Monday, April 24, 2023, marks the 63rd anniversary of the murder of 31-year-old Saanich Police Constable Robert (Bob) Norman Barrie Kirby. He is the only Saanich Police member to have been killed in the line of duty during our department’s 117 years of service.
On April 24th, 1960, a 44-year-old psychiatric patient escaped from the Colquitz Provincial Mental Hospital on Wilkinson Road. This location is now home to the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre. The escapee quickly broke into a nearby resident’s shed, where he stole two .22 calibre rifles, then fired upon some of the unarmed hospital staff.
Constable Robert Norman Barry Kirby was known as “Barry” to his family and “Bob” to his co-workers. He was working at the front desk, but he immediately joined other Saanich Police officers and responded to the Wilkinson Road area.
Soon after he arrived, Constable Kirby formed up with Police Corporal Bob 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. This was at a property on Markham Street. The rifle round split the top button of Constable Kirby’s tunic in two and then pierced his heart, killing him instantly. Corporal Coleman returned fire immediately, but the escapee was not hit and he fled into a wooded area, just off Viaduct Avenue.
About 40 minutes later, the escapee was still at large when he opened fire again, shooting an unarmed psychiatric nurse in the shoulder. Fortunately, the nurse was able to survive his injuries.
Moments later, Constable Walter Mycock shot and immobilized the escapee. He was quickly arrested, but he 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 was a nine-year police veteran who had served seven years with the St. Boniface, Manitoba and Winnipeg Police Services and served as a Saanich Police officer for two years. He was also a veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Constable Kirby was survived by his wife Dorothy and their four young children – three-week-old Shaun, three-year-old Candace, six-year-old James and nine-year-old Robert.
The following District of Saanich Archives link is an online photo gallery which contains several pages of photos from Constable Kirby’s funeral procession in downtown Victoria and from his graveside service at Royal Oak Burial Park:
On Monday, officers attended the Royal Oak Burial Park at Constable Kirby’s grave to lay wreaths and remember him by way of a brief service. We will always remember and honour Constable Kirby for paying the ultimate sacrifice to keep his community of Saanich safe.