"The Mysterious Death Of The Eight Day Bride" is a video made by Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej, uploaded onto YouTube on July 27, 2018. It was the third episode of the fourth season of BuzzFeed Unsolved: True Crime, and the sixty-ninth episode overall. You can find it here.
Accidental death, or deadly love triangle?
On the evening on May 20th, 1947, the body of 22-year-old Christina Kettlewell was found 150 feet from her honeymoon cottage in just nine inches of water on the banks of a river in Severn Falls, Ontario. Christina Mocon lived in Mimico, Ontario, and worked at a bank, where she was described as a capable employee. On May 12th, 1947, Christina eloped with John Ray Kettlewell, a 26-year-old war veteran better known as Jack, after knowing each other for three years. Christina's family had a concern about the marriage. Ronald Barrie, a 28-year-old immigrant from Italy, was Jack's best friend and a professional ballroom dancer. It's said that Jack, Christina, and Ronald spent an inordinate amount of time together. Christina's sister, Helen, would comment that the family thought that perhaps Ronald was in love with Christina.
Following the elopement, the Kettlewells spent the next few days at an apartment in Toronto on Tindle Avenue. Bizarrely, Ronald joined them for the entirety of their honeymoon. And on May 17th, the trio headed out to Ronald's remote cottage in Severn Falls, only accessible by boat.
During their time at the cottage, it's reported that Christina began to act out of character. She would go into crying fits while, at other times, seemed completely dazed. Evidence suggests that Christina had conversations with Ronald about whether or not Jack truly loved her. On May 20th, Christina disappeared from the cottage, curiously on the same day that Ronald's cottage mysteriously caught fire. Ronald returned to the cabin to find a disoriented Jack sitting in the cabin with an apparent head injury and pulled him out of the blaze. He looked for Christina, but couldn't find her anywhere in the cottage. Ronald recalled that the cottage burned to the ground in just an hour. He took Jack on a boat to Severn Falls to reach a car to drive him to the hospital and contacted the police. It was then that Ronald discovered that the situation became even worse. That evening, Christina's body was found in nine inches of water just 150 feet away from the cottage by Neville Sweet, an owner of a boathouse in the area. Her body was free from burns or any signs of violence. An official autopsy found traces of codeine in her stomach, but her ultimate cause of death was declared a drowning. Interesting, Major Lawrence Scardifield, who tried to help put out the fire in the cottage, said he saw no signs of Christina's body in the area when he went to fetch water from the river to help with the flames just hours earlier.
Jack, Ronald, and 20 other people were questioned by police in connection with the case. Jack was interrogated by the police for three hours after being released from the hospital, where he was treated for burns, shock, a head injury, and apparent drugging.
However, Jack claimed to not remember anything that occurred after 11 a.m. on the day of Christina's death. Ronald was questioned by the police for a grueling 13 hours, in which he provided a 3,000-word statement that the police would describe as "fantastic."
On June 19th, an inquest into Christina's death began, which became quite the spectacle. The public packed not only the courtroom, but the grounds outside, with some even approaching Jack and Ronald, the main witnesses, for autographs. It should be noted that Jack and Ronald were not on trial for murder. This was simply a case to determine whether or not foul play had been involved in Christina's death. While the highly-sensationalized investigation uncovered many interesting bits of information, the jury of the inquest ultimately could not agree on whether Christina's death was the result of foul play or not, stating, "due to the fact that the post-mortem examination disclosed codeine in the stomach of the deceased, and due to the suspicious fact that she was found drowned, this jury is unable to decide on the evidence given whether or not foul means were employed in her death." Jack and Ronald were in the clear, as there was no evidence implicating either of them in the death. But their relationships to both Christina and each other were thoroughly exposed in the process. The police report claims that there were signs and evidence that Christina was very distressed by the "unnatural conduct of her husband and Barrie. “
- Christina may have been dealing with mental illness and killed herself. The largest pieces of evidence that Christina may have killed herself are the several suicide notes written prior to her untimely end that were uncovered during the inquest.
- The first note, written on Easter Sunday before their engagement and about five weeks before the wedding, was addressed to Ronald. In it, she writes that she tried to poison herself and talks about "the uncertainty of receiving a proposal" from Jack. In it, she claims, "this will be the best way out," as I cannot bear to see another girl have him." Jack recalls Christina being sick that day, but claimed in his testimony that he was unaware of the suicide note.
- She wrote another suicide note at the end of April. This time, her intention, as detailed in the note, was to not only kill herself, but Jack as well. In this note, also addressed to Ronald, she wrote, "when you love someone, you really love him, and I know there is no one for me but Jack, and if I cannot have him, I do not intend anyone else to. I waited, as you might say, in the hope that Jack would ask me to marry him, but I now realize I am just a passing fancy."
