Bank Robbery of '59
do the patrons of a local hair salon know that they are being
pampered in a building that was the site of a real-life cops-and-robbers
June 9, 1959 was an unforgettable day to anyone in or near
the Bank of Montreal at Chilver and Wyandotte in Olde Walkerville.
Two men, Nicholas Hamilton (alias McCormick) of Vancouver
and Kenneth Irwin of Toronto, wearing white jackets, hoods,
and sunglasses, entered the bank that afternoon, armed and
ready to get their black-gloved hands on some easy cash.
Adele Pare, a local housewife, was making a withdrawal when
one of the men thrust a gun into her back and grabbed her,
exclaiming, This is a stickup. Do as we say or youll
get it, and we mean it. The men forced her and another
customer into a corner of the vault along with the banks
15 employees. The chief clerk, Norman Wingrover, tripped the
alarm along the way. The three female tellers were robbed
of a total of $10,733 before the pair attempted to make their
The first officer to arrive at the scene was Const. Brian
Pickup. He had spent eight years as a policeman in his native
England before moving to Windsor and joining the force in
1957. Forty years later, Pickup can still recall the incident
quite clearly. A call came out over the radio saying
there was a robbery at the bank. When I got there a large
group of people had gathered around the building.
had only seconds to take in the scene. As I got to that
block, I saw a woman with her hands in the air, and then a
man with a bag in one hand and a gun in the other. I didnt
draw my gun because a stray bullet could have gone into the
Instead, Pickup lunged for the robber, Nicholas Hamilton,
throwing him over his shoulder onto the sidewalk and kneeling
on him to hold him down until the other officers arrived.
Unfortunately, he was unable to see inside the bank, and assumed
that the man he was holding captive had been working alone.
That mistake could have cost him his life.
The second man came out and I heard a shot. Pickup
was hit! The bullet slammed into his back, exited his stomach
and went into his knee, but still he held onto his catch.
As he speaks, Pickup emphasizes the names of the officers
who came to his assistance and arrested the shooter, Kenneth
Constables Washbrook and Rowley saw that the man was
going to shoot me again, and shot at him. A gun fight
ensued. Washbrook and Rowley fired from behind one end of
a station wagon as their assailant returned their shots from
the other. Approximately six shots were fired (one of them
smashing a cars tail light) before Irwin finally gave
up, lowering his weapon. Pickup held onto Hamilton while they
arrested him as well.
After the incident, an inspection of the getaway car resulted
in the discovery of a suitcase in the back seat containing
another gun. The car had been stolen in Kingston a week earlier,
just after the thieves had been released from Kingston Penitentiary.
Brian Pickup was taken to Metropolitan hospital to endure
a four-hour operation. His wife, Vera, kept a vigil at the
hospital as he fought for his life. He wasnt supposed
to live through the night, she told reporters a few
days after the incident.
did make it through the night, however, and made a full recovery
after seven weeks in the hospital and another six at home.
He recalls his recovery time clearly as well. It wasnt
incredibly difficult, since my weight went down from 180 pounds
to 118. It was quite a while before I could walk and drive
again. The only repercussion from his injuries is a
bit of stiffness in his one knee. All in all, he says, I
think I came out pretty good.
Nicholas Hamilton (charged under the name McCormick) was sentenced
to 15 years in the Kingston Penitentiary. Kenneth Irwin, the
shooter, was sentenced to 25. He died of natural causes in
prison five years later.
After about a year had passed and a full recovery was made,
Pickup received a piece of mail from Ottawa, marked Confidential.
He didnt notice the three letters that followed his
name until he opened the envelope. I have the pleasure
of informing you that Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously
pleased to approve my recommendation of the award to you of
the British Empire Medal for Gallantry in recognition of your
bravery. In accordance with Section XXXVI of the Royal Warrant
instituting the British Empire Medal, you are now entitled
to have placed after your name the letters B.E.M.
The letter was signed by Canadas Secretary of State,
Leon Balcer. It was the first British Empire Medal ever awarded
to a Canadian police officer.
I was surprised, Pickup states simply. All
I knew was that I had been recommended for a police medal.
Did the award affect the way he was treated by his co-workers?
Not really, but I did get a lot of support from the
The incident, he says, didnt really change the way he
looked at his profession from then on. It was a part
of my job that I had to do, and I kept on doing it afterwards.
Pickup remained on the force until 1988, when he retired and
became a travel agent, a job hes still enjoying today.
Two of his daughters work in central records for the Windsor
Pickup held onto the bullet that had travelled through his
body until just two months before this article was written.
Special thanks to Joan Urie, one
of the tellers involved in the robbery, who provided us with
news clippings about that fateful day. She recalls a big gun
in her face and the words Move or Ill shoot!
She, along with 14 other bank employees and two customers
were herded into the vault until help arrived.