Small-town Ontario has a reputation for being quiet and boring; however, beneath the surface our communities have as much history and mystery as any other place. One of the most pervasive of these mysteries is the location of the missing money from the 1961 robbery of the bank in Havelock, Ontario. If you talk to the locals, everyone has a theory about where the money ended up — but so far no one has ever managed to find it.
On August 31st in 1961, five men stole $230,000 in cash and bonds from the Toronto-Dominion Bank bank in Havelock. The group then fled town, resulting in a high-speed police chase through the treacherous roads in the Canadian Shield north of Highway #7. After ditching one car, picking up another, and engaging in a shootout with police, the robbers escaped into the rugged wilderness east of Crowe River.
After successfully evading police for four days, the thieves’ luck finally ran out and the OPP picked up the bedraggled fugitives near Highway #62 and took them to the Peterborough County jail.
One of the men died of a heart ailment during the trial and the other four were found guilty of robbery and sent to prison. Even so, the money was not recovered and, according to Cobourg writer Grace Barker in her book The Bad Luck Bank Robbers, the Royal Canadian Mint reports that none of the stolen bills has been found in circulation.
Most speculate that the money was either buried deep under the glacial rocks of the drumlin ridge near Coe Hill and Gilmour (where the robbers had camped) or submerged in Round Lake. In either case, the money would have deteriorated completely by now.
One fact of note is that a pair of heavy milk jugs was reported stolen during the week that the robbers were on the lam. If the money was hidden in the jugs, it could have survived the rigours of the Canadian weather. However, if this was the case, military mine detectors loaned to the OPP failed to discover the stolen milk jugs.
Another possibility is the involvement of an unknown accomplice who helped the men hide the money. The youngest of the accused, Jean-Claude Lalonde, was offered bail of $30,000, which was posted immediately by an anonymous source. The robbers were professional criminals and the posting of such a large amount of money implies the involvement of organized crime.
Around this time, the men were visited by several attractive women from Montreal, presumably their girlfriends. Did they pass on information about how to find the money to these women? We may never know.
In 2007, former Sun Media columnist Mark Bonokowski wrote that he met a man who claimed he knew where the stash was located, but could no longer remember due to many years of alcohol abuse.
Over the years, the rumours grew and the trail got colder, but many are still intrigued by this story — which remains one of Ontario’s great unsolved mysteries.
Grace Barker did an excellent job gathering evidence connected to the case of the missing money and her 2006 book The Bad Luck Bank Robbers is a must-read for anyone who is interested in this fascinating piece of local history.
Inspired by Barker’s book, Alex Poch-Goldin has done his part in unravelling the mystery of this fascinating case and the location of the money by writing a play also titled The Bad Luck Bank Robbers. Poch-Goldin is an award-winning Toronto playwright who also wrote 4th Line Theatre’s wildly successful 2009-10 production of The Right Road to Pontypool.
The Bad Luck Bank Robbers tells the exciting tale of the robbery, the pursuit, the trial, and the impact of the event on the residents in the communities surrounding Havelock. This highly anticipated and outrageously funny play will have its world premiere at 4th Line Theatre in Millbrook next summer.
Directed by 4th Line’s Managing Artistic Director Kim Blackwell, the play stars 4th Line’s founder and Creative Director Robert Winslow, Paul Braunstein, Ryan Hollyman and Tim Walker as the ill-fated bank robbers, and Alex Poch-Goldin as a slick defense attorney.
Sure to intrigue and entertain, the play will run at 6 p.m. from June 30th to August 1st, 2015, at the Winslow Farm in Millbrook. Opening night is Thursday, July 2nd, with preview performances on June 30th and July 1st.