Meet Greater Victoria’s Most Notorious Bank Robber – Vancouver Island Free Daily

A brazen daylight bank robbery in Saanich has been making headlines across Canada since Tuesday.

The incident has spoken a lot about past bank robberies in Greater Victoria and one name comes up regularly in conversation.

Meet Stephen Reid, one of Greater Victoria’s most notorious bank robbers.

He spent decades in Canadian and American prisons for his role in the Stopwatch Gang – a trio of fast and accurate bank robbers supposedly by the FBI for a stopwatch that Reid used during heists. They are believed to have been involved in over 100 bank robberies in the 1970s and 1980s, including the theft of over $700,000 in gold bullion from the Ottawa airport in 1974.

After serving his sentence, Reid lived a somewhat reformed life once he moved to Sidney. Until he doesn’t.

On June 9, 1999, Reid relapsed after a lifelong battle with heroin and cocaine addiction that sparked a drug-fueled bank robbery in Victoria.

But this heist was different.

While the Stopwatch Gang carried guns, they never used them. Their meticulous adherence to a tight in-and-out schedule meant they were gone long before the police showed up.

June morning in Victoria was different, Reid walked into the Royal Bank in the village of Cook Street, high on a speedball and dressed in a homemade police uniform. He was in the bank much longer than usual and when he came out with $93,000 the cops were out.

Reid jumped into a getaway car driven by Allan McCallum and fired shots through the car window at the cops behind as they drove into Beacon Hill Park.

Ultimately, police discovered that Reid had walked through a James Bay carriage shed, jumped the fence and locked himself in the apartment of an elderly couple a block away.

Police apprehended Reid hours later and he was eventually sentenced to 18 years in prison.

He was granted day parole in January 2008, but was back in jail in November 2010 when police arrested him and found a large amount of contraband cigarettes in his vehicle.

He was granted day parole again in 2014 and lived as a free man until his death 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 aging in prison.


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