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Gang's second jailbreak becomes CBC's first TV news story

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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Unbelievably, the Boyd Gang busts out of the Don Jail a second time! For some reason, the four men had been placed in neighbouring cells. Soon they saw through the bars once more, and become the quarry of the largest manhunt in Canadian history. And it's not just newspapers covering the story now: the escape is the subject of the very first news report of the fledgling CBC English Television network.

The news anchor on this opening night is Lorne Greene. The reporter covering the Boyd Gang escape is a young Harry Rasky. In this clip, Rasky returns for CBC TV's 50th anniversary to explain how he created the item.
. While in the Don Jail, Willie Jackson jokingly grabbed a key from the guards, offering to lock Steve Suchan in his cell. Jackson squeezed the key tightly, and soon after was able to trace the impression it left on his hand. He acquired a hacksaw blade and small piece of metal from an unscrupulous lawyer, and Boyd used them to fashion a working key that opened all four cells.

. Each day for thirty minutes the gang members let themselves out of their cells to saw through the bars at the end of the cellblock while the guards supervised prisoner transfers. On the night of Sept. 7, 1952 they crawled out of the window onto a wall and made their way down into the Don Valley.

. When their absence was first noticed, the jail was ringed by reporters and guards who thought the escapees were still on the roof. Eventually a prisoner yelled down from a window to tell them the gang members were long gone.

. The Don Jail's warden and several guards were suspended for letting the gang escape.

. A $26,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest of each of the four escaped gang members. The Province of Ontario, the Board of Commissioners of Police for the City of Toronto, and the Canadian Bankers' Association fronted the money. There were reported (and untrue) sightings across Ontario and Quebec.
. The escapees were rightly considered armed and dangerous. Local police officers travelled in well-armed pairs.

• The Sept. 8, 1952 CBC newscast was introduced by anchor Lorne Greene. Greene was the "voice of doom" CBC Radio announcer during the Second World War, and later became a famous TV, film and stage actor.

. Harry Rasky went on to become one of Canada's most acclaimed documentary filmmakers. He has received an Emmy Award and two Oscar nominations.
Medium: Television
Program: Inside Information
Broadcast Date: Sept. 18, 2002
Guest(s): Harry Rasky
Host: Bill Cameron
Duration: 1:58

Last updated: June 11, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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