Readers of true crime will be happy to hear that Nate Hendley is back with The Boy on the Bicycle (2018, Five Rivers Publishing). This was a project Mr. Hendley had put on hold while finishing his encyclopedic book The Big Con, which was a history of confidence men, hoaxes and frauds from past to present.
The Boy on the Bicycle revisits the murder of seven-year-old Wayne Mallette on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto 62 years ago in 1956. At the time, the only clue in the case that horrified Torontonians was that of a boy leaving the grounds of the CNE after briefly speaking with a security guard. Unfortunately, a truant young teen named Ronald Moffat was picked up by police and under extreme duress, confessed to the murder and was convicted as a juvenile offender. Although the real killer (and child predator) Peter Woodcock was eventually found and confessed to the killing, thus freeing Ronald, no compensation was forthcoming for the months he spent in detention, his distraught parents using what little money they had to pay legal costs.
How could this have happened? Why did Ronald confess to a crime he didn’t commit? Whatever became of the other principal characters such as Peter Woodcock, the various police investigators and judges? Mr. Hendley does an admirable amount of forensic investigation to get to the many facts of the case and the stories behind the forgotten account of Ronald Moffatt (who fully co-operated with Mr. Hendley in telling his side of the story).
“Beyond [a few] references, however, no one had written a complete book about Moffatt’s wrongful conviction. There was a very human side to the story as well: unlike Steven Truscott, Moffat never received an official apology much less compensation for his arrest and incarceration.”
In an interview with the author, Mr. Moffatt was asked: What do you personally hope to get out of the book?
Ron replied: “This year I finally get to be “heard”. I feel that is important as I have lived with this locked up inside of me for over 60 years. The experience of 1956 had a very negative effect on my life. It would be nice if somehow the justice system decided I deserved financial compensation for the wrongful conviction, but I have come to the conclusion that will never happen.”
The Boy on the Bicycle is an exceptional read and serves as a unique time capsule of the times and mores of post-WWII Toronto when murders were rare and sexual predators were practically unheard of. While Ronald Moffatt remains uncompensated for his wrongful conviction, it was Mr. Hendley’s wish to finally tell Ron’s story after these many years, which he has done in a direct, yet compassionate manner. Five stars!