Famous Canadian escapes

After Leo Crockwell's escape while the RCMP surrounded his Bay Bulls, N.L., house, we look back at 10 other famous Canadian escapes

News of Leo Crockwell's escape and arrest in Newfoundland on the weekend got us thinking about how it compares to past Canadian escapes.

In Crockwell's case, his home had been surrounded by RCMP for six days. On Friday, they decided to cut the power and pump more than 225,000 litres of water into the house in Bay Bulls.

He slipped out a window on Friday night. When he was arrested in St. John's 15 hours later, officers were again pumping in water.

Canadian director Don Young (left) directs actor Dash Read on the set of The True Story of the Great Escape in Gatineau, Quebec on Jan. 14, 2004. The set is an actual-size reproduction of the tunnel dug by Second World War prisoners of the concentration camp Stalag Luft III. The documentary tells the story of the Canadians who took part in the 1944 escape. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

That case followed three recent prisoner escapes in Newfoundland and Labrador. On Aug. 6, Manuel John Clark was mistakenly freed from custody even though he insisted to officials he was not yet eligible for release.

Three weeks later, Andrew Parsons escaped from the RCMP lockup in Marystown when an employee brought a mattress into his cell. And on Sept. 7, Terrance Payne and Timothy Gunn slipped under a fence at the West Coast Correctional Centre in Stephenville.

It's too soon to say how history will judge those escapes, but here's a list of 10 famous Canadian escapes.

Franz von Werra, 1941

German pilot Franz von Werra is known as "the one that got away." On his way to a prisoner of war camp in January 1941, he leaped from a train near Prescott, Ont.

Von Werra made it across the border into the U.S. and then on to Germany. He was awarded an Iron Cross for his escape but died in battle later that year. His story is told in the 1957 British film, The One That Got Away.

Escape from Camp X, 1941

Ontario Provincial Police Service Dog Cloud II and his handler Constable Ray Carson tracked down escapee Donald Kelly in the northern Ontario woods in 1975. Kelly shot and fatally wounded Cloud II. The German shepherd had captured 123 fugitives during his four-year career and appreared with Carson on the CBC TV show, Front Page Challenge. (Canadian Police Canine Association)

Not long after von Werra's escape, 28 German POWs escaped from Camp X, near Angler, Ont., on April 18, 1941. They had spent three months digging a 46-metre tunnel.

After a week, two escapees had been killed and the rest captured. Two got as far as Medicine Hat, Alta.

The story of the Camp X escape was first told by a 23-year-old reporter, Scott Young, musician Neil Young's father.

Escapes from Stalag Luft III, 1943 and 1944

The first escape from this POW camp near the German-Polish border involved a wooden horse the prisoners built and used for gymnastic vaulting but designed for concealing men, tools and dirt containers.

Video released by B.C. Corrections shows Edwin Ticne, right, escorting Omid Tahvili through a secured door inside the North Fraser Pretrial Centre during his escape in 2007. ((B.C. Corrections))

They would move the wooden horse every day to the same spot near the perimeter fence, for vaulting over it and digging under it. Canadian flight lieutenant Gordon "Moose" Miller was one of the men who carried the horse.

Three POWs escaped on Oct. 29, 1943, eventually making it to Britain. The escape was celebrated in the 1950 film, The Wooden Horse.

A second escape, in 1944, was the single biggest escape of the war. It was featured in the 1963 film, The Great Escape. The man in charge of building the escape tunnels was Canadian pilot Wally Floody, who was a miner in northern Ontario when he enlisted. Floody was transferred from the camp 10 days before the escape.

Nine of the 76 escapees were Canadian. All nine were recaptured. Six of them were then executed by the Germans. Only three of the 76 escapees reach Allied territory.

The Boyd Gang, 1951 and 1952

The gang, their name given to them by Toronto newspapers, twice escaped from Toronto's Don Jail.

After six bank robberies, Edwin Alonzo Boyd was jailed. There he met two other bank robbers and together they escaped on Nov. 4, 1951, by using hacksaw blades, which one of them had hidden in his wooden foot to cut the bars and bedsheets to go down the walls. More robberies followed, including the largest haul in Canadian history.

On March 6, 1952, gang members Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson shot police detective Edmund Tong, for which they would later hang. They were soon captured. Boyd was later tracked down and arrested in bed.

The Boyd Gang escaped from the Don Jail for a second time on Sept. 8, 1952, again using a hacksaw blade and a cell key they had fashioned from a palm imprint of the original.

That led to the biggest manhunt in Canadian history until their arrest 10 days later. The escape and manhunt became the subject of the first news report on CBC TV.

