Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Toronto Crime Story Part 3: Frank and Vera

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Frank McCullough had escaped and was on the lam. The newspapers were full of speculation about where he had disappeared to. Interest in the fugitive was fueled by the letters, post cards and Easter greeting cards McCullough was sending to editors, detectives and even the chief of police. Because the mail had been postmarked from as far away as Sudbury, it was thought that McCullough had left Toronto. Besides, he was surely too recognizable to remain in the city unnoticed...

Attention now shifted to Miss Vera de Lavelle, Frank's fiancee who had obtained the means of his escape from jail. Miss de Lavelle was 24 years old and worked as a book keeper; she had not been back to her job or her rented room at Trinity Square since the night of Frank's escape.

On April 22nd, 1919, detectives spotted Vera walking along Queen Street at Bathurst. She was arrested without incident. She was questioned about there whereabouts of McCullough but she gave no information other than to swear that he had left Toronto. Vera was sent to the Don Jail to await sentencing for her role in the prisoner's escape.

For three weeks now, Frank McCullough had been on the loose. On May 8th, 1919, an anonymous tipster claimed the $1000 reward, informing the police that the fugitive was rooming at 78 Bathurst Street. Detectives arrived at the boarding house and broke down his door just as he leapt 20 feet out a window to the street below. McCullough surrendered to officers waiting on the ground and was swiftly returned to the Don Jail, joking all the way in the police car.

The landlady of 78 Bathurst Street, Mrs. Kinsella, verified that Vera had rented the room for herself and her 'husband' the day after the escape from the jail. Neither Mrs. Kinsella nor the other boarders clued in to the identity of the couple, although Frank enjoyed reading aloud from the newspapers about his own case and the conjecture on where he was hiding out. Mrs. Kinsella noted that Frank would go to a nearby grocery store to buy 10 to 15 ice cream cones every day. Even more remarkable than his appetite for frozen treats is the fact that Frank freely wandered out and about at King and Bathurst, the scene of the original crime. Plenty of people recognized him, but he was such a popular figure that it was three weeks before someone decided to turn him in for the reward money.

When Frank was re-captured, he was in possession of some items which had been reported stolen from around the neighbourhood, including a bicycle and a lineman's kit. McCullough told his arresting officers that he was planning to leave Toronto for Montreal by bike the day after his capture, disguised in the stolen lineman's uniform.

The famous couple Frank and Vera were now both prisoners of the Don Jail, but not for long...

Part 4 is here.


"No Tears to the Gallows: The Strange Case of Frank McCullough" by Mark Johnson
The Globe, archives available via the Toronto Public Library
Toronto Daily Star, archives available via the Toronto Public Library


J-dawg said...

Y'know, it's stories like these that make you wonder who is more stupid...the police or the criminal?

Anonymous said...

LOVE this. can't wait for part 4.

- netts.

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