Saturday, August 27, 2016
Toronto’s Brett Ryan,35 "Fake Beard Bandit" served his time and was due to be married. Now he’s charged in a triple homicide
After serving a three-year sentence, Brett Anthony Ryan seemed to have a decent shot at overcoming his criminal past as Toronto’s Fake Beard Bandit, a serial robber notorious among bank tellers for his campy disguise of a stick-on beard, dark glasses and a hat.
Despite declaring bankruptcy from prison, he lived until this week in an upscale condo tower on Toronto’s central waterfront, and was due to be married in a luxurious country setting next month to a woman who works in a downtown hospital as a physiotherapist.
But then came Thursday’s carnage, one of the worst mass killings in recent Canadian memory, made all the more horrifying by the unusual murder weapon, allegedly a crossbow, and by the subsequent evacuation of the streets around Ryan’s condo after police learned of a potential bomb threat inside.
The condo on Queens Quay in Toronto where Brett Ryan lived, he was charged in the crossbow deaths of three people on Friday August 26, 2016.
Ryan, 35, appeared briefly in a Toronto courtroom Friday to be charged in the shocking triple murder of a woman and two men, who cannot be identified because of a court-ordered publication ban. He was dressed in a white forensic suit because his bloodstained clothes were seized as evidence, and he did not appear to be injured.
He faces three charges of first-degree murder, which indicate police believe the murders were planned and deliberate.
Autopsies were being conducted Friday, and police have said the three victims appeared to have been injured by a bolt, the heavy arrow used with crossbows. A crossbow was recovered near the bodies, police said, and Ryan was taken into custody at the same location.
Residents on the street in a suburban east Toronto neighbourhood, between a park and an elementary school, described a scene of panic, originally reported to paramedics in emergency phone calls as “multiple traumas” from an apparent stabbing spree.
One man who fled the murder house took shelter across the street at the home of Warren Dalton, who made one of the 911 calls, and said in an interview that this man was evidently in shock. He was screaming for police, and for help for his injured brother.
Dalton said he took a towel over to the scene, hoping to help. He found a man lying on the driveway, his face and body so covered in blood that he could not find a wound.
“I couldn’t tell, there was too much blood,” he said.
Toronto Police officer walks through the scene of a crossbow shooting in Toronto, Ont. on Friday.
The other two victims are reported to have been found a few metres away in the garage of the well-kept bungalow. The property backs on to the home of Jerome Cruz, who was working on his deck Thursday about 1 p.m. when he heard a brief commotion, including shouts of “calm down.”
His wife Vijaya Cruz recalled a distant but cordial relationship with a quiet older couple who lived there until the husband died more than a year ago.
Court records indicate Susan and William Ryan bought the house in 2010, and discharged a mortgage last year, around the same time the property was transferred to Susan.
That same year, when Ryan declared bankruptcy from prison, he listed this house as his address. He had just more than $60,000 in liabilities and only $200 in assets.
It is not known whether he owned or rented his 14th-floor condo, site of the bomb threat. A poem on his wedding site, which was taken down Friday, describes a blind first date that started just outside, by Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.
The bomb threat, which was announced shortly after the murders, was cleared within a couple of hours. But it caused disruption and concern, long before the link was made to the murders. For example, children at a daycare in the building were ordered to shelter in place until the threat was cleared.
It is not clear whether the report of the bomb threat came from Ryan himself, who was in police custody by that time, or from someone else.
According to court records, Ryan held up banks at a twice-monthly pace starting in fall 2007, including Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day, until his arrest in June 2008, when he allegedly lost his nerve in a bank on Kingston Road, and was quickly apprehended outside. He was wearing a fake beard and carrying pepper spray.
This was his style — to disguise his face and declare but not show a weapon. His targets were banks in eastern Toronto and nearby cities, such as Pickering and Ajax.
For the first couple of holdups, he disguised himself unusually with medical bandages, according to court records. Then he switched to fake beards, glasses and a hat, and stuck with those.
In August 2008, just a few weeks after his arrest, he pled guilty in a deal with prosecutors to a slew of robbery charges, eight in all, after several others were withdrawn. A weapons charge over the pepper spray was also dropped.
He was sentenced in January 2009 to three years for the robberies, concurrent with one year for wearing a disguise with intent to commit robbery. He was paroled and his case has been formally concluded.
His murder case was put over until early September, when it is expected the unusual publication ban on the identity of the murder victims will be revisited.
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