Canadian Taxi Driver Homicides: Hugh J. Scott Previous page    Next page • Driver Profiles

Hugh J. Scott

Winnipeg, Manitoba / January 20, 1948


In retrospect the death of Mr. Scott seems to have been more of an accident than a homicide. Nevertheless a man was put on trial for his murder although he was quickly acquitted.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Scott's death are confusing due to convenient lapses of memory or outright lying on the part of those involved. Everyone, including the St. James police, seemed eager to hush things up.

The incident began sometime after 11 p.m. on January 19, 1948, when Mr. Scott picked up two couples at a downtown hotel. Apparently his passengers wanted to continue partying after the hotel bar closed and their destination was Duke's Barbecue, a dancehall in St. James. The two men were fellow Nash Taxi drivers and they probably invited Mr. Scott to join them.

In his last radio contact with the Nash Taxi dispatcher, Mr. Scott said that he was picking up a fare at a downtown hotel and going to St. James. He said that it would be a "trip by the hour" -- that is, that he had been hired by the hour and would not be available for further trips.

Soon after the group reached Duke's a fourth Nash driver and his girlfriend joined them. At about the same time a party of five other people arrived. The newcomers were unknown to Mr. Scott and his friends.

Trouble began at about 1 a.m. when one of Mr. Scott's companions became involved in a violent argument with his girlfriend and threatened to hit her. A member of the second group took exception to this and the taxi driver hit him. The victim's friend attacked the taxi driver and during the scuffle the two fell over a chair and broke it.

At this point proprietor Alex Le Duke was called from a back room by his wife. He arrived to find Mr. Scott standing near the door with two women. The man who had been involved in the scuffle now returned from the washroom and accosted Mr. Scott saying "Leave that woman alone. Don't you have any respect for the ladies here?" Apparently the man was so drunk that he mistook Mr. Scott for the taxi driver he had fought with.

According to Le Duke, Mr. Scott hit the other man in the eye causing his nose to bleed. The man, an amateur boxer nearly 20 years younger than Mr. Scott, retaliated with several punches and Mr. Scott fell unconscious to the floor. In the meantime Mrs. Le Duke called the St. James police who had Mr. Scott taken to Deer Lodge Hospital by ambulance. He died en route of a brain hemorrhage. There was no skull fracture but there was bruising around his left eye and on his nose, upper lip and chin.

It is abundantly clear from the circumstances that drinking was going on at Duke's. The autopsy revealed that Mr. Scott had a blood alcohol count of .182, more than twice what is now the legal limit for drivers. Nevertheless Le Duke and the others stoutly maintained that there had been no drinking on the premises and the investigating police officers claimed to have seen "no signs of intoxication" and that "no liquor was found". [Next column]

The taxi driver who had been involved in the scuffle initially told police that his antagonist had been the one who hit Mr. Scott but at the inquest he seemed to lose his memory. He said he was lying on the floor watching a fight near the doorway, but couldn't see whether or not Mr. Scott was involved. He said that "Hughie Scott was on the receiving end of a few blows" but couldn't say who did the hitting.

Likewise another of the Nash Taxi drivers told the inquest that he had seen Mr. Scott getting hit three or four times but didn't know who hit him.

The taxi driver's girlfriend denied that there had been any arguing prior to the fight and denied that the fighting had been about her. The other woman in Mr. Scott's party was even less communicative, answering all questions with "I don't know," "I must have been dancing", and "I don't remember".

"You have a convenient lack of memory in common with other witnesses," coroner E. K. Vann acidly remarked toward the end of her testimony. "You are not contributing all you know of the events."

Apparently there was an attempt to shield Mr. Scott as well as Le Duke. St. James police chief Donald MacDonald told reporters that Mr. Scott had delivered a party to Duke's but was not one of the group. He had waited outside in his cab until invited in, and that he was hit when he tried to separate two men who were already fighting.

The police questioned everybody and held five of the men as material witnesses. The three local taxi drivers were released later the same day but the other two (both of them miners from Ontario) were held in custody. Eventually the man who hit Mr. Scott was charged with murder but a jury quickly acquitted him.

Hugh Scott was born in Swan Lake, Manitoba in 1900 and served in World War I. Married for fifteen years, he had a nine-year-old daughter and two teenaged stepsons. He drove for Nash Taxi off and on for about 20 years. He also worked as a chauffeur for members of two prominent local families, the Ashdowns and the Richardsons, but returned to taxi driving because it was the job he knew best. He had worked the night shift for the previous six months and company president Harry Levin usually drove him home about 1:30 a.m.

On the night of his death Scott told his wife that he would be home early. A spur-of-the-moment invitation may have caused him to change his plans. Whatever the case, the circumstances of his death are at odds with his reputation. The Nash Taxi manager said he was "one of the best men we ever had". A Nash driver described him as "a quiet man, who was liked by all the other drivers." Neighbours called him "a quiet family man who went out very little and preferred the company of his wife and children to any outside interests."