Eve Lazarus, author of Murder by Milkshake, joined us at The Vancouver Police Museum to talk about her fascinating investigation into the murder of Esther Castellani. Learn about her discoveries and connection to our museum in this video.
The Milkshake Murder
On July 11th, 1965, Esther Castellani was pronounced dead after fighting a mysterious illness that left her hospitalized for seven weeks. Her doctor, Bernard Moscovitch was puzzled as to the cause of her death. While she was still alive, he ran over a hundred different tests and brought in several experts, yet no cause was discovered. The initial autopsy provided little closure, pointing to heart failure as the mode of death, yet there was still no cause. Moscovitch obsessed over Esther’s case, reading through her complete medical history and diving into extensive research until he arrived at a possible solution: arsenic.
The symptoms of arsenic poisoning matched those that plagued Esther in her final months. After the City Analyst’s Laboratory found abnormally high concentrations of arsenic in tissue samples, Esther’s mysterious death turned into a homicide investigation. Her husband, Rene Castellani, became the primary suspect. Rene was a radio adman at CKNW, known for his over-the-top, gimmicky promotions. As his wife lay dying in the hospital, he would visit her, bringing her a White Spot milkshake, one of the only things she could still keep down. He also continued his not-so-secret affair with the station’s receptionist, Lolly Miller, a young widow.
These are just some of the details from this almost 50-year-old case that continues to garner international attention for its salaciousness. Many know what happened to Rene in the aftermath of this crime, but there were so many unanswered questions surrounding the other characters in the story, including Rene’s daughter, Jeannine, Esther’s parents and Esther’s sister—that was until author and reporter Eve Lazarus began looking deeper into the story.
Through in-person interviews with existing family members, exceptional analysis of old archives, reports and medical records, she has created a clear picture of all the circumstances surrounding Esther’s death in her book Murder by Milkshake. Moreover, she’s uncovered new information surrounding the individuals who were connected to Esther, with a specific focus on Jeannine, who became “collateral damage” from the devastating event.
Both literally and figuratively adding new chapters to this captivating crime, Lazarus’s book is a must-read for any Vancouver history fan. Likewise, Eve’s presentation on June 5th at our 2019 Speaker Series is a must-see. Get your tickets here.
For more information about the Milkshake Murder, check out Eve’s bestselling book Murder by Milkshake.