The four men who walked into the Home Bank in Melbourne, Ontario, on April 11th, 1921, had come to make a withdrawal a big one. Brothers Sidney and William Murrell were accompanied by their pals Henry Williams and Pat Norton.
One of them yelled: Hands up! while another pistol-whipped the bank manager. Sidney Murrell began emptying the contents of the cash drawer while Williams stood guard on the front door. He made a poor job of it a bank employee slipped past him and sounded the alarm on the street.
Within minutes a makeshift posse of townsfolk was heading towards the scene. Local resident Russell Campbell scurried down an alley to guard the banks side exit. The rest of the posse stormed through the main door.
Pandemonium ensued inside the bank. Sidney Murrell fired into the ceiling and followed Williams as he fled out of the side door. Sidney would later say that as he bolted through the doorway he noticed a man lying on the ground with blood running out of his nose. It was Russell Campbell, and he had been shot through the chest, just below the heart.
The crowd caught the two men and tied them to a telegraph pole. William Murrell was found hiding in a nearby barn and was unceremoniously pitched out of the second floor window. The crowd below pounced on him and trussed him to a post.
Pat Norton made a clean getaway in a highjacked car. He was never seen again.
The three captives were charged with murder but before they could be tried the two Murrell brothers sawed through the iron bars of their cell and escaped. One of them later wrote a letter to the local newspaper chiding the police as poor boobs, who ought to wake up.
Two years later the US authorities discovered the brothers living in California under assumed names. Both were extradited and stood trial in February 1924. Sidney Murrell could not provide a satisfactory explanation how anyone other than himself had the opportunity to shoot Campbell, despite his assertion that Campbell was dead before he entered the alley. The prosecution proved he had fired his revolver five times and one of his bullets almost certainly ended Campbells life.
All three were sentenced to death. William Murrells sentence was later commuted to 20 years, and Henry Williams sentence was commuted to life. On Thursday, April 10th, 1924, Sidney Murrell, then 26, went to the gallows, to be hanged alongside another murderer, Clarence Topping. Sidneys last words were, God bless my old friend, Slim (Williams). It was a remarkably forgiving gesture towards a man whose incompetence as the look-out had wrecked the enterprise.