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Vancouver cold case files: The Night Club Murders

Sister of Penthouse dancer slain in 1975 says she hasn't heard from Vancouver Police since right after the crime.
Gail Rogers ca1974 courtesy Sophia VanTassel niece
Gail Sandra Rogers in the early 1970s.

Gail Sandra Rogers, 26 known as Sam to her friends, was last seen on February 17, 1975 after working the noon to 6 p.m. shift at the Penthouse night club. Gail’s sister Karen reported her missing and when police went to check her Kitsilano basement suite a few days later, they found a carpet and a claw hammer stained with blood.

Gail was a go-go dancer and her “mystery disappearance” as police called it, was immediately linked to the murder of Barbara Ann LaRocque, a 22-year-old go-go dancer at the Syndicate City who was found strangled two months earlier, her body dumped in Langley.

Gail’s body was recovered three weeks later in a creek bed 12 metres below a bridge on the Alta Lake Road north of Squamish and found by three skiers. She had been wrapped in a blanket and tied at the ankles and knees. Her hands were tied behind her back and two pieces of clothing were tied around her neck. She had been thrown off the bridge.

Her cause of death was multiple blows to the head by a hammer.

A police source told a Vancouver Sun reporter at the time that they had heard “street rumbles” that the killings were linked to a racket preying on night club employees. Barbara had been found choked to death with her own scarf. On the day that she went missing, a witness had seen her dragged into a car outside the club on Howe Street where she worked. The police theory was that Barbara’s death was the result of a contract killing.

Karen Rogers—Gail’s older sister by a year—believes her sister’s death was related to her job at the Penthouse. She believes Gail was killed by a hit-man, her murder made to look like a crime of passion. “[Police] told me they knew who did it, but they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him,” said Karen.

Gail, says Karen was very outgoing, fun and generous. “She had a great sense of humour, she was an excellent dancer, an honour student at Langley Senior Secondary and she had gone to the Vancouver School of Art.” She had recently broken up with her long-time boyfriend.

At the time of Gail’s murder, Karen was asked to go to the Vancouver Police Department and identify some items that included jewellery and a blanket that had been found with her body. Karen hasn’t heard from the police since 1975. As far as she knows, Gail’s personal items are still there, and both Gail and Barbara’s murders remain unsolved.

“Just because they were dancers doesn’t mean they were bad people,” she says. “It still hurts after all these years, it doesn’t go away.”

If you have any information about these murders please call the Vancouver Police Department at 604-717-3321, or if you wish to remain anonymous, call crime stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or visit the website solvecrime.ca

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; Blood, Sweat, and Fear; Cold Case Vancouver and Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City’s Hidden History. She blogs at Every Place has a Story