The bank robber who turned into Mother Teresa
Edwin Alonzo Boyd spent last 35 years of his life caring for two paraplegic women
“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