It was an accident, he said. I didnt mean to shoot him. It was also a hopeless excuse, for Frank McCullough was a drifter, probably a liar and most definitely a thief.
But he was also handsome, charming and intelligent, and the people in his home city of Toronto loved him. This was 1918, when society was changing. Soldiers returning from the war were fed up with all forms of authority, especially that of the police. So McCullough, who had shot a detective while resisting arrest during a burglary, became a popular hero, his case a flashpoint for all the tensions in the city.
They followed his story as though he were a comic-book hero. He had a mysterious lover, Vera de Lavelle, he escaped from jail, defied a manhunt, and was recaptured when he was discovered living with the beautiful Vera in the crowded heart of the city.
Crowds swarmed around Toronto Prison on Friday, June 13th, 1919, when he was hanged. They attacked the police and threatened to storm the jail. They sang Till we meet again, while McCullough, waving delightedly from a prison window, responded with Nearer my God to Thee. Only the hangman wasnt smiling.