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Edwin Boyd, bank robber in training

It's the early 1950s, and banks are popping up all over "Toronto the Good." So too is a daring group of villains (or heroes, depending on who you ask): the bank-robbing, jail-busting "Boyd Gang." Warring newspapers and budding television stations race to break any news of Toronto's most infamous gangsters, and capture the imagination of the public.

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Edwin Alonzo Boyd's early years seem tailor-made for a life of infamy. He rejects the religious leanings of his father (a Toronto cop) and rides the rails of the Great Depression, living outside the law. During the Second World War, Boyd ships out for Europe and is trained as a commando. As an older Boyd tells CBC's the fifth estate, a return to a law-abiding life in orderly post-war Toronto seems almost too much to ask.

Boyd bides his time as a window washer and a streetcar driver. Eventually he musters up the courage to hold up a north Toronto bank. Six more robberies follow. But then he's caught and thrown into the notorious Don Jail, where he meets Willie "the clown" Jackson and Lenny "Tough Lennie" Jackson. With the help of a cleverly-hidden hacksaw blade, these men slip through the bars and into the headlines.
• Boyd's upbringing was very religious, but his parents' lessons to young Edwin were rather ineffectual. After attending choir practice, Boyd would break into the homes of his absent relatives to steal their money.
• Boyd was frequently in and out of jail during the Depression. His first serious crime was robbing a deserted gas station near Saskatoon at age 22. He was caught and served two and a half years in the Prince Albert penitentiary.

• Boyd's first bank heist was a Bank of Montreal branch in north Toronto. He drank a bottle of whisky first, even though he wasn't much of a drinker. Boyd held the bank tellers at gunpoint using a German Luger pistol he acquired during the war.
• Bank manager George Elwood fired five shots at Boyd as he ran off with a $3,000 haul.
• Edwin Boyd sported a trademark fedora for each bank job.

• Toronto's two daily newspapers, the Toronto Telegram and the Toronto Daily Star, were locked in a fierce circulation war, and were quick to publicize the daring bank robberies. Reporters would rush to the scene of the crime, dash off a quick story and run to the closest telephone to relay it to the news desk. The Telegram's Val Sears said the competition was so furious that reporters would sometimes remove the telephone's microphone, rendering it useless for rival reporters.

• Valent Lesso, a.k.a. Steve Suchan, was supposed to pick up the three fugitives when they broke out of the Don Jail. But Suchan didn't show – he was visiting his girlfriend (Lennie Jackson's sister.) So the escapees ran off on foot into the Don Valley. Despite the blunder, Suchan soon became a member of the gang.
Medium: Television
Program: The Fifth Estate
Broadcast Date: Jan. 30, 1996
Guest(s): Edwin Boyd, Jocko Thomas, Jack Webster
Reporter: Linden MacIntyre
Duration: 8:23
Photo: Homepage photo: Toronto Star Syndicate

Last updated: April 25, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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