New Westminster's Bank Loot

by

L. Lazeo

The original 1911 news story: Historical Reference Page

On September 11, 1911, in the city of New Westminster British Columbia, entry to the Bank of Montreal was, gained by six masked bandits.  Their haul, from the bank was one of the largest ever taken in a North American bank robbery --- a quarter of a million dollars in unmarked bills and one-hundred and, seventy pounds of gold coins.

Unsuspecting, at approximately 3:30 A.M., Chuan Wun Lee, the banks janitor entered the bank to do his nightly cleaning and walked straight into the six armed, masked men.  Immediately they subdued the surprised oriental -- tired him up and left him in the bank cellar.  Within several hours though, Chuan, was able to free himself and report the robbery to the police.  The only clues that the robbers left behind, were the tools, which they used in the break-in, but those could not be traced by the law officers.

At daybreak of that day, the police had received the first real clue that they could work on.  It seems that an alert citizen had fouled an attempt by the burglars of that night, to steal a buggy and make good their escape.  This alert person later told the police that the six men which he had surprised, had fled down Columbia Street.  Concerned about its money, the Bank of Montreal posted a reward of $30,000 for the capture of the bank robbers, and newspapers throughout the country played up the story of the robbery on their front pages.  After all of this publicity and the posting of the reward, the officials were sure that the thieves would be apprehended by the end of the year.  Their second real break, came when some city workmen were repairing an old wooden sidewalk on Fourth Street discovered a burlap bag containing some of the stolen money.  Altogether, they found a total of $24,000 --- 300 gold coins and four bundles of five and ten dollar bills.  From the bank the workmen received a reward of $400 each for returning the stolen money.  After this rewarding incident happened, all the workmen in the city were on the look-out for secret stashes of stolen money.

In November of that year the police received another break in their investigation of this crime.  The Vancouver police had picked up a man by the name of John Bosyk and he had a total of $5,000 of the Bank of Montreal's loot in his possession.   It was later discovered, through the testimony of a twelve year old boy, that the youngster had given Bosyk the money which the boy had found in the bush beneath the old Carnarvan Street Bridge.  For giving him the money, Bosyk had bought the boy a new pair of shoes and had given him fifty cents for spending money.  He then proceeded on to Vancouver to have a good time with his newly won fortune, that is until he became intoxicated and was subsequently arrested.

The officers investigating the crime received their next clue to the holdup, when two known safe-crackers were arrested in the United States for another crime.  This was in February of 1912 and at the time they also admitted to taking part in the bank holdup in New Westminster the previous year.  The United States authorities also arrested a man in the city of Detroit, Michigan, who had some of the stolen money in his possession.  After intensive questioning, he admitted to his part in the robbery in New Westminster, but he would not identify any of his comrades.  On August 11, 1912, he was brought back to New Westminster to stand trial, and was convicted of his part in the bank robbery charge, receiving a sentence of nine years.

Another break came in the case, when a man and his wife were arrested in the city of Toronto, Ontario.  In their hotel room, the police discovered $1,000, of the stolen bank loot.  They were also brought back to New Westminster to stand trial, but a smart lawyer had their case thrown out of court for lack of evidence.

Only a small part of the bank loot was ever recovered and it is rumored in New Westminster, that the remainder of the money still lies hidden somewhere beneath the location of the old Carnarvan Street Bridge.

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