Anniversary of horrific Montreal murder: different approaches to newspaper coverage

On Wednesday, November 17, 1943 – 71 years ago tomorrow – the City of Westmount, a quiet well-to-do neighbourhood adjacent to downtown Montreal, was the site of an horrific murder. A 14 year old boy, George Webster using a baseball bat  bludgeoned his mother to death and attempted to kill other members of the household.

The details of the incident can be read in the article below, so I won’t relate them here. What I find interesting is the newspaper coverage of the tragic event.  The Gazette, a daily city-wide newspaper devoted substantial space to the murder and would continue to follow the story over the next few days and weeks as things unfolded. However I have been unable to find out what became of George Webster.

The Gazette November 18, 1943

One of the surviving victims was a woman visiting from Australia and the story was carried in the Australian newspaper The Age the next day

The Age, November 18, 1943

The Westmount Examiner was, at the time, the only local, or “community” newspaper; it was and is to this day a weekly publication. Having gone through the paper’s archives I can only find this small report that appears to have been included at the last moment. I understand that a paper that publishes on Thursday would be hard put to get in a piece on an event that happened on a Wednesday. But even the following edition, a full week later, has no reference to the incident.

Keep in mind that at the time of this grizzly murder in a peaceful neighbourhood, the world’s attention was on matters in Europe as the second World War was raging. Naturally much of the news in The Examiner focused on local residents overseas as well as war-related activities on the home front. This may account for the sparse coverage of the Webster affair; or perhaps it was a case of not airing the community’s dirty laundry in public. This was, after all a well respected and well off family. I don’t believe a current newspaper would let that get in the way of reporting the news, but I think there was a time when that was the case.

A personal footnote: my mother, then a preteen, was doing voluntary work in a school library that afternoon and saw young George Webster leaving the library.

I wonder what ever became of George …

Lovell’s Street Directory Montreal 1943
Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
Categories Crime, History, Montreal, WestmountTags , , , ,

15 thoughts on “Anniversary of horrific Montreal murder: different approaches to newspaper coverage

  1. Reblogged this on Bite Size Canada and commented:
    Amazing story! I highly recommend you read:

  2. You are right! Very interesting indeed.

  3. Through old newspapers, it appears that George Webster, in February 1951, aged 22, was released, acquitted of murder. He was deemed temporarily insane at the time of the murder of his mother and assault on his siblings, plus of the Australian guest. In 1944, he was declared unfit to stand trial by alienists, present day psychiatrists. He was said to have been mentally unsound.

    1. Thank you very much. I have always been curious and now I know. Cheers, DC.

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