The Puzzle Master

June 10, 2007


 (Jeffrey Bell was a good friend of Paddy’s and a fellow writer at the Butner Medical Centre.)

We still – Paddy’s friends – share stories and anecdotes about him. The other day, I was walking the track with Mike, a buddy of Paddy’s from his days in Leavenworth. Back in the day, Mike was a bank robber in San Diego, where Paddy’s Stop Watch Gang operated for awhile.

Mike’s an easy going guy, very mild-mannered; much like Paddy. One would never take him for a bank robber. Though, like Paddy, Mike has told me that you had to be very threatening and downright mean while robbing a bank, just to ensure things progressed as you planned. You had to be in total control.

Paddy had told me of Mike’s exploits; he robbed thirteen banks before being nabbed. On several of his bank jobs, mike wore shorts, and the newspaper accounts of the robberies included bank employees’ and customers’ descriptions of his ‘skinny, white legs’. Well, the description stuck and Mike became known as ‘Bird Legs’, which prompted, upon his capture, a newspaper headline along the lines of ‘Bird Legs Caged’.

When the two met up in Leavenworth several years later, they became instant friends. Both were avid word puzzlers, and thus began a friendly rivalry. They would listen to NPR on Sunday mornings and compete to see who could solve Will Shortz’s (the New York Times crossword puzzle editor) weekly puzzle challenge first. This went on for years – each week the one to solve the puzzle first could claim to be ‘Puzzle Master’ for the week, while the loser was relegated to ‘Puzzle Student’ status.

The two were eventually reunited here at the Medical Center last year and the competition began again. As Paddy went through his chemo treatments, he lost some of his concentration and puzzle solving abilities, though he was still very sharp playing Jeopardy with me in the evenings. Mike was soon winning the ‘Puzzle Master’ title each week.

One Sunday afternoon, when I went up to see Paddy, he asked me to look at the puzzle to see if I could solve it. After much thought, I was able to come up with the solution – Paddy smiled. “Now if you see Mike, don’t tell him you got this,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes. “I’ll tell him someday.”

Paddy was ‘Puzzle Master’ that week, and for the next few weeks, I’d help Paddy with the puzzle and he was once more challenging Mike each week for the title.

As Mike and I walked the track the other day, the subject of puzzles came up, and I reminded him about how I helped Paddy solve those weekly puzzle challenges. That’s the first Mike had heard about my assistance, and he got a good laugh out of the story, we both did. Then we walked in silence for awhile, each of us thinking of Paddy. “He was a good guy,” Mike said. “Yeah,” I agreed, “he was.”


UPDATE! On the Run: The Ballad of Paddy Mitchell

May 14, 2007

You can now listen to ON THE RUN: THE BALLAD OF PADDY MITCHELL on David Britten’s website. The CD is comprised of 14 songs, and David has made Paddy’s song available online to everybody. (Thank you David!)


Pink Flamingos

May 1, 2007

By Jeffrey S. Bell

(Note: Jeffrey Bell was a good friend of Paddy’s  and a fellow writer at Butner Medical Center. Paddy particularly liked this story.)

Stephen Ryder was trekking through time.   His mode of transmigration wasn’t a DeLorean or an H.G. Wells style time sled, but a red Porsche convertible.  And his time portal happened to be the Pennsylvania Turnpike.   As he sped west through the humid summer night – the top down, Dark Side of the Moon cranked up over the rushing air – he traveled back into his life.

Stephen’s time trek began when his sister called to tell him of his father’s death.   Though his father hadn’t been ill, the call wasn’t a surprise, he had lived far longer – being a heavy smoker and drinker – than any of them ever expected. 



Announcement: A song for Paddy

April 29, 2007

David Britten’s CD Cover The Ballad of Paddy Mitchell (tray)The Ballad of Paddy Mitchell (label)

We would like to bring your attention to an absolutely beautiful song entitled “On the Run,” which has just been released and is dedicated to Patrick Mitchell. The song was written by Ottawa musician David Britten.

