A story of kidnapping, murder, and suicide that left residents shocked across all reaches of our city and surrounding communities. The crime made frontpage news in just about every newspaper across North America.
The Tommy McNevin Story
It was Monday, March 20, 1961, with temperatures hovering just above the freezing mark. Tommy McNevin left Queen Alexandra School after making arrangements with friends to meet up for some hockey down on the bay. He rushed home to grab his skates and hockey stick and quickly made off to meet up with his friends. Except, he didn't make it to his scheduled hockey with friends. The last time anyone saw him was 4:15 pm that afternoon.
Worried parents, Donald and Hazel McNevin lived at 158 George Street. Upper-middle-class family, Donald a former Belleville Alderman and owner of the local Glen Roy Creamery received an anonymous phone call in the early evening telling them their young boy kidnapped and directives were to be found in the newspaper box located at the corner of Dundas and George Streets with further guidelines. Instructions were also given by this individual not to contact police, or they would make sure their boy would never be seen again.
Mr. NcNevin rushed to the corner and found the plain white envelope with a note inside. The letter gave explicit instructions to gather $25,000 in used $5's, $10's and $20's. To bring the money wrapped tightly in a brown paper bag at 3:00 pm Tuesday and wait outside in his Cadilac in front of 241 Ann Street. Despite the directive not to call the police, Donald contacted police after reading the ransom note and remarked, if my boy knows his abductor, he will most surely kill Tommy.
Donald McNevin received a telephone call that Monday evening at 9:00 pm from Warren Williamson stating the kidnappers had chosen him to be the intermediary. Warren, an elder of Tabernacle Church and co-owner of a paper towel company locally, was Tommy's Cub Scout Leader. He told Donald he would be most happy to cooperate as an intermediary to gain his son's safe return.
The Police received their first substantial lead when they received a call just after 8:00 pm from a 16-year-old Moira Secondary School student, Stephen Watts. Watts told police he heard a child's frightened cries for "Mama." just outside Belleville along the Trent Road. A search of the entire area found nothing.
When Williamson pulled up in front of 241 Ann Street to meet with McNevin, the police were also waiting. They took Williamson in for questioning and listened to his story of how the kidnappers had chosen him as the intermediary and that all he wanted to do was comply, that Mr. McNevin's son returned safely. Though the police did not believe Williamson's story, they released him.
The search had continued through Tuesday by Police and off-duty firefighters. They concentrated their search in the Sidney Township ward, and by Tuesday night, police gave news that Warren Williamson had killed himself with a shotgun in the basement of his home at 14 Southview Avenue. A suicide note left behind stating his financial difficulties and the stress of not being able to provide for his family, but no mention of the kidnapping of Tommy McNevin. He left behind a wife and two children.
The search continued into Wednesday and by mid-afternoon, two off-duty police officers following a trail of footprints in the snow just off a dead end road, which was considered by many as a Lover's lane. Foot prints in the snow, that of an adult and a child leading several hundred feet into the woods out of sight of the road. Here they found Tommy's motionless body slumped at the base of a small elm tree with rope wrapped around his waist and five times around his neck and once around his mouth. He had wounds to his head which appeared by his hockey stick and defensive wounds to his one hand. The location was roughly half a mile from the closest residence and six miles north-west of Belleville on the fourth concession of Sidney Township.
An inquest later determined Warren Williamson acted alone and was found responsible for the kidnapping and death. His motive was money. The company which he co-owned was not financially sound, putting him in further debt. A pathologist concluded young Tommy Mcnevin would have been knocked unconscious by the blow to the head but would have gained conscious before he died of hypothermia.
The funerals of both Tommy McNevin 10, and Warner Williamson, 41 held on Friday, March 24, 1961, and both interned at the Belleville Cemetery.
A lasting tribute to young Tommy McNevin. A boy, who died way too young.
May Belleville, past, present, and future remember young Tommy.