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(Posted 9:30 a.m., April 21)
Prescott-Russell Trail rest stop to commemorate fallen OPP officer
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

OPP Cst. Harold Dent was shot and killed while investigating reports of a suspicious foreigner in Navan. File photo

It's been nearly 75-years since OPP police officer Harold Dent was shot and killed by a drifter in the old Navan train station.

The train station is long gone, but the accounts of what transpired on June 20, 1940 has been preserved by the Cumberland Township Historical Society in a book and CD entitled "Murder in Navan", and on the Community Memories virtual museum website.

Cst. Harold H. Dent was born in Rockland on March 3, 1903 and joined the OPP in 1930. He was stationed in his hometown when he received a tip from Cumberland farmer Norman Edwards on June 20, 1940 about a suspicious "foreigner" who was asking for directions to the nearest train station.

After talking to Edwards, Cst. Dent set out for Navan. When he arrived at the train station near present day Smith Road, he found the stranger waiting inside for the next train.

When he asked the stranger to identify himself, the man pulled out a pistol and shot him twice in the abdomen before fleeing south of the station to a nearby woodlot known as Spears Bush beside present day Milton Road.

When the shots rang out the station master's wife called the local telephone exchange manned by Gertrude Findlay who just happed to be married to OPP Sgt. Allan Stringer who was home off duty at the time.

Stringer immediately ran to Dent's aid. He grabbed Dent's gun and enlisted local farmer George Smith to drive him to Spears Bush where he tracked down the assailant and killed him when the two exchanged shots.

Cst. Dent died from his wounds. He left behind a wife named Wilma and their three-year-old son Murray.

It would come out at an inquest several weeks later, that the suspicious "foreigner" was John Miki, a 54-year-old Finn who had robbed a country club in Gatineau the night before. He hid out on the Quebec side until morning when he could take a ferry across the Ottawa River to Cumberland.

Once on the Ontario side, he ran into Norm Edwards and asked for directions to the train station. Later on down the road he was approached by Edlow Lancaster he offered him a ride to Navan. The rest, as they say, is history.

To commemorate Cst. Dent's death in the line of duty, the Cumberland Township HistoricCsal Society applied to the City of Ottawa to name a rest stop on the Prescott-Russell Trail near where the old train station once stood.

The commemorattion ceremony will be held on June 20th, 75 years to the day after the incident took place. Cst. Dent's son Murray will be the guest of honour along with local resident Eric Smith who is the only known surviving witness to the events that took place on that day in 1940.

Smith was 19 years old at the time. He ran to the train station with his father when he heard about the shooting and he led two investigators who had come out from Ottawa to the bush where Sgt. Stringer had shot and killed Miki.

The effort to name the rest stop in Cst. Dent's honour was supported by Cumberland Ward Coun. Stephen Blais.

"The village of Navan has a rich history and the culmination of this commemorative naming effort recognizes an important and tragic chapter in it," says Blais. "This remains the only murder ever to take place in Navan and I fully support honouring a brave officer who lost his life in the call of duty."

Cumberland Township Historical Society member Gilles Chartrand says naming ceremony will bring the events of June 20, 1940 full circle.

"On June 20, 1940, Navan was headline news. On June 20, 2015, Navan will be back in the news again, only this time for a celebration of duty,” says Chartrand.

For a full account of Navan's only murder, visit www.orleansonline.ca/pages/M2004012801.htm.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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