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50 years ago today: CIBC bank robbery in Kenora

By Tim Davidson May 10, 2023 | 10:53 AM

It was 50 years ago on this date, one of the most infamous incidents in Kenora took place.

A bank robber blew himself up on Main Street in 1973.

CJRL reporters Chris Paulson and John Berry were across the street and described what happened.

“A clothes pin in his mouth…he is carrying a flight bag…(sound of bomb going off).   A bomb has gone off…a bomb has gone off…he’s been shot…everything is just rancid,” the duo told listeners.

“The entire front of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has just exploded.  A helicopter is flying overtop now.  The OPP are coming to the scene.  Policemen are ordering people well off the street.  Windows have been blown out literally all over the place.”

To this day, the identity of the bank robber is not known and the former Kenora Police Service officially closed the case back in 2003, the 30th anniversary of the bank robbery.

A person who had a front row seat in 1973 when a bank robber blew himself up in downtown Kenora wrote a book about the incident.

Joe Ralko’s book is called the Devil’s Gap: The untold story of Canada’s first suicide bomber.

“When all heck, so to speak, it was stunning.  It was one of those things you look at and say, well I’m going to stand around and see and a thousand other men and women just standing aroun.  No crowd control…no cellphones at that time…no SWAT.  It was a surprise.”

Ralko will be reading from his book and answering questions tonight at the Douglas Family Arts Center at 6:30.

Lake of the Woods Museum is also hosting an exhibit on the bomber called Something to Talk About:  The Story of Kenora’s 1973 bank robbery.

It will run until June 10th.


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