The Victoria Times Colonist is running a series of stories regarding Cold Case files in BC this week. This story is one of many, but is at a bit of a personal level. Although he was an "Army Cadet" and lived in the City, I knew and had been on exercise with Brady several times, as his Army Cadet Corps and my Air Cadet Corps were good "friends". I, along with many of my Squadron mates attended his funeral service.
Cold Case: Mysterious injury claimed cadet's life
Lindsay Kines, Times Colonist Published: Friday, September 26, 2008
Who: Brady Bell
What: Possible hit and run
When: Nov. 29, 1984
Even today, 24 years later, nobody's quite sure what happened to Brady Bell that night.
One minute, he was a strapping cadet getting a routine physical at CFB Esquimalt. The next he was lying beside Admirals Road with a severe head injury.
Just what occurred in the short period between the time he left the Naden base and the time he was found remains a mystery.
Brady was never able to tell police anything about the night of Nov. 29, 1984 -- just two days before his 17th birthday.
He remained in a coma for five months before awaking in May 1985. The brain injury, however, had damaged his motor skills, robbed him of speech, and led to repeat bouts of spinal meningitis that eventually took his life on July 6, 1985.
Police initially investigated the case as a possible homicide. But retired Esquimalt police Sgt. John McDonald said yesterday that Brady was a "young, clean-cut kid" and detectives found nothing to suggest anyone would want to do him harm.
"I was more convinced that it was probably a hit and run," McDonald said. "Now, whether the person even knew he hit something ...."
McDonald said it was "extremely foggy" that night and the driver may have thought that his side-view mirror simply clipped a telephone pole instead of a teenager.
"You would have thought that possibly, once they read about it in the paper and they recalled that happened at that location, that they might come forward," he said. "But I don't know if most people would or not."
Forensic analysis of metallic black and silver paint chips on Brady's jacket eventually led investigators to suspect he was struck by a wide side-view mirror on a 1977 to 1980 Ford pick-up truck or a 1980 four-wheel-drive Jeep. A search of ICBC claims turned up nothing, and police acknowledged that a mirror could be easily, and quietly, replaced.
Similarly, a Crime Stoppers re-enactment in July 1985 failed to crack the case, which remains an open and unsolved suspicious death more than two decades later.
"We believe it probably is a hit and run," said Const. Grant Hamilton of the Victoria police, which now has control of the file. "That's what it looks like. But that is also being reviewed and ongoing."
Though intensely private, Lauretta Bell, 59, says she would still like to know what happened to her son.
"I still think about him all the time," she said. "I still think about his smiles."
A sergeant with Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Cadet Corps, Brady was one of 10 cadets chosen from across Canada to travel to Wales in 1984, his mother said. He also enjoyed acting and sports and was a popular student at Oak Bay High School.
Jim Hicke, retired commanding officer of the cadets corps, remembered Brady this week as a "bright, intelligent" young man.
"He sort of stood out as a leader," Hicke said.
"He was a good-looking kid, popular with everybody around him."
Indeed, Brady spoke of a career in the military. On the evening he was injured, he walked from his girlfriend's house for a medical checkup at the Naden base.
The physical took place shortly after 8 p.m. and, about 15 minutes after it ended, two boys found Brady, one shoe off, crawling beside Admirals Road near the base's main gate, Lauretta Bell says. The boys managed to get him to the guard house and alert the same doctor who had just examined Brady a few minutes earlier.
To this day, Lauretta Bell regrets never having the opportunity to thank the two boys who helped her son.
"We were in such shock," she said.
The grief was paralyzing at first, and her son's death remains a painful subject all these years later. But the family has no desire to go on TV and plea for answers, Lauretta Bell says. She's not sure it would work anyway.
"I think it's going to have to be up to someone's conscience," she said.
Lindsay Kines can be reached at 250-381-7890 or firstname.lastname@example.org
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
Rest in Peace, Sgt Bell.
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09-26-2008, 11:00 AM #1
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Times Colonist Cold Case Files
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