About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Work of Justice – The Trials of Robert Raymond Cook by J. Pecover

(41. – 928.) The Work of Justice – The Trials of Robert Raymond Cook by J. Pecover – Cook was the last person hanged in Alberta when he went to the gallows on November 14, 1960. He was 23 years old.

At the heart of the book was a horrific crime. Cook’s father, stepmother and 5 half siblings were murdered in their home in Stettler and dumped into a grease pit in the garage attached to the house.

To try to understand Cook Pecover delves into his personal and criminal history. Growing up in the small towns of Hanna and Stettler in Alberta Cook started stealing cars when he was 12. I was startled. Growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan a generation later I cannot recall knowing or hearing about anyone in my area becoming a thief before becoming a teenager.

It was not clear why Cook chose the criminal life. His primary life skill was hot wiring cars but he could have been a mechanic like his Dad. He was undoubtedly affected by family circumstances. His natural mother died when he was 9 and his father remarried about 3 years later and moved to Stettler. Almost immediately Cook began stealing cars.

He was a professional thief before he was 15. Of the last 3,247 days of his life he was out of jail but 243 days.

Two days after his final release in June of 1959 he arrived in Stettler on a Thursday. That evening he met with his father. They went home together.

That night, probably around midnight, the family was slaughtered.

The next morning Cook is in Edmonton, over a 150 km away, trading off the year old family station wagon on an Impala, a flashy “brand-new white convertible, top down, red Naugahyde upholstery”. He uses his father’s driver’s licence to make the deal.

Cook spent Friday and much of Saturday cruising around rural Alberta with a trio of teenagers. Eventually he returns to Stettler on Saturday and spends about an hour at the family home. He is detained on Saturday evening by the police with regard to questions concerning the new car.

After the bodies are found on Sunday he is charged with murder.

Cook provides an explanation to the RCMP that he repeats at his trials. He says that while speaking with his father on Thursday evening they agreed that they would buy a garage in British Columbia and go into business together. He said his father, stepmother and 5 half-siblings would go to British Columbia on Friday to look for a business and call him early in the week at the house to tell him where to meet them. He continued that his father gave him his identification and the station wagon so he could get a new car.

He asserts he gave his father $4,100.00 from past break and enters that he had dug up after release. The funds were to help pay for the new garage. His father, Ray, was a petty thief but the defence led no evidence of that criminality to support Cook’s evidence his father wwas quite willing to accept stolen money from his son on the day of the murders. Such a sum was neither found at the house nor on Cook.

While his father had discussed with Cook getting a garage together and had looked around Alberta there were no plans to go looking in British Columbia at the time of Cook’s release. There was no indication on Thursday that father would not be at work on Friday and the siblings would not be in school.

The problems with Cook’s explanation are obvious. It defies credibility.

In the house are found Cook’s blood stained suit and a blood stained shirt that would fit him.

Cook states it must have been a stranger who entered the house after he left Thursday evening and killed his family and then put on Cook’s suit to move the bodies and try to clean up the house.

Cook breaks down crying uncontrollably when told by the RCMP his father is dead.

In giving his statements he is calm and direct in his answers to the RCMP. In trying to explain he tangles himself deeper. It was a surprise to me that as a career criminal he would think he could “explain” away a charge of murder. There was no chance of success. Defence counsel advise accused not to make statements as they cannot help the defence. As here too often the accused is caught in contradictions. Cook ultimately was forced to admit that he lied in parts of this statements.

Cook went through life lying to the police but he took pride that when “the game was up” he had never lied in court that he was not guilty. It is too subtle “a game” for a jury to appreciate he was telling the truth in court about not committing murder because, in the past, he had only lied to the police and not in court. 

Pecover, over hundreds of pages, analyzes the evidence and defence strategies at Cook’s trials. My next post takes a look at the evidence and trials.


  1. The points Cook made really do defy credibility, Bill. I'm not surprised that, in the end, they were not believed. And I'll be interested in your discussion of the evidence and strategies; I'd like to know what Cook's counsel thought might help him.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Cook's lawyers faced a daunting set of facts with a client who was a professional criminal.

    2. I'm trying to find all your blogs on Cook and I find your site extremely hard to navigate and locate pieces. For instance, at the end of December 2017 you say you will discuss in your next post more on Cook. So I assume that's January 2018? I clicked on January 2018 and saw nothing.

    3. Unknown: The easiest ways are to search the non-fiction pages. The posts are under January of 2018 but you have to go to older posts when you get to the bottom of the page. Does this help?

  2. You should make a podcast on these sort of stories! I'm researching this case for an American Podcast that sometimes features Canadian cases. You'd be very interesting to listen to!

    1. Karen: Thanks for the comment. At this time I have not found the time to add podcasts to my blogging. I appreciate your encouragement.

    2. Everyone are couch detectives and the police are person who can change a sentence by adding a coma as if the accused is reflecting on the Crome itself. My tae on it all is whoever you are if you send and help convict a innocent maven in the slightest like saying you saw the children and parents belongings in the station wagon when you didn't, hell will be your next home. Reap what you sew should of been a doctrine.

  3. Jack P believed that Robert R Cook was innocent of that murder conviction.
    His belief was based on the fact that Cook engaged in the Cosmo Cleaners in Edmonton at same time as mayhem occurred in Stettler. There were other evidentiary anomalies that Jack describes, which would have been exculpatory, but were shaded out of the trial records. I’m not a lawyer, but was a personal friend for many years, in Edmonton. I have his book, and reading it over leaves me with the sense that justice was not served. Bud Sollitt. Salt Spring Island

    1. Bud: Thanks for the comment. I wrote an additional three posts about the case. Here are links - https://mysteriesandmore.blogspot.com/2017/12/assessing-trial-evidence-against-robert.html

      In the second post in which I assessed the evidence I reviewed the alibi defence. It was severely compromised by the screwdriver evidence.
      I respect Jack's very detailed examination of the case. I reached the conclusion that he was guilty. I further concluded that his application for commutation should have been allowed.

  4. Obviously you have no previous training or understanding in the human sense of people in general. You suggested Cook was guilty is a ludicrous if not stupid conclusion. This wasn't some measly robbery gone bad meaning this was a clear cut homicide of adults and children. Someone knew Cooks background, and someone knew the father was about to purchase a gas station in British Columbia. Money seemed to be the motive: and there were two killers. Cook was alone. The whole thing was a mess, and why not kill someone anyone to shut up the poor police work.

    1. Anonymous: If you have the courage to provide your name I will respond.