The Bandido Massacre

By Peter Edwards

There has always been a gap between the myth of the biker gang as countercultural heroes (think The Wild One and Easy Rider) and the grubby, often criminal reality of their lives. In April 2006 that gap yawned open to reveal eight bodies dumped in a farmer’s field outside the hamlet of Shedden, victims of the biggest mass murder in Ontario since 1832.

The massacre was, as Toronto Star crime reporter Peter Edwards puts it in his introduction to this excellent, fast-reading account, “patently absurd.” The fuzzy catalyst for the slaughter was the attempted pulling of the Toronto chapter’s “patches” (or gang colours) by another group headed by the Bandidos’ disaffected former leader and members of a Winnipeg branch of wannabes. The powerful American Bandidos organization, after initially supporting the gang’s expansion into Canada, eventually came to want nothing to do with either group, having concluded they were all just a bunch of disorganized losers and troublemakers.

“It was natural,” Edwards writes at one point, “to wonder what exactly was the point of the Toronto Bandidos chapter.” Well before the massacre the club’s president, “Boxer” Muscedere “was a leader with no followers, of a club that had already died.” The gang didn’t make money, legally or by any other means. They seem to have taken more drugs than they sold. Few of them even owned a motorcycle. And, as events would show, they were very short on brotherhood.

As Edwards documents, the gang members were not all the usual suspects. A number of the victims had reasonably happy family lives and decent “civilian” jobs. Some of the domestic details are even smile-inducing. One biker was the affectionate owner of a snow-white teacup Bichon Frise. Another was enrolled by his wife in a Jenny Craig weight-loss program. On the other side, however, are the two main villains of the piece: Wayne “Weiner” Kellestine, on whose farm the killings took place, was “a truly stupid man,” not to mention homicidal maniac, with a fetish for Nazi kitsch, while Michael “Little Beaker” Sandham was a squeaky-voiced, weak-willed, self-dramatizing twerp with delusions of tough-guy grandeur. The combination of these two, with some dull muscle to back them up, led to a massacre that was both premeditated and improvised, inevitable and happenstance. That it took so long to carry out was perhaps its greatest horror.

In October 2009 six of the killers were found guilty of multiple counts of first-degree murder (a seventh, whose identity is protected by court order, escaped prosecution by becoming a police informant and the Crown’s star witness). By that time there was no illusion of brotherhood, the biker code of honour, or even respectability left to them. “It was as though the killers were fighting for a bigger share of nothing,” is how Edwards puts it. And in the end that’s what they got.

Review first published February 10, 2010.

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