News Local

Remember Pembroke's Flying Bandit?

By Anthony Dixon, The Daily Observer

The infamous Flying Bandit, who lived in Pembroke while going on his record-setting cross-country robbery spree, is back in the national spotlight.

CBC-TV's The Fifth Estate current affairs show aired a segment catching up with the story of Gilbert Galvan on Friday, Jan. 29, (viewable online at: in an episode that updated other Fifth Estate stories from the past.

Former Fifth Estate host Victor Malarek once interviewed the flamboyant bank robber after former Peterborough Examiner managing editor Ed Arnold broke the story of his arrest in Pembroke.

Galvan was back in the news last year when he was arrested last May after trying to walk out of an Illinois liquor store with about $1,000 worth of booze in his shopping cart, just months after finally being released from prison over his 1980s bank robbery spree. He pleaded guilty to four counts of theft over $300 and was sentenced to 50 days in jail.

It was a far cry from the fame he had when he robbed 59 banks and jewelry stores across Canada in the 1980s of $2.3 million and got 20 years in 1988 for the Canadian robberies. Here, in the Pembroke courthouse was where he pled guilty to the crimes.

Galvan was an American, who had escaped from a U.S. prison before the robberies, then set up a new life here in Pembroke. He met and married a Pembroke woman who knew him by the alias Robert Whiteman. The couple had one child and another on the way when Galvan, Canada's most prolific bank robber, was finally caught.

According to the Fifth Estate segment, his Pembroke wife had no idea her husband was a bank robber, believing his frequent trips were simply for 'business'.

In the segment Galvan attests to this, saying the closest his wife came to uncovering his true profession was when she looked in his pant's pocket for $5 or $10 for cab fair and found 18 - $1,000 bills instead. Galvan explained this away, telling her the cash was from two pay cheques and a bonus.

In the segment, Malarek says Galvan's unsuspecting wife would often see him off at the Pembroke airport. From there, Galvan would fly to Toronto, switch to Air Canada, then fly first class to whatever city he was going to hit.

During this three-year period in the 1980s, the Flying Bandit hit banks from coast to coast, robbing at least one bank in every Canadian province except PEI and Newfoundland. He stole over $2 million in his 59 armed robberies, never firing a shot.

During the robbery spree, Galvan robbed the former TD Bank at George and Hunter streets in downtown Peterborough three times in 1987. The Peterborough Examiner broke the story about his Canadian exploits and named him The Flying Bandit after hearing about his coast-to-coast commercial flights and robberies.

He would wear other clothing over a three-piece suit at many of the robberies, leave and walk back to the banks in the suit and briefcase with the cash.

He brazenly would ask police what was up. They'd tell him to move on and he would, returning to his wife and young child in Pembroke.

His wife thought he was a security consultant when he was captured. She was pregnant and waiting for him at the Pembroke airport when police took him down after he stepped off a plane from a $22,000 bank job in London, Ont.

The story captured the interest of the international press, including the National Enquirer and The Fifth Estate.

After pleading guilty in Pembroke court and going to jail, Galvan was later transferred to a U.S. prison, released and got another 20 after he was caught in an Illinois bank robbery.

The couple divorced shortly after his sentence.

Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »