 14
Ada Redpath, a 59 year-old widow, and her 24 year-old son, Clifford were members of one of Canada's wealthiest families. On the evening of June 13, 1901 both were shot to death in Ada's bedroom in the Redpath mansion in Montreal. Mrs. Redpath's eldest son, Peter, and her servants rushed to help. A family physician was called to the scene. A coroner's inquest was held in the mansion the following day. Two days later, the bodies were buried in the Redpath family grave.
The investigation of the deaths was hasty. The jurors at the inquest decided that Cliff shot his mother and then killed himself. They concluded that Cliff was unaware of his actions and temporarily insane at the moment of the killing due to an epileptic attack. This verdict was based on little "hard" evidence. Curiously, the police were not involved. Might there have been a cover-up? Was the case as "open and shut" as the coroner suggested? Did the coroner consider the possibility of other suspects? Who else might have wanted the mother or son killed? There are clues in the surviving documents.
This MysteryQuest invites you to become a detective, and review four other suspects in the case: Amy Redpath, Peter Redpath, Dr. Roddick and Rose Shallow. You will investigate who among them might have had the strongest motive for killing Ada and Cliff. You will begin by learning more about the Redpath family and these suspects, and then you will offer an initial suggestion as to possible motives for each suspect. You will look for additional evidence in various documents. Finally, you will assess the strength of the motives to determine who among the four is the prime suspect - who had the most to gain from the Redpath deaths.
From all accounts, the Redpath's were a close family. The children had married into wealthy Montreal families. Some members lived in the family mansion; others were involved in the family business. Much of their life centered on the health problems of Mrs. Redpath and her son, Peter, who suffered from tuberculosis. Amy Redpath was responsible for running the household and looking after her sickly mother.
Begin your investigation by reading the two brief documents in the Secondary sources section of Evidence in the Case These selections written by historians describe the history of the Redpath family and explain the significance of family connections among the wealthy elite.
Although the inquest concluded that Cliff killed his mother and himself, there are various theories as to who else might have wanted them dead. Several relatives and people closely connected to the family were potential suspects:
Gather information by reading one document about each suspect in the Biographies section of Evidence in the Case. As you read, record relevant biographical details (name, occupation, personal history) and facts about their relationship to the victims and to each other on the chart Suspects and Motives
There are many motives for committing murder. These include the desire to:
Based on what you learned thus far, suggest possible motives that each suspect might have for killing Ada or Cliff. Record your initial thoughts in the right-hand column of the Suspects and Motives chart
Soon you will examine more documents and look for clues about the strength of each suspect's motives. There are three factors to consider when examining motives:
Working on your own or with a partner, examine the sources found in the Suspects' supporting documents section Evidence in the Case. For each suspect, there are between three and six short documents and photographs. Look for clues in each of these sources that help to establish or refute possible motives.
Most of the evidence you gather in this challenge will not directly indicate a motive. You will have to draw inferences about possible motives. For example, one of Amy's diary entries outlines her household responsibilities. This offers evidence that Amy was doing much for her sickly mother, and that she would benefit by having more time for herself if she no longer had to do this. The fact that Amy writes about her duties in her diary also suggests an interest in being relieved of this burden.
Write each suspect's name and possible motive(s) for committing murder at the top of a separate copy of Rating the Strength of Motives. Complete the charts by recording relevant information drawn from all the suggested documents about each suspect's potential gains, eagerness to benefit and flawed character traits.
When you have recorded the evidence, rate the strength of each motivating factor using the scale (from 0-3). For example, you might decide that the clues regarding Amy Redpath's desire for more freedom suggest "considerable interest" - a "2" rating - in killing her mother.
After assessing each factor, ask yourself whether there are reasons to doubt the assigned rating. For example, Amy might benefit from her mother's death by not having so many responsibilities. But we might wonder whether Amy could pass along some of these responsibilities to the servants if she wanted more time for herself. Record your questions or concerns about each rating on the chart.
After assessing the factors affecting the strength of motive of each suspect, reach a conclusion about the prime suspect in the killing of Ada and Cliff Redpath. Use Identifying the Prime Suspect to identify and explain who had the strongest motive and why it was strongest.
The evaluation rubric Assessing Evidence and Conclusions may be used to assess how well you were able to identify relevant evidence from the documents and draw plausible conclusions about strength of various motives.
Activity Sheet: Suspects and Motives
Activity Sheet: Rating the Strength of Motives
Activity Sheet: Identifying the Prime Suspect
Assessment rubric: Assessing the Evidence and Conclusions
Examine additional evidence
Locate other historical documents in Redpath Mansion Mystery that provide more complete evidence as to the motives of the four lead suspects in the Redpath murders. Does this additional evidence change your conclusions?
Investigate other suspects
Investigate other suspects in the Redpath murders: examine several documents for each suspect, assess the strength of their motives and rank order their likelihood of involvement in the murder.
Explore other challenges
Apply your detective skills to a related mystery associated with the Redpath murders:
Suspects' supporting documents
Dr. Thomas George Roddick