It was 6 a.m. when Adolphus Payne crept into the house at 42 Heath St. West on March 15, 1952.
Stealthily he made his way into a bedroom in the Deer Park home and, spotting his target asleep, put his gun to the man’s head.
“Boyd, it’s Payne!” he said in a commanding voice. “Give up!”
Like a scripted line from the climax of a cops-and-robbers film, the legendary Toronto Police detective announced to also-legendary bank robber Edwin Alonzo Boyd that the jig was up.
Crime drama is not what comes to mind these days when thinking of the Deer Park neighbourhood, where houses sell for between $2.85 and $4.25 million. But 63 years ago it was the news of the day.
The elusive and pseudo-celebrity criminal Boyd was finally captured, after having pulled off a successful jail break and several brazen bank heists. At the time, he was considered the most prolific criminal in Canada.
Boyd’s arrest was anticipated to be such big news he was held in the house for half an hour while authorities awaited the arrival of then-mayor Allan Lamport, who wanted to be in on the photo-op when the fugitive was brought out in front of the news media.
Boyd, who was leader and namesake of the media-dubbed Boyd Gang, had been holding up banks in Toronto since 1949. He had resorted to robbery after being unable to find work following his service in WWII. The largest heist the group pulled off — at $46,000 (about $430,000 today) also the largest in Canadian history at the time — took place at a Royal Bank branch in Leaside.
The four-man gang, which included Steve Suchan, Lennie Jackson and Willie Jackson (no relation), met in the Don Jail. They broke out together in November 1951, using a saw hidden inside Lennie Jackson’s artificial leg.
At the time Boyd was snagged by Payne he was the only one still on the lam. Willie Jackson had been picked up by police after he was found carrying a firearm. And nine days before Boyd was caught, Suchan and Lennie Jackson had killed Toronto Police officer Edmund Tong. Both were arrested after gun fights with police in Montreal.
Boyd, meanwhile, had gone into hiding, with the help of his brother who had rented a flat at 42 Heath St. West. Payne, expecting Boyd might reach out to family for help, was already doing surveillance on the brother, and watched as Boyd moved in. Payne would wait until he thought Boyd would be sleeping before moving in for an arrest. Inside, police found guns and $25,000 in cash.
While that ended Deer Park’s role in the story, the saga wasn’t over.
That September, the Boyd Gang escaped from the Don Jail a second time, only to be captured hiding out in a barn near Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue a week and a half later.
Lennie Jackson and Suchan were tried for the fatal shooting of Tong. They were found guilty, and were hanged side by side in December.
Willie Jackson was sentenced to 31 years. He was released on parole in 1966.
Boyd was sentenced to eight life terms and 27 years to be served concurrently. He was released on parole in 1962, but served another four years for violating parole. He was released for the last time in 1966.
Boyd changed his name and moved to British Columbia, where he stayed out of trouble for the rest of his life. He died in 2002 at age 88.
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