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Stonehouse Robbery

Stonehouse Robbery

Edwin Stonehouse was 59 years old when the Red Ryan gang tried to steal a 1935 V-8 Chevrolet Master Sedan from his automotive business. As gang member Edward McMullen started to drive the car away, Edwin and his 22-year-old son James ran and jumped in. The Stonehouses and McMullen were fighting in the Chevy as they drove west on Highway 7. McMullen’s accomplices, Harry Checkley and Norman “Red” Ryan, pursued them in their Model-A Ford. It was snowing heavily and the roads were slippery. At some point, the Stonehouses succeeded in pulling the keys out of the ignition and throwing them into the snow. Shots were fired; the first hit James in the hand and the second hit Edwin. More shots were fired after which Edwin collapsed. He had been shot in the head by McMullen and James had taken a shot in the stomach.

The robbers fled in the Model-A which stalled half a mile away. At this point, a police constable drove past the Chevy and saw James and Edwin lying on the ground. He then reached the Ryan Gang trying to get their car started. When the constable approached, the gunmen fired five shots at his car, hitting the mudguard. The robbers started their car and fled, firing at the constable who was in hot pursuit. The police officer eventually abandoned the chase and went back to look after the injured men. Fifty-six pellet marks were found in the constable’s car, although he escaped injury.

It was only later that the crime was linked to “Red” Ryan and his accomplices and this resulted in a scandal that changed Canada’s parole system. Ryan had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1924 and served part of his sentence at Kingston penitentiary. He managed to convince the public and a number of senior politicians that he had changed his ways, becoming a spokesperson for prison reform. He was paroled and moved to Toronto where he hosted a popular radio program denouncing his past criminal life. Meanwhile, his gang was terrorizing southern Ontario with armed robberies and safecracking. During this crime spree, Ryan killed six people. When officials realized how they had been made to look like fools by the “Jesse James of Canada,” the parole system was tightened.