The Castleton Massacre: Survivors’ Stories of the Killins Femicide

by Sharon Anne Cook & Margaret Carson

Synopsis – A former United Church minister massacres his family. What led to this act of femicide, and why were his victims forgotten?

On May 2, 1963, Robert Killins, a former United Church minister, slaughtered every woman in his family but one. She (and her brother) lived to tell the story of what motivated a talented man who had been widely admired, a scholar and graduate from Queen’s University, to stalk and terrorize the women in his family for almost twenty years and then murder them.

Through extensive oral histories, Cook and Carson painstakingly trace the causes of a femicide in which four women and two unborn babies were murdered over the course of one bloody evening. While they situate this murderous rampage in the literature on domestic abuse and mass murders, they also explore how the two traumatized child survivors found their way back to health and happiness. Told through vivid first-person accounts, this family memoir explains how a murderer was created.

My thoughts – What are the odds of a family murderer being named Killins? This is a well written look at the story of a rural Canadian mass murderer. A chilling true crime read. He tormented and murdered his long-estranged wife Florence and his daughter Pearl, who were both pregnant at the time. Pearl was his only child, now grown and expecting her first baby. Florence had been trying to get a divorce for twenty plus years, but Killins refused to give her one. She went on to have more children with her next life partner, A.D. Hall, they were Brian, 10, Margaret, 12 and Patsy, 6. Killins’ hatred filled rampage included murdering his only sister, Gladys. He also managed to kill his wife’s youngest child by A.D. Hall, Patsy. The other two children by Hall managed to survive.

There were several others who were injured while trying to intervene, among them were Florence’s current beau, Tom Major; and Killins’ son-in-law Fred Campbell. The most badly injured man was Peter Miller, a twenty year old teacher. This happened in the early 1960s when men were not held accountable for many cases of domestic violence. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


Publisher – Dundurn Press – 280 pages

Publication date – July 26th, 2022

My rating – 4/5 STARS

About the author –

Sharon Anne Cook is distinguished university professor emerita at the University of Ottawa. She is the author and editor of twelve books in Canadian women’s history. The recipient of many teaching awards, she teaches graduate courses in the history of education. She lives in Ottawa.

Margaret Carson is the eldest of two children who survived the Castleton massacre. A retired college instructor, she is accomplished in creating and adapting workplace programs as well as classroom delivery. She lives in Mississippi Mills, Ontario.

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