Home » History » 5-year Manhunt for Suspect in 1947 Murder Ends in North York Intersection

Intersection of Sheppard Avenue and Yonge Street (northwest corner) in 1953. Photo by James V. Salmon. Courtesy Toronto Public Library.
Intersection of Sheppard Avenue and Yonge Street (northwest corner) in 1953. Photo by James V. Salmon. Courtesy Toronto Public Library.

5-year Manhunt for Suspect in 1947 Murder Ends in North York Intersection

North York police tipped off by salesperson at Yonge and Sheppard shoe store, writes Susan Goldenberg

On January 8, 1953 after five years on the run, Walter Pavlukoff, a violent Canadian career criminal on the RCMP’s most wanted list for murdering a Vancouver bank manager, was arrested across the country in North York in broad daylight at a main intersection without a struggle.

The arrest added to the lustre of North York’s police force as just a few months earlier, in September 1952, it had captured the much-sought bank-robbing, police officer killing, jailbreaking Boyd Gang in a North York barn.

After killing bank manager Sidney Petrie during his attempted holdup of a Vancouver Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada branch August 25, 1947, Pavlukoff, 39, had eluded a nationwide manhunt, making his way to Toronto where he hid in a rooming house. A $5,000 reward was being offered for information leading to his arrest.

North York police were tipped off by John Moore, a salesperson at a Yonge and Sheppard shoe store, when he spotted a man resembling Pavlukoff gazing at the store’s window display.

The police station was nearby. Two North York policemen raced to the scene. “You have me,” Pavlukoff admitted. Shabbily dressed with four undershirts, one over another, he had two dollars, a seven-inch knife and six hacksaw blades sewn into his pants. A handgun was found in his room.

Pavlukoff was transported back to Vancouver, tried, convicted and sentenced to hang. However, he evaded hanging. Because his lawyers filed an appeal, he was placed in a cellblock with other prisoners at Oakalla Prison near Vancouver rather than alone on death row. It was easy to get contraband. On July 8, 1953 his lawyers notified him that his appeal had been rejected and he would be hanged three weeks later. The day after this news, Pavlukoff plunged a knife into his chest, killing himself.

Written by Susan Goldenberg.

Originally published on April 30, 2020, on toronto.com.