The Last to Die: Ronald Turpin, Arthur Lucas, and the End of Capital Punishment in Canada.


224 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-55002-672-6
DDC 364.66092'271





Alexander David Kurke is a criminal lawyer in Sudbury, Ontario.


Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas were hanged December 11, 1962, at the Don Jail. Turpin was a cop killer—his victim was Toronto officer John Nash, whom he shot after the officer pulled him over, fresh from a break and enter at the Red Rooster restaurant, for driving an unsafe vehicle. Lucas, a pimp and drug dealer from Detroit, came to Toronto and brutally assassinated a drug dealing informer (and fellow American) named Therland Crater, along with his prostitute wife.


Hoshowsky tells the stories of Turpin and Lucas. He does so by describing the course of their unfortunate lives, the circumstances surrounding the killings with which they were charged, their trials and appeals, and their friendship with Salvation Army chaplain Cyril Everitt, up to their final moments, hanging, and burial.


Hoshowsky makes every effort to attract his readers to the side of the underdogs. For instance, he presents the facts of Turpin’s killing of Nash as a sort of self-defence, obviously based on Turpin’s trial testimony about aggressive behaviour by the much larger police officer. However, the reader must remain mindful of the jury verdict. Ross MacKay, who defended both men, is presented as the story’s hero: “young, inexperienced, but immensely gifted.” Accordingly, the prosecuting Crown in Lucas’s case, Henry Bull, must be presented as “unwilling to lose in any situation,” and Hoshowsky notes that the presiding judge, James Chalmers McRuer, was known to some as “Hanging Jim.”


Not surprisingly, the death penalty is the real villain of the piece. However the reader feels about Turpin and Lucas, Hoshowsky is quite effective at forcing readers to confront the horror and finality of the sentence of death. The case against Lucas was uncomfortably circumstantial, and his near decapitation only emphasized the barbaric nature of the execution. Turpin had led a life of petty crime but had no history of violent behaviour; whether he was capable of rehabilitation must remain an unanswered question.


This book will interest any student of the death penalty in Canada, and it includes a useful bibliography of related studies.


Hoshowsky, Robert J., “The Last to Die: Ronald Turpin, Arthur Lucas, and the End of Capital Punishment in Canada.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,