Lucien Rivard, 1965

In 1964 in Montreal, Lucien Rivard was arrested on narcotics smuggling charges filed in the U.S. He was held at Bordeaux jail until March 2, 1965, when he escaped with another prisoner. They used a garden hose to scale the jail wall, which they had obtained on the pretext of flooding the skating rink.

Rivard was on the run for four months before being captured in Montreal. He was quickly extradited to the U.S., tried and convicted, but a bribery and corruption scandal over the Rivard affair had already engulfed the federal government of Lester Pearson.

Two high-ranking officials resigned. A royal commission criticized how the federal justice minister, Guy Favreau, handled the investigation and he, too, resigned.

Rivard was the Canadian Press Canadian Newsmaker of the Year for 1965. The 2008 film, Le piège Américain (The American Trap), tells Rivard's story.

Donald Kelly, 1975

Murderer Donald Kelly overpowered a guard at the North Bay, Ont., jail, seizing a rifle as he fled on Aug. 2, 1975. Kelly gained folk hero status as the massive police manhunt went nowhere. Then the famous police tracking dog, Cloud II, joined the search.

Four weeks after the escape, Cloud II tracked Kelly to a cabin deep in the woods near Skead, Ont. Kelly shot and fatally wounded Cloud II, and the dog's handler shot and wounded Kelly.

Kelly was tried and convicted for two 1969 murders and sentenced to life in prison. He died behind bars.

Allan Legere, 1989

Allan Legere was serving a life sentence in New Brunswick for a 1987 murder when he came down with an ear infection. On the morning of May 3, 1989, he was taken by guards to a hospital in Moncton.

While in a hospital bathroom, with a guard outside the door, Legere opened his handcuffs and leg shackles using metal he had hidden in his rectum. He opened the door and told the guard there was no toilet paper. It was a ruse. Legere bolted, made it to the hospital parking lot, then kidnapped a woman while stealing her car.

Then began what would be one of the largest manhunts in RCMP history. Legere would brutally murder four more people in the Miramichi area of New Brunswick before he was captured almost seven months later. His 1991 conviction for the murders was the first in Canada to be largely based on the use of DNA evidence.

The story is told in the 2004 NFB documentary, Allan Legere: The Monster of Miramichi.

Laurie 'Bambi' Bembenek, 1990

This escape happened in Wisconsin but makes the list because the escapee fled to Canada. Laurie Bembenek, who had been a Playboy bunny and a police officer, was convicted in 1982 of fatally shooting her husband's ex-wife.

While serving a life sentence but maintaining her innocence, Bembenek escaped from the Taycheedah Correctional Institution. In Milwaukee, her supporters wore "Run, Bambi, Run" T-shirts and displayed bumper stickers with the slogan.

Three months later, she was captured in Thunder Bay, Ont. In 1992 she was extradited.

The case inspired two TV movies, including one staring Tatum O'Neal. Bembenek died last month of liver failure.

Ty Conn, 1999

Bank robber Tyrone William Conn had already escaped from three other prisons when he was transferred to Kingston Penitentiary in 1998. In 1999, he escaped from there, too. He got over the 10-metre perimeter fence at night by using a hand-made ladder and grappling hook he constructed in the prison shop. Thanks to a dummy he made by stuffing clothing with paper, his escape was not discovered until the morning.

Conn robbed his first bank when he was 16 years old and would face charges for more than 30 other offences. Two weeks after his 1999 escape, police tracked him to a basement apartment in Toronto. He shot himself during the standoff.

Ty Conn: A Life Imprisoned, a CBC News: Fifth Estate documentary from 2000, tells his story.

Omid Tahvili, 2007

Omid Tahvili is still on the run following his Nov. 15, 2007 escape from a maximum security jail in B.C.

Prison guard Edwin Ticne helped him escape in exchange for a promised $50,000. Ticne was sentenced to three years, three months in prison in 2008. It was the first time in the history of B.C. Corrections that a guard has been charged with helping an inmate escape, according to B.C. Corrections.

Video cameras caught Ticne leading Tahvili through a series of locked doors. Tahvili, wearing a janitor's uniform, then escapes through the front door.

Now 40 years old, Tahvili was said to be the kingpin of an Iranian-Canadian organized crime family. He was convicted in absentia of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a man. He is also wanted in the U.S. for telemarketing fraud, allegedly stealing $3 million from mostly elderly Americans.

Tahvili made Forbes magazines list of the world's10 most wanted fugitives in 2008 but did not make the 2010 list.