The CD, which also includes 13 other songs,  is being sold for $15.00 U.S. or $15.00 Cdn.   (Postage and mailing included in the price).

To order, please contact:   info@davidbritten.com or fthillsmusic@yahoo.com

ALSO: David Britten and Jimmy Allen will be on the Gary Michaels show on Monday, April 30 between 12 noon and 1:00 p.m. on CHIN-FM 97.9. You can also tune in at www.chinradio.com. They will be introducing the Paddy Mitchell song “ON THE RUN.”

You don’t want to miss this!!


Final Days

March 15, 2007

by Jeffrey S. Bell

“Not to worry Jeff, your team can still come back and win. It’s not over.” Though Paddy was very sick, his eyes still had that mischievious twinkle, and he still was the eternal optimist – always finding the positive in the situations and people around him.

It was January 8. He had invited me up to watch Ohio State, my alma mater, play Florida in the college football championship game. The Buckeyes were getting stomped badly. Paddy had been back up on the fifth floor for about a week now which meant he once again had a private room with a television. Since I was his palliative care volunteer, I had gotten special permission to stay up in his room past the normal 8:30 recall time.

In the past week, we had readjusted our evening routine. On the fourth floor, we had settled into a pleasant nightly ritual. After dinner each night, I’d head up to visit Paddy. He’d be waiting in the wide hall of his quad, sitting there with an empty chair for me and a table covered with newspapers, coffee, food and his writing tablet. We’d make some coffee, and usually Paddy would have a snack for us; burritos being his favorite. There was food always, Paddy was a gracious host. “God Paddy, you’re worse than my mom! Eat, eat, eat!”

We were sitting in the hall because Paddy’s roomie didn’t like to have visitors in their room. Paddy, being more tolerant than I would have been, came up with the solution of us meeting in the hall.

So there we’d sit, eating and talking while other inmates and staff walked by. It must’ve been similar to when Paddy held court at the Belle Claire Hotel in Ottawa, though he had a much bigger table then and more people around him. But still, the guys walking by would stop and say hi, Paddy would ask how they were doing. Sometimes someone needed a scoop of coffee or perhaps a soup – he’d always help them out.

Eventually, we’d get around to talking about writing. “So, did you write today?” he’d ask. Paddy loved to write; he wrote like he spoke, very directly and from the heart. I’d let him read what I’d written and he’d comment and offer suggestions. But, mostly he’d encourage me – he really got me into the habit of writing regularly, and to pursue getting something published.

I’d stay for an hour usually cause I had another patient to visit. But, that hour was my most enjoyable hour of the day, as it was for Paddy.

Now he was back on the fifth floor. They had moved him when his health took a turn for the worse. Paddy had breezed through two rounds of chemo with no adverse affects. In fact, on the days he had a treatment, he’d walk a few laps around the track in the evening. During a recent checkup though, it was determined that the cancer that had moved into this lymph nodes was still spreading – they wanted to try a stronger drug for a couple rounds.

The new chemo drug was difficult for Paddy. After the first treatment, he felt fine for a day, was up and around walking the stairs. But, the second day after his treatment, it hit him hard. He was in bed most of the day, experiencing quite a bit of pain and he had no energy. This lasted two days, then he improved and was ready for the next treatment. “I think it’s helping,” he said.

The next round hit him harder. He had more pain and had trouble with his memory. He began sleeping more, but couldn’t shake his fatigue. Finally, they moved him up to the fifth floor where he’d have 24 hour medical care.

Almy O’Neal, Paddy’s friend from Leavenworth, helped him move, packing up Paddy’s property and lugging it up to the fifth floor. We adjusted quickly. Now, we’d have our coffee and watch the world news, then Jeopardy. Paddy was a whiz at Jeopardy. While my expertise centered around sports, music and TV, Paddy’s knowledge extended to a broad array of categories. And, though sick, he was amazingly quick on the buzzer.

Well, the Buckeyes lost the game that Monday night. Paddy fell asleep before I had to leave at 11:00. I quietly turned off the TV and shut the door.