- The last note was written the day before she died. It was addressed to a Mrs. Thomas, who owned a home in Mimico that Christina and Jack stayed in for a little bit. Once done, Christina asked Ronald to mail the letter for her. She writes, "Ronnie is in the boat outside somewhere. By the time he gets back, everything will be all over with. He must have been afraid something would happen, because he is staying an extra day to make sure we go back to Toronto with him."
- All notes were confirmed by a handwriting expert to have been signed by Christina. Ronald held on to all the notes from Christina, but he never told Jack about them until the inquest. Strangely, Ronald was able to and chose to save the letters from his burning cottage.
- Perhaps Jack and Ronald were not so innocent.
- The first bit of evidence that suggests the duo may have planned this is a series of insurance policies purchased before Christina's death. Jack took out two separate life insurance policies on himself and Christina before the marriage. Each 5,000-Canadian-dollar policy contained a double indemnity clause which would allow the beneficiary to collect twice the amount if the cause of death was accidental, a sum worth around 200,000 US dollars today. Strangely, Ronald was the beneficiary listed on both policies. Ronald had also taken out a 5,000-Canadian-dollar insurance policy on his cottage that would later mysteriously burn down and named Jack as his beneficiary. It should be noted that Ronald had failed careers in both construction and insurance. Additionally, the inquest revealed that Jack had given his war gratuity, a payment to Canadian servicemen when discharged, to Ronald, and that Jack had removed all of his family from his will for reasons unknown.
- Also, Christina's wedding ring became a suspicious detail in the inquest, as it was never recovered. Reports defer as to whether Ronald purchased the ring for Christina or if Jack borrowed the ring from a married friend, and the true price of the ring is also debated, ranging from $1,000 to $13,000. Nevertheless, it was never found after Christina's death.
- Jack's statement to the police after the fire was another fascinating exhibit entered into the inquest. In the statement, Jack states that he and Ronald had been in an intimate relationship for some time. However, in court, Jack claimed he was coerced to make that statement, as the police wanted to build that story in their report. The police commissioner did in fact touch on this relationship in the report of Christina's case. In it, he writes that the relationship between Jack and Ronald was, "to put it mildly, to be unnatural." There was no evidence to prove this relationship, but it was highly suspected. In the inquest, Crown Counsel C.P. Hope didn't believe Jack was coerced and suggested that the two were actually lovers. Jack finally agreed to this after Hope hammered him with questions. The Toronto Star describes the questioning in an article from June 20th. "When Kettlewell, after vigorous questioning, agreed with Mr. Hope's repeated suggestion that he and Ronald were male lovers, the fantastic triangle of twisted and thwarted emotions took shape."
- Ryan: So, this is the classic case of two people in a relationship, but then there's this best friend who third-wheels quite a bit. For instance, I third-wheel you and Sara all the time.
- Shane: If I'm Christina-- I'm putting myself into Christina's mind right now, you know? I'm a beautiful woman. I'm married to this man, Jack. What's he got going for him? He was a veteran?
- Ryan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
- Shane: Okay, there's Jack.
- Ryan: It's weird to talk to you when your eyes are closed, but--
- Shane: And Jack's, "Ooh, let's go elope. Okay, we'll go to the church. Who's this friend of yours?"
- Ryan: What's happening right now?
- Shane: "Wow, who is this strapping man who is your friend? Oh, this is my friend. Don't worry about him. He's just a lousy professional ballroom dancer." My stars! Humma-mumma! I can't get over this guy!" That's me putting myself (laughing) into her mind.
- Ryan: That was highly disturbing. I didn't like it.
- Shane: I just think, if I were a woman in the '40s or '50s and you meet a professional ballroom dancer, you're gonna be swept off your feet, maybe quite literally if all goes well. (laughing)
- Ryan: Oh my dear Jesus. Okay, very good. Yeah, yeah, sure, I get it. The family was saying that he was in love with her though, not the other way around.
- Shane: Oh! So, I'm a professional ballroom dancer.
- Ryan: Okay, no, please don't do this again.
- Shane: And my friend--
- Ryan: No, no, please don't do this again!
- Shane: (laughing) All right, okay.
- Ryan: Now, we could both agree that bringing your best friend along to your honeymoon is an odd choice.
- Shane: That's a little strange because the honeymoon, I've heard, is for sex.
- Ryan: Yeah, it's for the sexy time, and he's just sitting there in a chair--
- Shane: He's just, (crunching).
- Ryan: Eating a peach. (laughing)
- Shane: "We gonna head down to the hot tub after this or...?"
- Ryan: "Hey, you guys, could you get some more beer in here?" (Shane laughing) "I'm getting a little thirsty."
- Shane: (laughing) A little weird!