Stopwatch Gang leader, Paddy Mitchell, dies

Patrick (Paddy) Mitchell of Ottawa, leader of the notorious Stopwatch Gang of bank robbers, died of cancer Sunday morning in a U.S. prison hospital at age 64.

Patrick (Paddy) Mitchell of Ottawa,leader of the notorious Stopwatch Gang of bank robbers, died of cancer Sunday morning in a U.S. prison hospitalat age 64.

News of Mitchell's death at theFederal Medical Centre in Butner, N.C., while serving a 65-year sentence, was posted on his blog by his son Kevin Mitchell.

"This brings the end to North America's most famous, most successful and, especially, most likeable bank robber of our time," Kevin Mitchell wrote.

Paddy Mitchell, shown in his 1993 mugshot, was serving time for a bank robbery in Mississippi when he died. ((CBC))
Paddy Mitchell grew up on Ottawa's Preston Street tobecome the leader of the Stopwatch Gang,earning a place on the FBI's most-wanted list by working with fellow Canadians Stephen Reid and Lionel Wright to steal about $15 million, mainly in the 1970s and 1980s, from more 140 banks and other sites across Canada and the U.S.

The gang, which was famous for its speedy heists— including the 1974 robbery of $700,000 in gold bars from the Ottawa airport— took its name from the stopwatch worn by Reid.

The gang, known for being non-violent and polite to theirvictims,fascinated the public and inspired television documentaries and books, including Mitchell's autobiography, This Bank Robber's Life, which he wrote from prison and sold over the internet.

Reid, who is married to Canadian poet Susan Musgrave,has been serving an 18-year sentence in a Canadian prisonsince his convictionfor a 1999 bank robbery in Victoria.

Wright was arrested in Arizona in 1980. As of 2005, he was reported to beliving in Kingston, Ont., working as an accountant.

A latecomer to the gang, Christopher Clarkson, was arrested in Florida in October 2005 after 29 years on the run from law enforcement authorities.

Gold was never recovered

Mitchell served time in a number of prisons in Canada and the United States for crimes that included the airport gold robbery. In that case, Mitchell pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property, but the gold was never recovered.

He escaped from prison three times,andmoved to the Phillippines for a period of 15 years, where he re-married and had a son who shared his first name.During that time, he often flew back to the U.S. to visit banks.
Paddy Mitchell was on the FBI's most wanted list for the Stopwatch Gang's bank robberies across the U.S. The gang stole about $15 million from across North America. ((CBC))

Finally,in 1994, he wasconvicted for a solo robbery in Mississippi and put in prison for the last time to serve a 65-year sentence.

Mitchell was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006, and was trying to get transferred to a Canadian prison before his death, he reported on his blog.

Mitchell is survived by Kevin and two grandsons: Joey, 15,and Jacob, 13.