He still didn’t feel well and was experiencing more problems with his memory and putting thoughts together. I truly think that by this time Paddy knew he would die soon. A few days earlier, as we were talking, he suddenly said, “I’m dying Jeff. It feels different this time. I’m not gonna beat it this time.” We talked about his dying – he was spiritually ready, had accepted the inevitable months before. And after Paddy died, Almy told me that as they loaded up his stuff to move upstairs, Paddy had said, “I’m only gonna be up there a couple of weeks before I die.”

I visited Paddy both Tuesday and Thursday evenings. He was too weak to get out of bed. I made him coffee and we talked and watched Jeopardy of course. He was still a bit confused mentally, but talked about getting well enough to try another round of chemo, though I think he knew it wouldn’t happen.

Friday evening when I went up, Paddy was much weaker and in more pain. He asked for some coffee, but didn’t drink any. We just talked. He had received a letter from his friend Jimmy Allen, so I read that to him. He always enjoyed hearing from Jimmy. Then Almy and another friend, Ron Fishman, stopped in to see how he was doing. Paddy tried to tell us about his ordeal that day when they had attempted to put a ‘pic line’ in for further chemo treatments. The procedure took most of the day because the vein kept collapsing. Paddy had difficulty relating the story though, often having to start over because he’d forget what he was saying.

At 8:30, I had to leave for recall. I asked him if he needed anything before I left. He wanted to sit and eat a banana, so I helped him get up. “I’ll be up in the morning to see you Paddy,” I said. He smiled and said, “Okay Jeff, see you then.”

The next morning, Saturday, I was on my way to yoga class when my roomie, another Jeff, came running up behind me. Jeff works as an ICP, Inmate Companion Program. ICPs are similar to nurse’s aides, they do amazing work for 40 cents an hour. Jeff said that when he checked on Paddy, he found him on oxygen and a morphine pump. He asked the nurse about Paddy’s condition. “He’s dying,” had been her response.

Jeff and I both knew from our experience of working on the fifth floor that when patients go on oxygen and a morphine pump they are close to death. I went right up to Paddy’s room, and I stayed there until the next morning.

Paddy was unconscious, his breathing very irregular. “Hi Paddy. I’m here with you okay.” I know, though unconscious, patients can hear you at these times. He looked peaceful and wasn’t in any pain it appeared.

Throughout the day, the nurses would check on him regularly, take his vitals and make sure he was comfortable. Inmates here always talk bad about the staff, but my experience has been that for the most part, they do a remarkable job under the conditions.

As word spread through the facility that Paddy was dying, people started stopping in to see him. All day long, a succession of inmates, staff, nurses and doctors came around to see Paddy. He was so liked by everyone. At one point that evening, there were five of Paddy’s friends in the room sharing stories about him. There was lots of laughter and good memories. I know Paddy could hear us, and I know he was pleased that his friends were remembering him with laughter.

Almy spent as much time as he could with Paddy that evening. At one point, Almy prayed over Paddy, then leaned over to whisper in his ear, “Jesus loves you Paddy.” Paddy’s face twitched slightly – the only movement he made those last hours.

I sat with Paddy throughout the night. I’d talk to him often so he’d know I was still there with him. His breathing gradually diminished until he stopped breathing around 8:30 Sunday morning. He died very peacefully.

I asked Paddy once why, after robbing all of those banks and after all of these years, were people interested in his story and how he was doing. Paddy just looked at me with a perplexed look and shook his head, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

I think those of us who have in some way been touched by Paddy know the answer. Paddy was kind, generous, caring, funny and gracious. And he loved life – so completely. Paddy had that quality that few have – charisma.

His son Kevin, talking of his father’s death, called him complex. Paddy was complex, that’s so true. He was the epitome of complex! Yeah, he was kind, compassionate, generous, caring…and he was a world-class bank robber. You just accepted that duality if you were his friend; he made it very easy.

Maybe what I admired most about Paddy Mitchell was how comfortable he was in his skin. He was a bank robber through and through. He didn’t try to deny it, didn’t try to be anything else. So often, we’d be talking about some subject – politics, psychology, medicine, etc. – and he’d make a statement, then quickly add, “But, what do I know. I’m just a bank robber.” Yeah, Paddy, just a bank robber. One of the best, and so much more.

