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Memorable Manitobans: Ken Leishman (1931-1980)

Bank robber.

Born in Holland, Manitoba, he moved to Winnipeg in 1947 and was first convicted of theft in 1950. When he got out of prison he became fascinated with airplanes and learned to fly. He was imprisoned again for a bank robbery in Toronto in 1957, in which he flew to Toronto and back to Winnipeg with $10,000. He was released in 1961 on parole. In 1966 he managed to hijack $383,497 worth of gold from the Winnipeg airport. Imprisoned again, he escaped from Headingley Jail and stole an airplane, becoming known as the “Flying Bandit.”

He and his accomplices were arrested in a shootout in Gary, Indiana. After his release from prison, Leishman moved to Red Lake, Ontario, in 1975 to manage Tomahawk Airlines, even becoming mayor of the community. He disappeared while on a mercy flight in 1979 and was declared officially dead in 1980. Leishman’s exploits caught the fancy of the public, and he became something of a “Robin Hood” figure.

More information:

The Flying Bandit by Heather Robertson (1981).


Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Page revised: 24 March 2008

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