The Toronto Star, Canada, Saturday, March 19, 1994


The Wood Brothers:

"They are like wolves"

The Wood family of crime!

By Philip Mascoll
Staff Reporter

Out there, somewhere, is escaped prisoner Colin Wood, a vicious and dangerous man. Vicious enough to murder a defenceless young woman friend to prevent her from testifying against him in a break-and-enter case that, even with his long criminal record, would have earned him no more than 18 months in jail; dangerous enough to have spent half his 35 years in prison.

But there is one positive aspect to Wood's escape 46 days ago; at least three of his brothers - the bad ones - aren't with him. The four Wood brothers - Colin, his twin Douglas, David and Philip - make up what police call "Canada's most dysfunctional family."

100 convictions

Combined, the Guelph brothers have more than 100 criminal convictions, including murder. Add the more than 40 petty theft convictions one brother's wife has - she also has 10 aliases - and the family figure sails closer to 150 convictions.

"They are like wolves," says Detective Inspector Rob Davis, boss of criminal investigations for Guelph police. "They don't attack singly, they get their strength in numbers."

Colin Wood hasn't been seen since Jan. 30, the day he walked out of a minimum-security prison. As of last night, he was still at large. The Ontario Provincial Police "pen unit," which coordinates the hunts for escaped prisoners, has been looking for him, without success. The Guelph police too have been on the lookout. "We have had several sightings and followed up quite a few leads," says Inspector Rick Laurie. "And we still get leads trickling in. We check out as many of the leads as possible."

However, Laurie wonders whether Wood would be foolish enough to return to Guelph. "There are quite a few officers on the service who would know him by sight," he says. "After all, we are the ones who did the major investigation that put him and his brothers behind bars. But on the other hand, you've heard about the bad penny always turning up?"

Like other officers on the Guelph force, the inspector is upset that Wood was in a minimum-security prison. "We found it peculiar that he was put in a minimum security area, especially since he was under a deportation order."

While David, 40, and Philip, 37, are in Millhaven Penitentiary, there's little doubt that the twins, Douglas and Colin, are the stars of the Wood crime family. Police describe Douglas, who was deported to Britain in 1985, as a "nasty piece of work." Immigration authorities say he was so violent that when he was deported, commercial airlines refused to carry him. He was eventually flown to Britain in a military transport, shackled to the flight deck and guarded by military police. On landing in Britain, Douglas was handed over to local police, but they couldn't hold him since he faced no charges in Britain.

"We are told that within a week, he had taken over the thriving prostitution rings in the town nearest the airfield from the local pimps," an immigration source said. "He did it simply by being more violent than the pimps. He literally beat them out of a job."

Flip a coin as to which twin is worst. If you look at their records, Colin has the big one, a murder charge, as the latest entry on his record. However police say that they are convinced that the only reason Douglas wasn't involved in 20-year-old Karen Thompson's murder in 1984 was a matter of timing. He was in jail at the time. Douglas has more convictions for violence - it was almost a hobby to attack police officers.

But Colin is no shrinking violet in the rough stuff department, according to evidence presented at one of his appeals against deportation. (The three brothers will join Douglas after serving their sentences.) According to documents, Colin once set his estranged wife's apartment on fire - after he discovered she had been sleeping with Douglas.

Michael Prue, a former Immigration Canada official and now mayor of East York, helped get Douglas deported and guided the case against Colin, David and Philip. "I think this is the single worst family record I have ever seen," he told the boy's mother Patricia Wood, at one of Douglas's immigration hearings. "They are a family of young gentlemen," she replied, describing Douglas as "a very warm, caring person."

Little is known about the Woods before the parents brought their six children - five boys and a girl - to Canadian in 1965. A fifth brother also has a lengthy criminal record, but he's been clean for some time and police have asked that he not be named. A sixth brother, who was born here, and the sister living in Canada have no criminal records.

Their father worked as a salesman while their mother worked as a cook, at one point opening her own restaurant. She also worked as a guard and then cook at the Guelph Correctional Centre, an institution which her sons were "frequent guests," a police source said. "Some say she took the job to be near the boys," he said.

'We all did drugs'

Typical is Douglas's record. He was in training school first at 14, for car theft. "We all did drugs," he told the immigration panel. "Not in excess until later years, 17, 18, 19. We started getting pretty heavy into just some pretty silly drugs actually."

According to police, drugs where what eventually led Colin, who has spent 17 of his 35 years in prison, and his brothers to murder Thompson, a friend who was a witness in a break-in charge against Colin. A conviction would have put him out of the "family business" - drug trafficking. So she was given a lot to drink, then beaten so savagely she suffered several skull fractures. Then she was flung into Burlington Bay. Her body washed ashore in Oakville.

Davis, who helped put away the Woods after the Thompson murder, thought he was done with them - at least for 16 years.

He just ran away

But Colin managed to work the system in such a way that he ended up at Bath Institution, a minimum-security unfenced prison, even though he had nine years before being eligible for parole. On Jan.30, four months after he was transferred to Bath, he literally ran away - out of the prison's gym and into the passenger seat of a waiting pickup truck.

Sharon Hogan, regional communications officer for Corrections Canada, says Wood was transferred to Bath last August because of his good record in prison. "The man did impress us with the things he was doing."

One brother's long trail of crime

Following is escaped convict Colin Wood's criminal record:
1974
1975
Total jail time for the year: 15 months.
1976
Total jail time for the year: 30 months.
1981
1983
Total jail time for the year: Three months, 10 days.
1984
Total jail time for the year: 90 days.
1985
Total jail time for the year: 36 months.
1986