On Sept. 15, 1954, Danny Brent’s body was found on the 10th green at UBC’s golf course. He was wearing a red plaid shirt, grey trousers, argyle socks, and brown shoes. Stuffed inside his shirt was an early edition of the newspaper, soaked with his blood. There was a half-smoked cigarette inside his shirt where it had dropped from his mouth when he was shot—once in the back and twice in the head with .45-calibre bullets.
Danny Brent’s murder was the city’s first gangland hit and it caused a sensation in the press providing a daily dose of true crime for Mickey Spillane fans of the time. There was an assortment of sketchy characters surrounding Danny—two ex-wives, rumours of a married girlfriend, and a Chicago-based drug syndicate. The plot wasn’t bad either. There were the hired killers from out of town, the attempted murders of two other Vancouver drug lords, and a large role for police chief Walter Mulligan, who would be kicked off the force the following year.
People liked 42-year-old Danny, even his ex-wives. He worked at the Press Club on Beatty Street. On the night of his murder, Danny had finished his shift at the Press Club and headed over to the Mayling Supper Club in Chinatown. He parked his red 1950 Meteor convertible—in the parking lot at the back of the building. A witness said he saw Danny leave with a woman and two men through the back door.
Police think Danny slid behind the wheel of his car, lit up a cigarette, and was shot in the back by one of the men. The first bullet pierced his spine at a downward angle and then tore a hole in his liver before it came out his navel. Dr. T.R. Harmon, the pathologist, said he could have lived up to half an hour.
The killers made no effort to hide the body or disguise Danny’s identity. Robbery was quickly ruled out. He was still wearing an expensive wristwatch, a gold ring, and a gold band mounted with a black stone on the ring finger of his left hand.
Four days after his murder, police opened a locker in the Vancouver Bus Depot and found 30 ounces of heroin with a street value of $175,000. It was quickly apparent that there was more to Danny than his job as a waiter. Either he was killed by a gang trying to take over the heroin industry or murdered by a hit team for an outstanding drug debt.
In 1975, a homeowner raking under a hedge near his home in the 3100 block on West 11th Avenue, found a rusted .45-calibre automatic. Lab tests failed to prove that the rusty pistol was the murder weapon, and Danny’s murder remains unsolved.
- For more information about Danny Brent’s murder listen to Cold Case Canada Podcast Episode 14.
Eve Lazarus is a reporter and author, and she hosts and produces the Cold Case Canada true crime podcast. Her books include the B.C. bestsellers Murder by Milkshake; Cold Case Vancouver and Vancouver Exposed. Eve’s latest book is Cold Case BC: The Stories Behind the Province’s Most Intriguing Murder and Missing Person Cases.