Edwin Alonzo Boyd

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Edwin Alonzo Boyd
Boyd in 1952
Boyd in 1952
Born Edwin Alonzo Boyd
(1914-04-02)April 2, 1914
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died May 17, 2002(2002-05-17) (aged 88)
British Columbia, Canada
Occupation Infantryman, actor, bus driver
Criminal penalty
Eight life sentences
Criminal status
Paroled, 1962
Allegiance Boyd Gang
Motive

Money

He was compassionate to wounded veterans.
Conviction(s) Bank robbery, 1952

Edwin Alonzo Boyd (April 2, 1914—May 17, 2002) was a Canadian criminal and leader of the Boyd Gang. His career made him a notorious Canadian folk hero.

Early life[edit]

Edwin Alonzo Boyd was born on April 2, 1914.[1] Four months after Ed was born, the British Empire, of which Canada was part, went to war with Germany. His father Glover Boyd joined the army in August 1915.[2] It would be a few years before Glover would return home from the war. The apartment the family lived in was now too small so they soon moved to a duplex on Bee Street in Todmorden, an area beyond the Don Valley, in East York.[3]

Soon after Eleanor (Edwin’s mother) became pregnant again so Glover Boyd took a job at the Toronto Police Department.[4] Edwin was enrolled in school in the 1921-22 year, but due to an incident at school he did not remain there for very long and before his first year of schooling had ended his family had moved again.[5] At this time he switched to Gledhill Public school to finish out the semester. In September 1923 Glover moved the family a few blocks north and Ed switched to Secord Public school for a brief period of time before being transferred back to Gledhill Public school.[6]

The Boyds soon moved again, this time to Glebemount Avenue.[7] With this move came the transfer to yet another new school, this time to Earl Beatty Public School and it was here that Ed became more of his own person. It was here that he became a soccer player on the school team, and for years his picture hung in the hall of the school.[8] It was also at this time that Edwin Alonzo Boyd joined the YMCA marching band. It was with the YMCA that Boyd mastered the mouth organ and he also accompanied the YMCA band as they won a world championship at the Canadian National Exhibition.[9]

In early 1930 Gord and Norm Boyd contracted scarlet fever, and while taking care of them Eleanor Boyd became sick herself and died from the disease.[10] In 1933 he had his first brush with the law when he was picked up for vagrancy by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.[11] A few years later he joined the Royal Canadian Regiment, First division and in June 1940 his regiment crossed the channel to France.[12] It was when his regiment was posted to Reigate, Surrey that Boyd met his future wife, Doreen Mary Frances Thompson.[13] On August 20, 1941, almost nine months to the day after Ed and Doreen married, she gave birth to a son, Edwin Alonzo Boyd, Jr.[14] The baby was two days old when the air raid sirens sounded and it was discovered afterwards that their child had died from cerebral hemorrhage and so he was buried on August 30 in a York cemetery.[15]

In early 1941 Doreen went to York and joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, but she was too short to be a truck driver and thus she became a motorcycle driver to join her husband in the war.[16] Boyd was transferred to the Canadian Provost Corps on July 27, 1942 because he was displeased with the army.[17] Soon after this Doreen discovered that she was pregnant again and this time they had twins on December 21, 1943.[18] Boyd was officially discharged from the war effort on May 24, 1945 which was two-weeks after the war ended in Europe.[19]

After he was discharged Boyd failed to find adequate permanent employment and so he turned to crime to provide for his war time wife and three children.[20] On September 9, 1949 Boyd robbed a North York branch of the Bank of Montreal.[21] Between September 1949 and October 1951, Boyd pulled at least six bank heists.[22]

He joined up with another robber and carried out several other bold bank robberies. He had a reputation for jumping over counters, moving quickly, and carrying a gun. His partner, old Howard Gault, got caught and told all. They both went to the Don Jail in Toronto. While Eddie and his partner were robbing banks, another more violent gang was also doing the same thing. Lennie Jackson, a member of this gang, was caught at the same time as Eddie, and they soon began to swap notes. Soon another experienced bank robber, Willie Jackson, aka "The Clown", (no relation to Lennie) arrived at the Don awaiting transfer to the Kingston Penitentiary for a seven-year sentence.

