Maria Carlotta Boond’s tangled web

A Look Back into the History of the Campbell River Area

By Jeanette Taylor

There were no twists of smoke rising from Maria Boond’s chimney. Nor were there any tracks in the snow around her cottage on the hill overlooking a jumble of seine boats and trollers in Quathiaski Cove.

That was odd. But lots of things were odd about Maria Carlotta Boond—so her neighbours didn’t intrude. However, when a young man came to see a piano Maria had for sale he was alarmed by the creepy silence of the place and alerted the people next door, who called the police. That’s when they found Maria and her lover William Rockey dead, stretched out on her bed.

This sensational story—all the more surprising for its fishing village setting—hit the national news in 1952. There was conflicting speculation about what had happened. One newspaper called it a double suicide, but some of Maria’s neighbours thought the couple had drunk poisoned wine left as a trap by Maria’s late husband. Others thought it was Maria who concocted the lethal drinks because her lover was a two-timing man, a theory police eventually accepted and the case was closed. But the question remained: What would drive Maria Boond to this cruel end? Her family history offers clues.

When Maria, her then-husband Sam Boond and her mother had first arrived on Quadra Island, on the cusp of the Great Depression in 1931, she cast a swirl of intrigue about herself. Much of what she claimed has now been proved false or inflated by descendants assembling the facts from scattered public records. The truth has more colour than any of Maria’s inventions.

Maria’s mother was raised in privilege, the child of a British Major General stationed in India. While in England for school she met Maria’s father, a dashing Brazilian naval officer who had explored the Amazon River. She was just sixteen when they were married and probably did not yet know about his recent divorce, the result of a scandal over charges of abuse and infidelity. What she understood was that he was a nobleman, with the title chevalier (the French equivalent of sir), who was in charge of a Brazilian import business and a British emigration scheme. But within months of their marriage his business failed and instead of gracing European courts, as Maria told islanders, her father (and likely her mother too) spent several years in a debtor’s prison.

Maria was born late into what must have been a difficult marriage. Her mother was 46 and her father died within months, which leads descendants to wonder if Maria was actually the child of a ‘siblings,’ one of whom was a stunt woman in a travelling magic show. After her father’s death, Maria’s mother/grandmother did piece work for a magnetic motorcar company to keep the family afloat. And later, when Maria immigrated to Canada as a young adult, her mother followed.

On Canada’s west coast—thousands of miles from home—Maria told her new friends her mother, who lived in quiet retirement, was a titled aristocrat who had once been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. When her mother died in 1937, Maria erected a fine headstone for the “Countess de Almeida Portugal”—an epitaph that still causes intrigue in the island’s rustic cemetery. Maria wrote lavish obituaries, with pointed details that lent voracity to her claims, as did her blueblood eccentricity.

Maria grew increasingly peculiar after her mother died. While shopping at the Cove’s little store she routinely slipped some of her purchases into her handbag, but the storekeeper added them to her monthly bills, which Maria paid without argument. She transformed her Mini Minor car as a taxi, but she was a wild driver so only the desperate used her services. And long after her mother had died Maria walked the island’s narrow dirt roads in deep conversation with her.

For all of that, however, Maria was an attractive woman, with her blond curls and her passion for painting and tennis, so when her husband died in 1950 (or perhaps, as some suggest, before he died) she took up with William Rockey.

Two years later, in 1952, she was clearing out her house in readiness for a trip home to England and a move to Alberta—when she and William Rockey were found dead. Two former wives stepped forward to claim Rockey’s remains and he was given a war vet’s funeral, while Maria was buried in a criminal’s quiet ceremony in Campbell River.

As her father had done before her, Maria had reinvented herself as a woman of nobility and prestige in a country far from the prying eyes of home.

But the glittering persona she had built and tended with such care could not dispel the incurable sting of a hardscrabble reality.