A new book tells the true story of Canada's biggest biker bloodbath.
Early in the morning of April 8, 2006, eight Canadian members of the Bandidos motorcycle gang were murdered in a barn in the rural town of Shedden, Ontario. Twelve hours later, Toronto Star reporter Peter Edwards was on the phone with the ringleader, Wayne “Weiner” Kellestine, the Nazi-loving Bandido who'd lured his friends to his home, and to their deaths.
Edwards knew it was a dangerous world to report on – his friend and colleague, Canadian journalist Michel Auger, had been shot by Hells Angels in 2000 – but the story of brotherhood betrayed was too good to ignore. For three years, Edwards covered the investigation, the trial, and finally the sentencing of the men who'd shot their friends in cold blood. His new book, The Bandido Massacre: A Story of Bikers, Brotherhood and Betrayal, tells the tale of how eight men ended up dead in the home of the man they'd thought was their friend. The Crime Report‘s Julia Dahl discussed the shadowy biker world in Canada with Edwards for one of our regularly featured author’s Q&As.
The Crime Report: How did you first learn of the massacre in Shedden?
Peter Edwards: I got a call from my editor who said there'd been eight people murdered. At first I thought he got the number wrong. Massacres are extremely rare in Canada – actually the last one was when five Hells Angels were murdered in the 1980s. There were only about 100 people living in Shedden and as soon as I realized that “Weiner” Kellestine was one of them, I knew he was either one of the dead or one of the killers.
TCR: Who is Weiner Kellestine?
Edwards: I'd been hearing stories about Kellestine for years. He'd been in a number of biker groups; and a few years before the murders, he'd started wearing lightening bolts on his vest, which in that world means you're a killer. He could act like a country bumpkin, like a jovial hillbilly; he'd go to fairs and buy pies and praise people but then he could shift into a psychotic killer. He cut a swastika into the grass on his property so that planes flying over would see it. And at one point he tried to get into another major biker gang called the Outlaws, but they didn't want him because they thought he was too unstable. The person I knew who had been connected to this group was blown away by him – these are people who aren't easily blown away by craziness.
At the time of the murder, Kellestine had two lifetime weapons bans against him, so it wasn't some kind of secret that just I was in on. When you have a place with just 100 people and there's a mass murder, it's easy to suspect the guy who goes around bragging that he's a killer.
TCR: You called Kellestine on the morning after the murders. What was that phone call like?
Edwards: At first, he sounded like a football player after he'd won the big game. When I introduced myself as a reporter, though, he went from being jovial and joking to acting tough. It almost sounded like I had interrupted a party, like he was playing to the people in the background, like he was putting on a show.
TCR: Kellestine wasn't the only one who planned the murders, though. A former policeman turned biker-wannabe named Michael Sandham was also a key player.
Edwards: I don't think the killings would have taken place with just one of them, I think [it needed] the calculation and the cruelty to come together. Sandham was extremely calculating and Kellestine prided himself on just absolute cruelty.
TCR: What do you think was the “purpose” of the massacre, in Kellestine and Sandham's minds?
Edwards: The “purpose” of the massacre made little sense outside of the the minds of the people behind the killings. Kellestine was fuming about being repeatedly excluded from social events by the bikers who were targeted. Kellestine also may have been worried that they might leave him behind, as it was rumoured the Toronto bikers were thinking about patching over to the Outlaws [another motorcycle gang which had] already rejected him for membership and wouldn’t want him again.
Sandham (who had hidden the fact that he was a former police officer) worried a team from Toronto was sniffing around his hometown, looking to kill him. Police are banned from all membership in all outlaw biker clubs. On top of that, Sandham had much to gain: if the Toronto chapter could be eliminated, it would give him the chance to be a national biker leader.
TCR: The people they killed weren't exactly shrinking violets; they were bikers, and one weighed upwards of 400 pounds. How were they able to do it?