Lennie Jackson had lost a foot in a railway accident and had a wooden foot in which he had stored several hacksaw blades.

Over the wall[edit]

On November 4, 1951, Eddie and the Jacksons hack-sawed the bars and went over the wall and escaped. They met a friend, Valent Lesso from Cochrane, one of the violent members of Lennie Jackson’s original gang, and the four became a team. Lesso was a talented musician who couldn’t find work; he changed his name to Steve Suchan and became a bank robber. They soon pulled off a series of robberies, including the biggest one in Toronto history. The newspapers dubbed the new group “the Boyd Gang,” seeing Eddie as the brains behind the operation. Willie Jackson was arrested and sent to the Don Jail. Eddie went into hiding with his wife Doreen.

On March 6, 1952 Detective Sergeant Edmund Tong aka 'The Chinaman' and his partner pulled over a suspicious car at a Toronto intersection. The car contained Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson working on their own. A gun fight ensued, and Suchan killed Detective Tong. They were later wounded and captured in a gun fight and ended up again in the Don Jail, charged with murder. Eddie Boyd was tracked down and caught in bed beside an attaché case full of money, and five loaded pistols. Eddie was put in a jail cell with his two buddies. They became friendly with one of the older guards. As the pretence of a joke, one of the gang members grabbed the guard's key ring and gripped it tightly while kibbitzing and joking with the guard. When he let go of the key, an impression was left in his hand and in short order they fashioned a key for the cell door and slipped out briefly. When the guards were not around they hack-sawed a window in preparation for escape. To be able to fit out the small opening, they all went on a diet. Just before Suchan and Jackson were to stand trial, on Sept 8, 1952 they escaped the Don for a second time. The biggest manhunt in Canadian history ensued, with a large reward — to be specific, a then-perhaps overindulgent CAD$26,000 — offered for information leading to their capture. Several jail staff were fired and a Royal Commission was set up to review the circumstances of their escape.

Canadian newspaper wars were fierce in 1952, and every detail of the Boyd Gang’s activity and attempts at their capture were reported in headlines across the country. There were reports of sighting across Ontario and Quebec. Local police officers travelled in pairs and were well armed.

Arrest and release[edit]

They received numerous calls from residents in West Ferris and Powassan, Ontario, and from a pharmacist in North Bay. None of them panned out. After ten days, men were seen at a barn in the Don Valley 24 km[23] from the jail, and the Boyd Gang was captured without incident.

Now Boyd was the only gang member left to be captured. Detective Adolphus 'Dolph' Payne had kept Boyd's brother Norman under surveillance and discovered that he had rented a flat on Heath Street, but had not moved in yet. He secured a key to the back door from the owner. Payne then watched, from a neighbour's house, as Boyd moved into the flat. Wanting to avoid a shootout, he waited until he was sure everyone was asleep. At the crack of dawn the police crept inside the house and captured Boyd and his wife while they were still in bed. Boyd's brother, who was sleeping in another room, was also apprehended. The Toronto Nugget reported the event by stating “Edwin Alonzo Boyd, Canada’s Public Enemy Number One, surrendered meekly with his henchmen to two suburban detectives, ending the greatest criminal man hunt in the Dominion’s history.” One of these officers was Kenneth Craven.

Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson were sentenced to death for killing Detective Tong. On December 16, 1952 Steve Suchan, after a brief visit with his mother, and Lennie Jackson with his wife, received last rites and waited for their 8 am execution. To their surprise, the executioner came at midnight, and by 12:14 am they were both dead, hanged back to back.

Eddie received eight life sentences and Willie Jackson thirty years. Willie Jackson and Eddie Boyd were both released on parole in 1962.

