April 24th marks the anniversary of the murder of 31 year old Saanich Police Constable Robert Norman Barry Kirby.
He is the only Saanich Police member to have been killed in the line of duty since our department's inception in 1906.
On April 24th, 1960, a 44 year old psychiatric patient named Raymond Harold escaped from the Colquitz Provincial Mental Home. This location now contains the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre. The escapee quickly broke into a nearby shed, where he stole two .22 calibre rifles and had already fired upon some of the unarmed hospital staff.
Constable Kirby, known as "Barry", was working at the front desk, but he immediately joined other SPD officers and responded to the Wilkinson Road area.
Soon after he arrived, Constable Kirby formed up with Corporal Coleman as one of several search teams. A short time later Constable Kirby was ambushed and shot in the chest by the escapee, who was hiding in some bushes about 15 feet away. The rifle round split the top button of Constable Kirby’s tunic in two and then pierced his heart, killing him instantly. Corporal Coleman immediately returned fire, but the shooter fled into a wooded area just off Viaduct Avenue.
About 40 minutes later, the escapee was still at large and he opened fire again, shooting an unarmed psychiatric nurse in the shoulder. Fortunately the nurse was able to survive from his injuries. Moments later, Constable Mycock shot and immobilized the escapee. He was quickly arrested, but would never stand trial due to his mental state. The escapee was later recommitted to a different institution.
At the time of his murder, Constable Kirby had served in the Royal Canadian Navy and he was a nine year police veteran who had served seven years with the St. Boniface and Winnipeg Police Departments. Constable Kirby had been a Saanich Police officer for about two years.
All of us at SPD remember his sacrifice. Our conference room has been named in his honour, where a display permanently resides. This is a main meeting space for SPD, and where media releases are frequently held.