BROADCAST DATE : Mar 25, 2011

My Friend the Bank Robber

"I've known Stephen Reid since we were both in our early 20s... Our lives have intersected many times since then. In a way, his story is also mine."

In a particularly personal broadcast, the fifth estate's Bob McKeown traces the career of, and his friendship with, the always fascinating, charismatic, and confounding Stephen Reid.

For decades, Stephen Reid has captured the imagination of Canadians — an outlaw bandit who robbed banks with stopwatch precision, a fast-talking charmer, and master of disguises who twice escaped prison, a reformed convict and accomplished best-selling author, nad a loving father and husband. It seemed Stephen Reid's story might have a Hollywood ending. But real life isn't so kind. The master of the quick get away, Reid couldn't escape the life everyone thought he'd left behind. Canada's most famous bank robber is now back on the inside, serving out an 18-year sentence and searching for redemption behind bars.

During a crime spree that spanned decades, Reid and his cohorts earned their name from the stopwatch he wore around his neck as they robbed banks all across North America. Among the Stopwatch Gang's notorious scores were the biggest Canadian gold robbery ever, the biggest bank job in San Diego history ($283,000 US) and about 100 other bank jobs from Seattle to Miami to Montreal, bagging some $15 million.

Over this same stretch of time an unlikely friendship developed between Reid, the professional thief, and Bob McKeown, longtime correspondent with the fifth estate. In the years before he became a journalist and played with the CFL, McKeown used to share beers with Reid at Ottawa's famed Prescott Tavern. It was McKeown who first brought viewers the story of Canada's answer to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. It was McKeown who shared occasional dinners with his old friend during those many years Reid was writing and raising his family with his wife, celebrated poet Susan Musgrave. And it's McKeown who now brings us face-to-face with Reid, and reveals, for the first time the secret that poisoned his childhood and launched a lifelong struggle with addiction.

The report includes new and exclusive interview footage with Reid from prison. He also speaks with wife Susan Musgrave, a former FBI agent, and former prison guards and escorts among others.