Ex Bandit Boyd Calls For Police. Edwin Alonzo Boyd, who has spent much of his life dodging police, asked for their assistance last night- to arrest his wife and her companion. Boyd was paroled Oct. 3 after serving 10 years in Kingston penitentiary for bank robbery. He set up housekeeping in a west-central house for himself and his children. Last night Boyd sent a hurried call for help to Markham St. station when a man and woman arrived at his home and battered down the front door. The woman said she wanted to pick up clothing. Booked on charges of being drunk were Doreen Boyd and Kenneth Caustan, 40. In court today she pleaded guilty and was fined $5. She was returned to the cells until she could raise the money.

—Toronto Star , December 14, 1962

Eddie, under the name John, went to Victoria, British Columbia, where he drove a bus for disabled people and married a disabled woman whom he met on the bus. He took care of her for the next 35 years, until they went into a home.

Death[edit]

Two months prior to his death, Boyd told a CBC producer that he had once killed a couple and left their bodies in the trunk of a car in High Park, Toronto years before his notoriety as a bank robber. The crime fits the September 11, 1947 murders of Iris Scott and George Vigus.[24]

Before a formal investigation into his confession could commence, on May 17, 2002, after a visit from his wife and his son, and a phone call from his former war bride and the mother of his three children, Edwin Alonzo Boyd died at age 88.

Legacy[edit]

Two books have been written on the Boyd Gang, and one was made into a successful movie. "Girls in the Gang", a musical written by Raymond Storey and Jon Roby, was based on the story of the Boyd gang. It debuted in 1987 at Toronto's and won a Dora Mavor Moore award for best musical. In 1998 Boyd was profiled in a documentary on CBC Television's Life and Times, wherein he admitted that he had committed many more robberies than he had been charged with. Another highly fictionalized film on Boyd's life, Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster, was released in 2011; Scott Speedman plays the part of Boyd.[25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kathleen Doyle, “Gentleman” Bank Robber Edwin Alonzo Boyd (Suite 101: 2009). Retrieved on Jan 20, 2010
  2. ^ Brian Valée, Edwin Alonzo Boyd: the story of the notorious Boyd gang (Doubleday Canada Limited: 1997) 11.
  3. ^ Brian Valée, 13.
  4. ^ Brian Valée, 13.
  5. ^ Brian Valée, 15-16.
  6. ^ Brian Valée, 17.
  7. ^ Brian Valée, 18.
  8. ^ Marjorie Lamb and Barry Pearson, The Boyd Gang (Peter Marin Associates Limited: 1949) 8.
  9. ^ Marjorie Lamb and Barry Pearson, The Boyd Gang (Peter Marin Associates Limited: 1949) 8.
  10. ^ Brian Valée, 26.
  11. ^ Marjorie Lamb and Barry Pearson, 9.
  12. ^ Marjorie Lamb and Barry Pearson, 12-13.
  13. ^ Marjorie Lamb and Barry Pearson, 14.
  14. ^ Brian Valée, 61.
  15. ^ Brian Valée, 61
  16. ^ Brian Valée, 62
  17. ^ Brian Valée, 62
  18. ^ Brian Valée, 65.
  19. ^ Brian Valée, 73.
  20. ^ Edward Buts, The Canadian Encyclopedia (Historica Foundation: 2007). Retrieved on Jan 20, 2010 at http://thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0000936.
  21. ^ Kevin Plumer, Historicist: titillating and Terrorizing Toronto (Torontoist: September 2007). Retrieved Jan 20, 2010 at http://torontoist.com/2008/09/historicist_titillating_and_terrori.php, 2
  22. ^ Kevin Plumer, Historicist: titillating and Terrorizing Toronto (Torontoist: September 2007). Retrieved Jan 20, 2010 at http://torontoist.com/2008/09/historicist_titillating_and_terrori.php, 2
  23. ^ CBC News http://archives.cbc.ca/society/crime_justice/clips/2730/ |url= missing title (help). 
  24. ^ [1], The Fifth Estate, 21 Sept. 2012
  25. ^ Wong, Jessica (August 31, 2011). "Big buzz films at TIFF this year". CBC News. Retrieved September 7, 2011. 

External links[edit]