Posts tagged #Jennie Kiabara

Jennie Kiobara (Kiohara)

Dates: b. Japan, 1881 d. Revelstoke, 1905

Cemetery location: Block F, Row 3, Plot 26


Jennie was a 24-year old Japanese woman working as a prostitute on Front Street. She had been in Revelstoke since at least 1903, based on the city police reports. On 19 April 1905, she was found murdered in her house. 

There was no such thing as publication bans then, and the newspaper reported the murder in graphic detail:

“The woman’s throat was cut in front and there was a frightful gash on the back of the neck so that the head was nearly severed from the body.  The woman’s hands were cut and hacked where she had struggled to obtain possession of the knife or ward off the work of the assassin, whose butchery was of the fiendish description…” 

The murderer was compared to Jack the Ripper. The paper went on to describe the murder scene and the knife used. Wah Chung, a wealthy Chinese merchant who owned the house Jennie lived in, paid for Jennie’s tombstone. It was believed that he had had a romantic relationship with Jennie, as well as being her pimp. He was under suspicion for her death, but was never charged.

There is a story that someone, a white man, confessed to Jennie’s death many years later on his deathbed. The information was given to the local police who told the widow of the man who had been police chief at the time. The woman asked the current police officer to tell Wah Chung, since he had been under suspicion for so many years. According to the story, after Wah Chung was told, he said, “Now I can die in peace,” and he passed away within a few months. There is no way of knowing whether this story is true.

Tragically, Jennie was taken from her home in Japan to work as a prostitute in Canada, and then treated with contempt by the Japanese community. The story in the Kootenay Mail ends with this sad commentary: 

“The Japanese and women of the neighbourhood refuse to assist the police by giving information. The Japanese say that the woman was no good and not worth hanging a man for.”