Last man to be hanged in Canada
Died: 11 December 1962, Toronto, Ontario
On 12 February 1962, Ronald Turpin robbed the Red Rooster restaurant in Toronto, gaining $632.84. While escaping, he was pulled over by Metropolitan Toronto police officer Frederick Nash for a broken taillight. Turpin, who was wanted for questioning in a shooting incident from October 1961, pulled out his .32 calibre handgun and shot Nash in the chest. He tried to escape in Nash's cruiser but was caught almost immediately. Turpin was tried and convicted of the murder of Constable Nash and sentenced to die by hanging.
Also awaiting execution was Arthur Lucas, an American. In November 1961, the Detroit native travelled to Toronto and murdered Therland Crater, who was to be a witness in the trial of a Michigan drug lord, and Crater's girlfriend, Carolyn Ann Newman. Lucas returned to Detroit after the killing but was arrested the next day, and extradited to Canada where he was convicted.
An emergency meeting of the government was held on 4 December to discuss commuting the death sentences but the politicians voted to go ahead. At 12:02 am on 11 December 1962, Turpin and Lucas were taken to the execution chamber at Toronto's Don Jail and hanged. The men were buried side by side in Toronto. No tombstone or plaque marks their graves.
Between 1957 and 1963, John Diefenbaker's Conservative government commuted fifty-two of sixty-six death sentences. That, combined with increasing public protests, indicated that the end of the death penalty was near. When told that he and Lucas would probably be the last people hanged in Canada, Turpin replied, “Some consolation.”
Including Turpin and Lucas, 705 executions have been recorded in Canada since Confederation. Eleven of those were women.
The death penalty was abolished in 1976 by Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government. In 1987, Brian Mulroney's Conservative government attempted to reinstate capital punishment but failed.
Thanks to Andrew Gammell for the suggestion.
Added 07 March 2004.