Reconstructing the Scene of the Crime
Ages 14-16

MysteryQuest 11

Reconstructing the Scene of the Crime

Author: Sheila Heatherington

Editors: Ruth Sandwell, Dick Holland

Series Editor: Roland Case

A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-16

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Late in the evening of October 28, 1924, Peter Verigin boarded a Canadian Pacific Railway train at Brilliant, British Columbia, the headquarters of the Doukhobor community. About one in the morning a horrific explosion blew away the roof and sides of the coach. Verigin and eight others perished in the explosion, which investigators on the scene quickly concluded was no accident.

Known by the single name “Lordly,” Peter Verigin lived like royalty among a group of Russian immigrants to Canada, the Doukhobors, whose motto was “Toil and Peaceful Life.” The Doukhobors preached equality and rejected the authority of both Church and State. As a result, they were persecuted in Russia. In 1902 their leader, Peter Verigin, and many of his community came to Canada to take up a new life.

While a number of people and groups were suspected of the crime, no one was brought to trial. Your challenge is to help gather evidence that might eventually help in solving the mystery. More specifically, you are asked to create a diagram of the crime scene showing where Peter Verigin and the other train passengers were sitting when the explosion occurred.

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In this MysteryQuest, you will take on the role of a detective working to uncover evidence about the crime scene. You have been asked to identify all of the people in Railway Coach #1586 at the time of the explosion and to prepare a diagram that indicates the precise location of each passenger.

You will begin by learning more about the events surrounding the explosion. After identifying the names of each passenger in the railway car, you will examine primary documents, looking for clues as to where each was sitting at the time of the explosion. Finally, you will use these clues to prepare a diagram that identifies the precise location of each passenger in the railway car.

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STEP 1: Learn about the incident

Before looking for clues as to the location of the various passengers on the train, it will be helpful to learn more abut the details of the explosion. Three documents prepared by historians are especially useful:

  • an introduction to the explosion;
  • a map showing the route the train was travelling;
  • and a video simulation of the explosion.

Review each of these documents. They are listed in the Evidence in the Case under “Secondary sources.”

STEP 2: Identify the passengers in the car

Your next task is to create a list of all the passengers thought to be in Railway Car #1586 along with Peter Verigin. This information can be found in the Cast of Characters. Make several copies of the chart Details of People in Car #1586 and record in the left-hand column of the chart the names of each of the passengers in the car.

STEP 3: Gather information about the passengers

In Evidence in the Case, under the heading “Primary documents,” you will find links to six documents that provide clues as to the location of the various passengers in Car #1586. These documents include three statements offered by witnesses, newspaper articles, and a map of the scene. Review each document for clues and record the relevant information next to the name of the appropriate passenger listed on the charts Details of People in Car #1586. As a detective, you should be careful to note as much relevant detail as possible and the source of this information to help you decide where each person was sitting in the train.

STEP 4: Prepare your drawing

After recording the clues from the six primary documents, you are now ready to draw a detailed diagram of the railway coach and place each of the passengers in the appropriate location. You will find an outline in Diagram of Railroad Coach to help you complete this task. You may want to record the information on this sheet or recreate the information on a larger scale using a piece of chart paper.

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The evaluation rubric Assessing the Clues and Conclusions may be used to assess how well you were able to identify relevant clues and draw plausible conclusions about the location of each passenger.

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Gather additional evidence
Find more clues about the location of the passengers in Coach #1586 by reading other statements found in Investigators’ Reports.

Compare your diagram
In 2005, S. Daniel created a diagram of Coach #1586 based on his own research. Compare your diagram of the crime scene with the one found in the Inquest section. What is different? What is the same?

Learn about possible motives
Read the introductory essays in the Context section to uncover some possible reasons why someone might want to murder Peter Verigin.

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Activity Sheet: Details of People in Car #1586

Activity Sheet: Diagram of Railroad Coach

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Secondary sources

The Explosion: Introduction

The Explosion: 3D Reconstruction

The Explosion: Press accounts

Context: Cast of Characters

Primary documents

Government documents

Statement of Trainman Marquis with Conductor Turner on Train No. 11, ex. Nelson October 28, 1924

Statement of George Zeboroff, November 4, 1924

Statement From F.W. Shaver, November 12, 1924

Newspaper articles

“High Explosive Found Cause of Train Tragedy”, Nelson Daily News, October 30, 1924

“Jury Visits Tragedy Scene; Views Coach”, Nelson Daily News, November 4, 1924


Nelson Coroner's Inquest, Location of Bodies (no date)