Edwards: A lot of the bikers I talked to were really offended by this crime because they think what was done was sort of outside their code. They have a code of behavior where you're not supposed to bring guns to meetings and you're supposed to treat people like brothers. But this code, where you have absolute trust in your brothers, was what made them vulnerable. Like John “Boxer” Muscedere-they knew that he believed the stuff that they all said about brotherhood and loyalty, and that made it easier to kill him. The code that's supposed to protect them became a way of manipulating them, and the people they were supposed to trust became the people that they should fear the most.
TCR: Unlike the Hells Angels, the Bandidos were never a major criminal gang. In fact, you describe it more as a club than a gang. What was the allure for the members?
Edwards: I think the glue was this fallacy of brotherhood. The idea that you're involved in something special, something exclusive and deep, that there is safety in numbers and that when you're in the group it allows you to be more of an individual. That joining the group is kind of like a safety wall against the rest of society. It's kind of like a white ethnic gang. Jamie “Goldberg” Flanz, who died in the massacre, was the only Jewish member and he wasn't really a biker
, he was a guy dressing up as a biker. He wanted to look edgy, but he was a volunteer ambulance worker and he coached hockey. You could tell he didn't take it seriously because why would someone who is Jewish join a club where a senior member is calling himself a Nazi? Unless you thought the other person was play-acting, too, and I'm sure that's what he thought. It was almost like little kids acting tough, playing pretend.
One of the men who died in the massacre was Paul “Big Paulie” Sinopoli. Afterward I asked a friend of why was he an outlaw biker when he really didn't do much–he was a pretty lazy guy who would just sort of lay on the couch all day and didn't really have the energy to break the law. He said, the guy's 400 pounds, how else is he gonna meet girls?
TCR: You describe in the book how local police had Kellestine under surveillance and that the team of officers watching him left just hours before the murders. Could the cops have done a better job protecting the Bandidos from themselves?
Edwards: The odd thing is I don't reallythink the police blew it. Some really violent people, you can't watch them all the time. The surveillance team put in six hours of overtime that day. But I do think that a lifetime weapons ban really should mean it. I did a lot of reporting around that area and when I mentioned Kellestine I always got the same reaction: dangerous guy with a ton of weapons. I don't understand why at that point you can't just do spot checks to make sure there aren't weapons there. I mean there were literally dozens of weapons in his place when the murders took place. There was a grenade on his mantelpiece–it wasn't really that tricky.
TCR: When you asked police about that, what was their reaction?
Edwards: Just a lot of shoulder-shrugging. Sort of like, whatever, the system's complicated and that sort of thing. There wasn't a big public outrage around this crime. As soon as it was established that most of the killers and all the victims were from outside Shedden and that they were all bikers, it became a curiosity–not a tragedy–for most people. I met a lot of the families of the victims, and to hear their children's murders called a cleansing, like ridding an area of mosquitos, that really bothered me.
TCR: After reading the book it seems that the Bandidos weren't really much of a criminal threat, except to themselves. Do Canadian and U.S. authorities still have to worry about biker gangs?
Edwards: Even though the average Canadian is probably considered pretty boring by the rest of the world, the average Canadian biker is more dangerous. In the biker war in Quebec in the late 1990s and early 2000s there were more than 160 people murdered. The Hells Angels are absolutely entrenched here. There's a scramble to feed the American drug market and right down the St. Lawrence Seaway is New York City. But I do think there is a difference in generations. Bikers over 35, many of them have long-standing marriages and kids in college. They know that if you get charged with something it's like being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars even if you beat the charge. For those guys, moving a little bit of drugs just isn't worth it. The younger guys are more ambitious–and more dangerous.
Julia Dahl is a contributing editor of The Crime Report
From left to right: Massacre victims Chopper Raposo and Boxer Muscedere, with convicted killers “Weiner” Kellestine and Michael Sandham , 2005 (Photo courtesy Peter Edwards)