The night of his death, as I sat down to write in my journal about the day’s events, it struck me: Paddy had done it again. He had escaped from the clutches of the law. While they dilly dallied around, trying to decide whether or not to transfer him back to Canada, Paddy quietly escaped over the fences once again.

He was finally free. Good-bye Paddy. God Bless.


Noble Vigilance

March 8, 2007

 by Jeffrey S. Bell

If we remain present in our experience, we’ll discover teachings all around us. I’m an inmate volunteer in the hospice program at a federal medical center. Our mission is to provide comfort and aid to the terminally ill patients incarcerated here.

My most recent patient, Paddy, suffered from lung and brain cancer. Paddy was a very gracious man who though terminally ill, maintained a remarkably high quality of life.

One evening as we sat drinking our coffee and chatting – our ritual every evening – Paddy told me of a letter he had received from a friend whom was struggling with finding enjoyment in life as his health diminished. Paddy and I talked about growing old, becoming ill and dying.

“You know,” Paddy said, his eyes clear and alive though his body was ravaged by cancer, “There’s so much I still enjoy in life everyday: taking a walk on a bright, clear day; reading a good book; going to mass; sitting here talking to you and having a cup of coffee; taking a bite out of a crisp, juicy apple. There’s just so much.”

Paddy died very peacefully a couple weeks later. I hold that image of him biting into a crisp, juicy apple – fully present in the moment – fondly in my thoughts. Here was a man destined to die in prison, far from loved ones, finding bits of bliss all around. If only we could be so present in our lives.

Thank you so much Paddy for teaching me how to be nobly vigilant in life and in death.


The Real Thing: Paddy Mitchell

February 5, 2007

(This piece was written in January 2007, shortly before Paddy’s death, by Jeffrey Bell,  a friend of Paddy’s at Butner Medical Centre.)


In prison, you meet a lot of bank robbers – at least you meet a lot of guys who claim to be bank robbers.   Some may have committed less glamorous crimes so they become bank robbers to impress their fellow inmates; after all, it’s all about image in prison.

Others may have technically robbed a bank, but when you hear their story, you discover that bank robbing wasn’t their livelihood.  Perhaps they needed money to buy their next fix – these guys aren’t bank robbers, they’re drug addicts.  I once met a guy who robbed a bank to get money to buy medication for his seriously ill son.   He wasn’t a bank robber; he was a loving father without health insurance who felt he had no other options.

Then there’s Patrick ‘Paddy’ Mitchell.  He’s the real thing, who by his count, robbed more than forty-five banks and many more department stores over a fifteen year span.   Paddy’s a throwback to the 30’s, to the glory days of bank robbers, when they moved from town to town holding up banks, their exploits splashed across the front pages of newspapers from coast to coast.   People have always been fascinated by bank robbers.   Maybe it’s an extension of our greed, our love of money.   Or possibly we just enjoy seeing banks – with their myriad of service fees and vaults stacked high with money – getting ripped off.   Whatever the reason, we have made bank robbers the rock stars of the criminal world; and Paddy Mitchell combines the artistry and showmanship of David Bowie, the intelligence and sensitivity of John Lennon, and the decadence and hedonism of Mick Jagger.

When I first met Paddy, he was reading The New Yorker and watching the U.S. Open Golf tournament.  Since most inmates would more likely be reading Maxim and watching Ultimate Fighting Champion on Spike TV, I knew this guy was different.   I figured he had something to do with banking, maybe a vice-president or a high-powered international banker who lived in a brick Tudor out in Connecticut and commuted to Manhattan each morning.   Little did I know.

We talked about golf and our favorite cities.   Somewhere along the line the conversation turned to religion and old cathedrals.   Paddy was Catholic I discovered.   “Yeah, I’d go to mass on Sunday, then go out and rob a bank on Monday.”  Paddy peered out through his oversized, prison-issue, horned-rim glasses (these make us all look like sinister Larry Kings) sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders.

