Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Infamous Edwin Alonzo Boyd

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2011


Edwin Alonzo Boyd was born in Toronto on April 2, 1914.  Four months after his birth, World War I broke out in Europe.  Ed's father, Glover Boyd,.was an electrician and was employed by Eaton's department store.  Glover joined the army in the summer of 1915 and served overseas during the earliest years of his son's childhood. When he returned home in 1919, he worked as a lumberer in the Muskoka woods.

In 1920, a second son, Gordon, was born to the Boyds and Glover decided to search for work closer to his family in Toronto.  Accordingly, he answered a recruiting ad and was accepted as a police constable with the Toronto Police Department.  Glover Boyd was to remain with the force for a quarter of a century.

Two more children followed Gordon, a son named Norman and a daughter, Irene.  Gord and Norm contracted scarlet fever in early 1930 and the family was quarantined.  In March of that year, Ed's mother, Eleanor, died of the disease. Ed was only 15 years old when she passed away.  After her death, he dropped out of school and left home.  As a youth, he drifted across Canada and had some minor run-ins with the law during the Depression years of the 1930s. At the age of 22, he served time at Prince Albert Penitentiary in Saskatchewan for robbing a gas station.

During World War II, Boyd joined the Canadian Army as an infantryman. While overseas, he married Doreen Mary Frances Thompson and the couple had three children.  After the war, he returned to Toronto with his British war bride and found employment as a streetcar driver. Unhappy and bored with his job, this son of a police officer turned to crime.

Boyd with Doreen and children

It will be exactly 62 years ago tomorrow, on September 9, 1949, that Edwin Alonzo Boyd committed his first bank robbery.  Operating as a lone bandit and wearing a disguise, a drunken Boyd robbed a branch of the Bank of Montreal in Toronto.  Armed with a pistol (a Luger he had taken from a dead German soldier in France), the inebriated thief escaped with $3,000, a princely sum in those days.  Acting alone and with the help of accomplices, he committed six more robberies before being captured and imprisoned in Toronto's Don Jail.

Boyd's mugshots.  He was described as 37 years old, 5'7 3/8 ", slim build, black hair (grey), blue eyes 

It was in the Don Jail that Boyd met Leonard "Tough Lennie" Jackson and Willie "The Clown" Jackson (not related) who were to become his partners in further criminal activity.  Lennie Jackson, an ex-hairdresser from Niagara Falls, had an artificial foot (he lost his foot in a railway accident) and the three men escaped from prison on November 4, 1951 by concealing hacksaw blades in Jackson's prosthetic device.  The trio of  convicts used the blades to saw through the bars on an outside window.

After their escape, a fourth man joined the band of thieves.  His name was Valent Lesso (alias Steve Suchan).  The group committed four more robberies in four months and was dubbed "The Boyd Gang" by the press.  Although "Tough Lennie" Jackson was the real leader, it was Edwin Alonzo Boyd who was better looking and more charismatic.

The Boyd Gang engaged in further bank robberies and on March 6, 1952, two of the gang members, Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson, shot and killed police detective Edmund Tong, a crime for which they would later hang.  They and Boyd were soon apprehended, but escaped from the Don Jail a second time on the night of September 7, 1952.  Once again, they used hacksaw blades hidden in Lennie Jackson's wooden foot along with a cell key they had created from the palm print of the original. 

The exploits of the Boyd Gang made sensational front page headlines.  On September 8, 1952, their escape was also detailed by anchorman Lorne Greene (of Bonanza fame) on the first news telecast of the new CBC television network.  Ten days later, some men were seen at a barn in the Don Valley, about 24 km. (15 miles from the prison) and the Boyd gang, except for Boyd himself, was captured there without incident. 

Edwin Alonzo was later found at the rented flat of his brother Norman.  Police had kept the flat under surveillance and obtained a key to the back door from the owner.  They watched from a neighbour's home as Boyd moved into the flat.  At the break of dawn, they entered the house and captured Boyd and his wife while they were still sleeping in bed.  Norman, who was sleeping in another room, was also apprehended by police. 

The Toronto Nugget reported that "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."

In 1952, Edwin Alonzo Boyd Boyd was given eight life sentences while Willie Jackson received a thirty year sentence foe his crimes.  Both men served their time in Ontario's Kingston Penitentiary and both were released in 1966.  On December 16, 1952, the last rites were administered to Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson.  Nor long after midnight on the morning of December 17th, they were executed, hanged back to back.

Boyd was originally paroled in 1962 after spending 10 years in prison, but was returned for four more years due to parole violations.  After serving 14 years, the notorious bank robber was released on lifetime parole.  He then moved near Victoria, British Columbia where he lived under an assumed identity and drove a bus for disabled people.  He remarried and devoted himself to the care of his disabled wife, Marjorie, whom he had met on the bus.  Edwin Alonzo Boyd died in British Columbia on May 17, 2002 at the age of 88.

END NOTES

* Edwin Alonzo Boyd was the subject of an episode of the CBC biographical series Life and Times.  Boyd's biography contains interviews with the notorious bank robber himself during the months just prior to his death.  His  ex-wife, his daughter and his adopted son also speak out on the program.  During the interviews, Boyd, the man known as the "Gentleman Bank Robber" chillingly confesses that he "did a few things that could have got me hung."

* I have obtained some of the information in this piece from a book entitled Edwin Alonzo Boyd: The Story of the Notorious Boyd Gang by Brian Vallee.  I recommend the book to those who want to read further about Edwin Alonzo Boyd and the Boyd gang.


- Joanne

No comments:

Post a Comment