A notorious bank robber with a 30-year record of nearly 200 violent crimes that led to the rare imposition of a life sentence may have escaped from a federal prison in British Columbia. West Shore RCMP have issued a release indicating that they’re at William Head Institution, a minimum-security facility on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. The Mounties say that Michiel Gordon Hollinger, 61, is unaccounted for. “Police are currently assisting the institution in locating an inmate inside their facility,” the RCMP says, in a release. “It is unknown at this time whether this inmate has left the grounds of the facility.” Hollinger may be relatively unknown in B.C., but he’s notorious in Ontario, where he committed many of his violent robberies. He wrote a book about his exploits, boasting that he’d rather be “wanted than had.” Back then, he was known as Mitchell McArthur, before he changed his name.
(UPDATE: At 12:50 PDT, RCMP issued an update, revealing that Hollinger was found on the grounds of the institution by an RCMP dog unit)
(SECOND UPDATE): On October 8 the RCMP charged McArthur (Hollinger) with escaping lawful custody.
(THIRD UPDATE): In January, 2014, prosecutors dropped the escape charge, believing there was little chance of conviction.
Police in B.C. who are hunting Hollinger (McArthur) have warned citizens that he is considered dangerous. “Hollinger is considered violent and should not be approached,” police say. “Anyone with any information is asked to contact the West Shore RCMP or the police in your area.” Police have released a photo of the aging bank robber, though the release does not describe his violent background or his better known, previous name. McArthur’s long criminal career involves robberies, assaults, thefts and escapes that began when he was 16 in 1968. His most notable single crime is the 1994 bloody holdup of a bank in Port Perry, Ontario, that led to a shootout with police. It happened when McArthur was on statutory release from a previous prison sentence. McArthur’s infamous arrogance was on display when he was convicted of masterminding the robbery. McArthur smirked and fired imaginary guns at police officers in the courtroom before he was led away. In the holdup, McArthur shot three Durham police officers. Two were shot in the face. McArthur shot bank manager Alan Knight with a pistol before using an assault rifle to gun down constables Mark McConkey, Warren Ellis and Det. Paul Mooy. A stray bullet wounded realtor Debbie Taylor. All five victims recovered. McArthur was convicted of four counts of attempted murder and a slew of other crimes. His sentence was later increased to life in prison, an extremely rare decision for a case that does involve a killing. The appeal court said that the shootings were the product of a “careful plan implemented with deadly detachment and efficiency.”
In the past, McArthur has engineered escapes from a number of prisons, including maximum-security Millhaven penitentiary in Ontario. After that breakout in 1984, McArthur pulled at least three bank robberies in the ensuing 14 months before he was recaptured. He also has escaped from medium-security Collins Bay pen in Ontario and Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert.
McArthur has never been convicted of killing anyone, but police in Kingston, Ontario, allege he’s a murderer. McArthur was charged with murder after a 24-year-old Kingston man, Tom Gencarelli, disappeared in 1982. His body has never been found, but police say they’re certain he was murdered. The murder charge against McArthur was dropped in 1998 when a key Crown witness died before a trial could be held.
If McArthur has, in fact, fled from William Head Institution, he would be the third convict to escape the facility this month. On September 7, two other inmates, Dean Allen Benton, 57, and Brian Peter Patrick, 44, disappeared. They were both back behind bars within 48 hours.
» Three years ago, in this post, I explained that McArthur had won the right to a legal challenge of his treatment in prison. The post also includes past decisions of the parole board involving McArthur.
Here is the full text of the RCMP release on the escape charge against McArthur (Hollinger):
Updated Information on inmate from William Head
File # 2013-13598
2013-10-10 07:35 PDT
On September 18th, 2013 at approximately 10:17 am, The West Shore RCMP were dispatched to the William Head Institution as one of their inmates, Michiel HOLLINGER could not be located. At approximately 12:28 pm, HOLLINGER was located inside William Head Institution near the water.
Based on evidence obtained through a subsequent investigation, The West Shore RCMP forwarded charges of Escape Lawful Custody against HOLLINGER to Crown Counsel.
On October 08th, 2013 Crown Counsel approved charges against Michiel HOLLINGER for Escape Lawful Custody contrary to Section 145 (1)(a) Criminal Code. Crown Counsel will be proceeding by indictment.
Cst. Sarah BECKETT
Media Relations Officer
West Shore RCMP Detachment