Mitchell, one of Ottawa’s favorite sons and perhaps North America’s most prolific and stylish bank robber embarked on his life of crime in the early 70’s by fencing stolen property.   The work was easy and the money good.   Soon he was holding court in the restaurant of a popular Ottawa hotel with mobsters, politicians and wealthy businessmen.

It was during this time that he hooked up with the two guys who would become his partners in crime, Stephen Reid and Lionel Wright, and together they first captured headlines by making off with 365 pounds of gold bars worth over one million dollars from the Ottawa Airport.   They became known as “The Stopwatch Gang” because one of them always timed their bank jobs – they would only grab as much money as they could in 90 seconds – with a stopwatch dangling from around his neck.  Paddy enjoyed the life a criminal.  “You know, I just wanted a certain lifestyle: to be able to wake up in the morning, maybe go for a run, have a late breakfast while reading the paper.   Maybe go to a movie in the afternoon, then take my girlfriend out to dinner at night.  I wanted to be a criminal.”

Eventually, the gang was nabbed, and the legend of Paddy Mitchell grew when he orchestrated a spectacular and dangerous escape from Joyceville Prison.  With Lionel and Stephen already on the outside (Lionel stumbled into a successful escape in progress and Stephen walked away while on an escorted leave from the prison), Paddy induced cardiac arrest by running a couple of miles, then drinking a potion laced with nicotine.

“My heart began to beat so fast that I feared it might burst through my sterum.”   The nurse on duty immediately called an ambulance, but thought it was too late to save Paddy.  “I was dead, my heart stopped.”

As the ambulance raced to the hospital, Paddy had an out-of-body experience ending up at the gates of heaven where he tried to cut a deal with St. Peter in order to avoid 10,000 years in purgatory.

At the hospital, Stephen and Lionel diverted the ambulance to a back entrance; locked the driver, paramedic and two prison guards in the vehicle and quickly whisked Mitchell to an apartment where he spent a few days recuperating.   Several days later, the gang crossed over into the United States and settled in Florida.

They honed their craft there for awhile before moving on to California and Arizona where they continued their spree with much style.   They’d don fake beards or mustaches, combined masks and sometimes masks of American presidents.  (Remember the movie “Point Break” with Keeanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze?   That’s based on the “Stopwatch Gang”.

But once more, they ended up in prison – Stephen and Lionel first, and eventually Paddy.   While Stephen and Lionel ended up in a Canadian prison via a prisoner exchange, Paddy was denied that route and sent to the Arizona State Penitentiary.  But, he wasn’t there long.   This time he and two fellow inmates made their way out through duct work in the ceiling.   (His two prison escapes made him the only man ever to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List twice.)   This was in 1986.   Paddy remained on the loose, robbing banks until 1994.

Much of these later years were spent in the Philippines.   On the run, Paddy decided to head overseas and landed in the Philippines.   There he settled into as domestic of a life as he could live.   He married his current wife Imelda and they had his second son, Richard.  (His son by his first wife, Kevin, still lives in Ottawa.)   He bought a compound up in the mountains.  “It was a beautiful home.  I spent my days raising my son, it was all very nice.”

But the lure of easy money still beckoned Paddy.   Every so often, he would go back to the United States, on what his family and friends thought were business trips.   Paddy would fly into Mexico City, enter the United States, rob a bank or two and return home via Mexico.   It was on one of these business trips on which he was finally captured for good.

During those roughly fifteen years, Paddy Mitchell lived the life he had always wanted.  “I couldn’t have done the things I did any other way.  Robbing banks allowed me to do those things.  I wasn’t smart enough and was too lazy to do it any other way.”
There was, of course the money, lots of money, and plush condos on beaches and in mountains, and lots of booze and drugs – he even briefly operated a marijuana farm in Florida.   There were fancy cars and fancy restaurants.   And there were the women – plenty of women.  “It had to be the alpha male thing or something.  I could walk into a club and women would just approach me.  I didn’t have to do anything.   I guess they could sense danger.”   Across North America is a string of ‘Mitchell girls’: Janet, Candy, Lynn, Chrissy, Becky, Yuko to name just a few.  “Of course, they didn’t know who I was, they only knew my alias.  To them I was an auditor, a claims adjustor or a wealthy businessman.  Then I’d suddenly be gone, it was hard sometimes leaving like that.   Some, I would have married and lived happily ever after with had I not been on the Ten Most Wanted List.”

