Today marks the 55th anniversary of the murder of 31 year old Saanich PD Constable Robert Norman Barrie Kirby. He is the only Saanich Police member to have been killed in the line of duty during the department’s 109 years of service.
The following is a summary of the shooting incident in which Constable Kirby was killed 55 years ago today.
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.
31 year old Constable Kirby 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 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.
He was survived by his wife Dorothy and their four young children – 3 week old Shaun, 3 year old Susan, 6 year old James and 9 year old Robert.