The Tale of Bloody Jack Krafchenko

How He Made the Great Escape

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

On January 10, 1913, at 2:30 am, while awaiting trial for murder, Bloody Jack Krafchenko made a daring escape from his police jail cell, initiating a city-wide manhunt. He was born in Rumania of Ukrainian parents in 1881. His family came to Canada and settled in Plum Coulee 100-km south west of Winnipeg in 1888. His father was the village blacksmith.

Jack grew up with a violently aggressive streak, going into rages whenever crossed or disciplined. His life of crime began to capture the notice of newspapers like the Daily Tribune as early as 1892 when as an 11 year old boy Jack was charged with stealing five watches. At age 15 he was sent to jail for stealing a bike in Morden. Some accounts see him working as a boxer and wrestler, then returning to Manitoba in 1902.

On the way to jail at Prince Albert penitentiary he jumped out the train window while still handcuffed to a policemen who jumped after him and recaptured him. Jack later escaped from Prince Albert while assigned to paint the prison exterior. On the lamb he held up a $2,500 money shipment and fled to the US. He committed crimes throughout the US, and then went on to more jobs in England, Germany Italy, and Russia where he married in 1905.

In 1906 Jack and new wife Fanica returned to Plum Coulee where he robbed the Bank of Hamilton in Winkler. For this he received 3 years. After his release he moved to Ontario and worked on the trains but due to his wild temper, in 1913 he got into a fight and returned to Plum Coulee. He fell in with old buddies and tried another bank job. The bank manager was killed and the masked man who killed him turned out to be Krafchenko.

A major manhunt was on and the prize was a $1,000 reward. Krafchenko fled to Winnipeg where he stayed in various north end locations under assumed names. He planned to escape the city dressed as a woman. On Dec 10, 20 armed men caught up with him on College Ave and Krafchenko was arrested and placed in leg irons and held in the Rupert St Police Station. But on January 10, he escaped.

How did he escape? Krafchenko was a charming and persuasive man. He had intrigued two of his police guards with wild stories of diamonds and a lot of money.

Krafchenko's lawyer Percy Hagel also became intrigued with his client's stories. Hagel met Robert Reid one of the police officers several times at the Clarendon Hotel to discuss helping Krafchenko escape. Constable Reid agreed to take a rope and a revolver to Krafchenko's cell. On Jan 10, Jack made his escape and began his descent from the window. The rope was too light and he fell 30 feet hurting his ankles and back. Joy riders picked him up at William and Main and took him to a house at Toronto and Ellice.

SORTING OUT THE BAD GUYS

A Royal Commission was called to investigate the escape. Constable Reid spent 10 hours on the stand, broke down and confessed. He got 7 years at Stony where he died an early death. Lawyer Hagel got three years at Stony. He was later allowed to practise law which he did till his death at age 64 in 1944. There was no mention of his jail sentence in his obituary.

Krafchenko was recaptured and put in a cage at the Vaughan St. Seventy witnesses appeared in his defence in a trial held in Morden Manitoba before Justice Mathers. 10,000-20,000 thousand petitioned the province for clemency. Krafchenko was executed by hanging on July 9, 1914 at the Vaughan St Jail for the murder of banker Henry Medley Arnold. Two thousand people came out to attend the hanging, which was over by 7:00 am.

A MORBID END

Krafchenko's mother asked to take the body right away and made serious efforts to revive him having lined up a rescue team. She personally performed mouth to mouth resuscitation. Of course it didn't work. Bloody Jack was buried at Brookside Cemetery in section 22, grave #546. The revolver used in the killing and which had been stolen from Ashdown's Hardware is still held by the Winnipeg police dept.

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