Toronto Star

The bank rob­ber who turned into Mother Teresa

Ed­win Alonzo Boyd spent last 35 years of his life caring for two para­plegic women

- DALE BRAZAO STAFF REPORTER Crime · Iceland · Toronto · Kingston · Belgium · Hollywood · Austria · Tonga · Belarus · Ontario · British Columbia · Canada · Vanuatu · Alexander Graham Bell · Mother Teresa · Edwin Alonzo Boyd · Richmond Hill · Richmond

“Where’s Ed­win Alonzo Boyd?”

The lanky city ed­i­tor, Dave El­lis, hov­ered over my desk.

“How should I know?” I shrugged. “And who the hell is Ed­win Alonzo Boyd?”

It was the sum­mer of 1996, and the cops had just un­earthed a trove of rusty guns in Lake Wil­cox, north of Rich­mond Hill, and sus­pected they might be­long to the no­to­ri­ous Boyd Gang that had ter­ror­ized Toronto banks through­out the ’50s.

Boyd had not been seen since 1966, when he was paroled from Kingston Pen af­ter serv­ing part of his eight life sen­tences. Per­haps more than his crime spree, he had ce­mented his name in Canadian crime lore with not one but two sen­sa­tional es­capes from the Don Jail.

“It would be a great story if you could find him,” my ed­i­tor said.

Boyd’s Hol­ly­wood good looks and bravado cap­ti­vated Toronto. He would jump on bank coun­ters wav­ing the Luger he had taken from a dead Ger­man sol­dier in the war, or­der­ing the tell­ers to hand over the dough.

His rob­beries dom­i­nated the pages of the Daily Star and the Tele­gram, and women crowded into court­rooms to get a glimpse of the fa­mous ban­dit.

But Toronto’s love af­fair with the Boyd Gang came to an end in early 1952, when two gang mem­bers, Steve Suchan and Len­nie Jackson, fa­tally shot a po­lice de­tec­tive. The men were later hanged back-to-back at the Don Jail, on Dec. 16, 1952.

The courts found Boyd had noth­ing to do with the de­tec­tive’s mur­der. Boyd was given eight life sen­tences, one for each bank rob­bery he ad­mit­ted to pulling, for a to­tal take of $115,000 — more than $1,000,000 in to­day’s dol­lars.

The mi­cro­fiche files in the Star’s li­brary were filled with clip­pings of Boyd’s ex­ploits, but nary a clue as to his cur­rent where­abouts. I tracked down some­one who had been close to Boyd. Af­ter we chat­ted for the bet­ter part of a day, she agreed to give me the new iden­tity im­posed on him by the pa­role board along with the in­struc­tions to re­lo­cate out of On­tario. I headed for the air­port.

When I first laid eyes on Boyd, he was com­ing out of a bank in Sid­ney, B.C., squint­ing in the sun­light as he counted a hand­ful of $10 and $20 bills. He had just cashed his old age pen­sion cheque.

If this had hap­pened 45 years ear­lier, Boyd would not have both­ered to stop and count. He would’ve been too busy dodg­ing bul­lets. Tell­ers in those days kept pis­tols in their money draw­ers.

Af­ter get­ting out of prison in 1966, Boyd headed west with his new iden­tity and $1,700 he had earned in prison pay. He took a job trans­port­ing peo­ple in wheel­chairs on their daily rou­tines. That’s how he met Mar­jorie, whom he later mar­ried.

He in­vited me to his home, where I shared a can of Lip­ton’s tomato soup with the aged pis­tolero.

What I saw in that house choked me up.

Canada’s most no­to­ri­ous bank rob­ber had spent the past 35 years of his life look­ing af­ter two para­plegic women — his sec­ond wife, Mar­jorie, and their friend and house­mate, Pearl. The only one of the three who could walk, Boyd did all the house­work, cook­ing and clean­ing and driv­ing them to shop­ping and med­i­cal ap­point­ments in a van mod­i­fied to han­dle the wheel­chairs.

He had rigged the small bun­ga­low they shared with fish­ing line run­ning from their bed­rooms to dif­fer­ent sound­ing bells in the kitchen.

A ring of a bell would send him hur­ry­ing to their bed­sides, ready to pour a cup of tea, fluff a pil­low, or set­tle a blan­ket.

Boyd, a war vet­eran and son of a Toronto po­lice­man, says he em­barked on his bank-rob­bing ca­reer af­ter read­ing a news­pa­per story about how a teenager had made off with $64,000 in a bank rob­bery.

“Af­ter that, I said, ‘What am I do­ing work­ing?’ ”

De­spite his lengthy crim­i­nal record, con­tri­tion was not a word in Boyd’s vo­cab­u­lary. He rel­ished the fame his bank-rob­bing days brought him. Re­grets, he said, he had just one.

“I should’ve stayed on my own,” he said, lament­ing that he had picked “a bunch of id­iots” as part­ners. “I was do­ing quite well on my own. The first time I took a part­ner I got caught.”

Ed­win Alonzo Boyd died on May 17, 2002, af­ter be­ing hos­pi­tal­ized with pneu­mo­nia. He was 88.

The cache of guns in Lake Wil­cox turned out not to be­long to his gang af­ter all.

Boyd did all the house­work, cook­ing and clean­ing and driv­ing them to shop­ping and med­i­cal ap­point­ments

 ?? MELISSA REN­WICK/TORONTO STAR ?? Dale Brazao, the Star’s reporter who had a knack for track­ing down peo­ple who did not want to be found, is set to re­tire.
MELISSA REN­WICK/TORONTO STAR Dale Brazao, the Star’s reporter who had a knack for track­ing down peo­ple who did not want to be found, is set to re­tire.
 ?? DALE BRAZAO/TORONTO STAR ?? A story that ran in the Toronto Star’s StarBeat in-house news­pa­per show­ing Brazao with bank-rob­ber-turned-nurse-maid Ed­win Alonzo Boyd.
DALE BRAZAO/TORONTO STAR A story that ran in the Toronto Star’s StarBeat in-house news­pa­per show­ing Brazao with bank-rob­ber-turned-nurse-maid Ed­win Alonzo Boyd.

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