A brutal daylight bank robbery in Saanich has been making headlines across Canada since Tuesday.
Many people talk about the past incident of bank robberies in Greater Victoria and one name comes up regularly.
Meet Stephen Reid, one of Greater Victoria’s most notorious bank robbers.
He spent decades in prisons in Canada and the United States for his role in the Stopwatch Gang—a trio of speedy, precise bank robbers named by the FBI for a stopwatch Reid used during robberies. They are alleged to have participated in more than 100 bank robberies in the 1970s and 1980s, including the theft of more than $700,000 worth of gold bars from the Ottawa airport in 1974.
After serving his time, Reid lived a somewhat reformed life when he moved to Sidney. Until he didn’t.
On June 9, 1999, Reid relapsed after a lifelong battle with heroin and cocaine addiction sparked a drug-driven bank robbery in Victoria.
But this robbery was different.
While the Stopwatch gang carried guns, they never used them. Their meticulous adherence to a tight in-and-out timeline meant they were gone long before the police showed up.
The June morning in Victoria was different, Reid entered the Royal Bank in Cook Street Village, high on a speedball and dressed in a homemade police uniform. He was on the couch much longer than usual and when he walked out with $93,000, the officers were outside.
Reid jumped into a getaway car driven by Allan McCallum, and fired shots from the car window at the officers behind it as they entered Beacon Hill Park.
Finally, police discovered that Reid had run through a carriage house in James Bay, jumped the fence, and hid himself in an elderly couple’s apartment a block away.
Police arrested Reid hours later and he was eventually sentenced to 18 years in prison.
He was subpoenaed in January 2008, but was back in prison in November 2010 when police arrested him and found a significant amount of smuggled cigarettes in his vehicle.
In 2014, he was again given parole and lived as a free man until he died in 2018.
The bank robber turned author began his writing career behind bars. In 2013, he won the City of Victoria’s Butler Book Prize for A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden, a collection of essays on growing old in prison.
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