MURDER IN THE FAMILY - HOW THE SEARCH FOR MY MOTHER'S KILLER LEAD TO MY FATHER - By Jeff Blackstock as reviewed by John Lang and Bob Publicover
Jeff Blackstock is a retired foreign service officer who grew up in a foreign service family. In 1959, during the family’s first overseas assignment -- in Buenos Aires -- he, his younger sister and infant brother lost their mother, Carol, to a mysterious illness. His father, Trade Commissioner, George Blackstock, soon remarried. Successive postings ensued. When Jeff and his siblings were older and would ask their father about the cause of their mother’s death, he professed to be as mystified as anyone. He said the doctors at Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), to which their mother had been rushed at the point of death, were unable to pinpoint the cause. It was a medical mystery, just one of those things.
Life went on. Jeff and his siblings grew up and acquired families of their own but could never stop wondering about the circumstances of their mother’s death. Fully twenty years after Carol’s death, they learned that an autopsy had indeed been performed in Montreal and that arsenic poisoning had been identified as the cause of death. Their mother had been murdered and they instinctively knew who had done it.
Their dissembling father skillfully deflected their accusations and enquiries, insisting on his innocence and victimhood. They remained unconvinced but it was not until George died in 2007 and they obtained his papers that they could piece together the entire sad story. A more comprehensive review of this well-written book is available here.
Psychopaths tend to be intelligent, organized and, by definition, devoid of empathy. The satisfaction they derive from outsmarting others, getting their way, or vanquishing adversaries easily outweighs the negligible pangs of guilt or remorse their actions might engender. George lived among us for decades after murdering Carol. He raised another brood of children with his second wife.
Murdering the loving mother of your young children might be all in a day’s work for your average narcissistic psychopath but he should not have been allowed to get away with it. George Blackstock was permitted to get away with it by people who should have acted but did not: departmental officials avoiding scandal, police in Canada and Argentina passing the buck, doctors at MNI covering up incompetence. Together, they buried the obvious conclusion that Carol had been murdered and George was the only suspect. No formal police investigation was ever undertaken. The matter was forgotten. Jeff Blackstock writes:
"Far more sadly, Carol too was forgotten, though never by her three children. Multiple
access-to-information requests by Julie and me over many years have consistently
found no references in Canadian government records to Carol Blackstock or her
death. Her murder while on unpaid government service abroad, and any link between
it and our father, don’t officially exist."
This is a moving and disturbing book. I recommend it.
There is no doubting the moral issues raised in this book.
Jeff Blackstock reveals his father, George, to be pure evil and selfish – and lays out a detailed case alleging that he murdered his wife in a cruel and painful manner while emotionally neglecting his three children.
George was the scion of a wealthy Toronto family who impregnated an intelligent but naive girl, Carol Blackstock, when she was 15 and he had not yet seen his 18th birthday.
George was a final year student at Upper Canada College, and Carol was attending a public high school. So they were stars from different universes – quite likely pre- destined for an unhappy life together. It was not surprising that George’s relations with Carol’s family were tense from the beginning, and that he minimized contact with them while frequently depending on his mother to finance his sometimes lavish lifestyle.
Abortion was illegal in the 1950s, and living out of wedlock would have been socially unacceptable. So the young couple quietly married, and were banished to Guelph where George’s mother’s family trust supported them while he studied economics at the Ontario Agricultural College (now the University of Guelph.)
Upon graduation, George was hired as an officer of the federal Public Service Commission, and shortly afterward wrote the Foreign Service Exam. His success on that exam led to a long career as a trade diplomat - culminating in appointments as Consul General in several foreign cities.
A little more than a year into George’s first foreign posting in Buenos Aires, his previously healthy wife Carol, now a mother of three youngsters, became emaciated and crippled by severe pain from a lengthy illness that Argentine doctors could not identify. Despite deep family roots in Toronto, George took Carol on an arduous journey to Montreal for treatment that failed to stop her death in July 1959 at the age of 25. She perished alone in a hospital.
During George’s return trip to the Canadian Embassy in Buenos Aires following Carole’s death and rapidly arranged funeral in Canada, the supposedly grief-stricken widower wrote the following to his mother:
“Arrived here (Mexico City) Thursday night after a fairly uneventful stay in N.Y.C. (saw ‘My Fair Lady’, did a little shopping, went out for dinner with a friend...I’m enjoying my stay with Dick Willemsen and his wife tremendously...Leaving for B.A. tomorrow.”
Within a year, George remarried and his wealthy young German bride became the unloved stepmother to the author and his two siblings.
Carol's parents were immediately suspicious that George had murdered their daughter, but were unsuccessful in obtaining justice for her. The book indicates that class privilege and an aversion to scandal were key factors that prevented them from uncovering the truth. The involvement of at least two legal jurisdictions, three languages and the corrupt state of Argentina’s judicial system created a fog that prevented a systematic inquiry into the causes of Carol’s untimely death.
Jeff’s investigation of his mother’s death began in 1979 when his sister, Julie, found a copy of their mother’s autopsy report in the personal papers of their recently deceased maternal grandfather. The two children were shocked to read that Carol had died of “acute arsenic intoxication”. (This was verified by other medical experts.)
Jeff and Julie eventually accused George of their mother's murder. He responded with vague explanations and some outright lies. George died in 2007, having been abandoned by his adult children.