On the bright, moonlit evening of May 8, 1906, three heavily armed men boarded the westbound CPR mail train 17 miles east of Kamloops, British Columbia. The bandits consisted of a sometimes prospector named Shorty Dunn, the former teacher Louis Colquhoun and their leader; the infamous train and stagecoach robber, Bill Miner. Miner had been living quietly for the past couple of years years in Merrit, B.C. under the name George Edwards and this was to be his one last big haul. His big mistake was teaming up with these two inexperienced criminals.
After a series of comedic errors, Miner and his gang escaped on a single horse with about one hundred dollars. This had been the second robbery of a CPR train in two years; the first one had been committed by Miner single handedly. Even though the take was small, the incident was taken seriously enough for a reward of $12,000 to be offered and a province wide manhunt launched.
The British Columbia Provincial Police asked for the assistance of the RNWMP in Calgary and a detail including Percy Thomas, Sgt. Wilson and three other officers was dispatched. Upon arriving in BC, Thomas and the other Mounties began searching the Douglas Lake area. They had been searching for a couple of days when a constable with the Provincial police caught up to them saying he had seen three men who fit the description of the robbers camped not far away.
The six policemen approached the camp and found the three suspects eating lunch. The oldest of the group said that they were prospectors. When informed that they fit the descriptions of the robbers, Shorty Dunn panicked and stared running and shooting. One of the constables stopped him with a bullet in the leg. And so, Percy Thomas and his fellow officers captured one of the most notorious, enigmatic and romantic bandits in the history of both the Canadian and American West.
Percy Thomas had come to Canada in 1889 to be a farmer but, like so many young Englishmen, was lured by the adventures of the North West Mounted Police and joined the force in 1897. He was also among the detail assigned to assist the survivors of the Frank Slide in 1903. He was a policeman's policeman and described by his fellow officers as, "Dapper, Suave, an experienced and efficient police officer". He became a magistrate in High River after leaving the force.
Bill Miner escaped from the B.C. Pen, in broad daylight, a year after his capture and was never seen in Canada again. He was later captured in Georgia after committing the first train robbery in that state's history. He died there in prison after two unsuccessful escape attempts...or so the story goes.
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