It wasn’t all sex, drugs, and robbing banks though.  You don’t just go into a bank and stick it up; you’ve got to have a plan and Mitchell was meticulous planner.  Done correctly, robbing banks is a science.  “I enjoyed the planning more than anything.   I loved going into a bank dressed in a suit and tie and making conversation with an employee about CD’s and interest rates.   Then figuring out the best time to hit it and the best escape route.”

Paddy would move into a town and spend months developing a new identity and scoping out the right bank to hit.  He’d become a member of the community:  renting a condo, buying a car, attending church.   Paddy’s religion is very important to him – he still attends mass weekly and is confident he will indeed end up in heaven.  “Oh, I’ve done some bad things, but I’ve never committed a mortal sin, just a bunch of venial sins.   I don’t think God considers robbing banks a mortal sin.”

In one city, as he spent weeks preparing for a job, Mitchell regularly attended mass at the same church, each Sunday leaving a $100 bill in the collection plate.   Since the same usher always collected the plate, he soon realized that Paddy was the generous one.

On the Sunday before he planned to hit the bank, Paddy thought it might be a good idea to shake hands with the priest – it might be good luck – so after mass he waited in line to shake hands with the priest.   “Well, the usher had apparently told the priest about me, cause when I got up there and we shook hands, he held my hand and wouldn’t let go, smiled and said ‘Who are you?’.   Geez, I didn’t want to lie to a priest on the eve of a bank robbery, so I said ‘Well, you really don’t need to know that Father.’   I thanked him for the sermon, grinned and walked away.   As I left the church, I looked back and saw him looking at me as he talked to other parishioners.   The next day I robbed the bank and Tuesday my picture was in the paper.”

Included in Mitchell’s adventures are numerous brushes with Mother Nature – he’s the Forest Gump of natural disasters.   He’s been through a couple of hurricanes, killer typhoon, a 7.8 earthquake in the Philippines and he was holed up in a cabin near Mount St. Helens when it erupted in 1980.   “I was with this girl and we kind of …um slept through the eruption.    I got up around nine in the morning to take a leak and thought it was awfully dark out.   Then she woke up, looked outside and screamed.  I looked out and it looked like there was a couple of feet of snow out there.  The car is covered with ash.  We can’t even open the door there’s so much ash.   But it’s okay – we have plenty of food and I’m with this gorgeous girl.   After a few days, I finally made it back to the hotel where I was staying.   They were so glad to see me – they thought I was killed in the eruption.”

Getting to know Mitchell – hearing his amazing stories full of self-deprecating humor – is like listening to the tales of the older brother who did everything you dreamed of doing: or hanging out with that crazy uncle who tells all the dirty jokes at the family reunion – the one your parents warned you to stay away from.   Paddy has led a life many of us, at some point, fantasize about; he’s done things most of us will never do.   I asked him once what it was like to rob a bank; to walk in with a gun (which Paddy never fired and normally didn’t even load or at most, loaded with one or two bullets, never in the first chamber) and yell ‘This is a stick up!’?   “For me, it was the ultimate rush, better than drugs or sex.   I’d be nervous going in cause I didn’t know what to expect.  But once I got in there and saw that everything was as it should be, I’d be okay.    Everything would move so quick.   “What a high!   Then it was over and you’re ready to do it again.”

