Bagley & FawcettThis story may seem surprising to those of you who have never heard it before, but Powell River was the site of a famous armed robbery. Notorious criminals Charles Bagley and Edward Fawcett were wanted for serious crimes in the US and Canada when they decided to hit our small town in March, 1932. The RCMP were aware that Bagley and Fawcett were on the loose and sent notices to most police departments in BC, but failed to notify Powell River because it was thought to be too isolated to be in danger from the criminals.
Nevertheless, the two bandits did come to Powell River. They stole a boat in Vancouver and hid it near Stillwater. They camped in the woods for a number of days and scouted out the town. On one trip into town, Fawcett was spotted in a beer parlour by a police officer, who failed to recognize him.
On the night of March 14, the bandits snuck into town and stole Townsite Manager, John McIntyre's car and drove to the Patricia Theatre. As they attempted to break into the theatre, Powell River Company watchman, James Vick arrived on his rounds and was surprised by the burglars. He was knocked out, bound hand and foot, and left in the theatre lobby while Bagley and Fawcett went upstairs to break open the safe. After opening the safe and stealing the money, the criminals drove to a small creek and hid the loot under a bridge. They then returned to the liquor store and promptly forced their way inside. Using nitroglycerine, they attempted to blow open the safe but were unsuccessful. Hearing the commotion across the street, John McLeod, neighbour to the liquor store, threw on a dressing gown and walked over to see what was happening. Bagley saw him coming and ran outside to meet him. Bagley promptly clubbed Mr. Mcleod over the head with his gun and knocked him out.
Meanwhile, Mr. Vick, who had been left tied up in the theatre, had crawled over to the front desk. With his hands still bound, he struggled to stand up and then knocked the phone off the hook with his head. Forgetting the phone number of the police station, he dialled the fire department with his tongue. When the firemen arrived, they found Mr. Vick and called the police. They then headed down the street to the liquor store to see what the commotion was about.
After Bagley had clubbed Mr. McLeod, he looked up to see the firemen running down the street towards him. He jumped into the waiting car with Fawcett and they sped away. Bagley leaned out the window and shot at the firemen, causing them to dive for cover and Mr. McLeod to hide inside a garbage can. As they drove off, Constable Ellis arrived in a police car and chased after them. The robbers had to stop to retrieve the stolen money from under the bridge. This delay allowed Mr. Ellis to nearly catch up to them. Seeing the officer in such close pursuit, the crooks decided to pull over. Bagley got out of the car and fired his shotgun at Ellis, hitting one of his headlights and causing him to also pull over. Ellis got out, jumped into the ditch and fired all his bullets at the crooks, but missed with every shot. The two bandits then disappeared out of sight, speeding down the road towards Stillwater.
By this time, a large group of police officers and Powell River citizens, many still in their pyjamas, had gathered and set off to find the criminals. They never found them as Bagley and Fawcett had driven to their waiting boat and fled to Vancouver. Both were eventually arrested in Vancouver, but escaped from prison. Bagley was caught in California in 1935 and was hanged for killing a prison guard. Fawcett later died in a gun battle with an Oregon sheriff, during a bank hold-up.