And he would do it again and again and again – all with style and class.   When he talks of his career now, it’s as if he’s almost embarrassed by how fully he’s lived his life, by the things he’s done.   You may mention something that prompts a memory for him and he’ll launch into a full story, “I was going through Hot Springs…” then he’ll lower his voice and roll his eyes, “…and I was planning on hitting a bank…”    A glitter comes to his eyes, a smile to his face, “…I was in this club and up comes this pretty little redhead…”

These days Paddy Mitchell resides at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, where he’s been for nine months.   Since being incarcerated in 1994, Mitchell has made the rounds in the United States Federal system: Atlanta, Leavenworth, Lewisburg.

It was in Lewisburg that Paddy first noticed a small lump on his chest.   As the lump slowly grew in size, he had it checked by doctors, and was assured that it was just a cyst.   Early in 2006, he started experiencing numbness in his right leg.   Then in March, as he headed out to the recreation yard to run, his leg buckled and he felt lightheaded.   A doctor on call that evening immediately scheduled x-rays and scans.  “I told him about the lump on my chest, the numbness and lightheadedness.   He put it all together and said it could be lung cancer that had metastasized to my brain.   He had me in an outside hospital the next day.    Three days later they performed surgery and removed a walnut sized tumor from my brain.”

Mitchell was airlifted to Butner and immediately began radiation treatment.  He contracted a serious viral infection while undergoing chemo therapy which almost killed him.   “I lost my memory, my strength;  I thought it was all over.”

But, there was still much that Paddy wanted to get done before his time came.    Slowly, he started his rehabilitation – reading and writing and strengthening his arms with elastic bands attached to his bed.    Now, in the midst of his second round of chemo, he walks at least three miles a day, does several sets of pushups and climbs at least thirty flights of stairs each day.   And his mind is as sharp as ever.

One of the things Paddy wants to accomplish is to get another book published or perhaps a screenplay produced.   He’s already written and published his autobiography, “This Bank Robber’s Life:  The Life and Fast Times of Patrick “Paddy” Mitchell, and written a novel, several short stories and two screenplays.   In addition, he has a blog, www.paddymitchell.wordpress.com/ for which he writes regular updates on his condition, tells tales from his past and of prison life, and answers emails from friends and fans.    Reading through his mail, you’ll see notes from old school mates; an email from a woman, whom as a young girl, Paddy rescued from a group of bullies at a skating rink.    There’s even notes from the paramedic involved in Mitchell’s first prison escape more than twenty-five years ago.   He keeps in touch and talks very fondly of Mitchell.   And there’s the retired FBI agent who spent much of his career chasing down Mitchell.   He writes occasionally and they exchange stories of the good ole days.

He’d also like to eventually get back to Canada; to be closer to family and friends.   His attorney is currently working on a transfer under a treaty between the United States and Canada which allows for the exchange of prisoners.   Due to his illness, his attorney is petitioning for a compassionate transfer.   But, Mitchell holds no illusion about the process.   “I don’t expect any compassion from these people.”

He’s also realistic about his prognosis.  “This cancer will kill me, I have no doubt about that.   But, there’s so much I want to write yet…I want to get another book out.   And I’d like to get back home.”

One evening, as Paddy and I sat talking and reading the paper, I asked him about regrets – especially since he’s ended up here in prison with cancer.   “Oh sure, I have regrets.   I regret leaving my wife and son, how this affected them.   I regret scaring all of those people, sticking a gun in their faces.   But, you can’t go through life regretting everything you’ve done.   I’ve had a full life, have done a lot.   I’d do it all again, I’m a bank robber.    A house in the suburbs and a 9 to 5 job isn’t for me.”

There’s a quote that Paddy keeps in a box with all of his writing materials that may best explain Paddy Mitchell’s life.   It’s a quote by John Kennedy Jr., from an editorial in George magazine.    Kennedy was writing of his family’s latest trials – a cousin accused of rape, another of having sex with a sixteen year-old babysitter; about people who live beyond the confines of normal society.   Kennedy wrote:

“The more we live a life governed by conventional norms of proper behaviour, and the nicer and more responsible we force ourselves to be, the further we drift from the essence of our true self – one that’s ruled by passion and instinct.     Give in to your deepest longings and become an outcast;  conform utterly and endure a potentially dispiriting, suffocating life…”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.