Saanich police will gather Wednesday to remember the 59th anniversary of the death of Const. Robert “Barrie” Kirby. He remains the only Saanich police officer who has died in the line of the duty since the inception of the department in 1906. (Photo courtesy of Saanich Police)

Saanich police will gather Wednesday to remember the 59th anniversary of the death of Const. Robert “Barrie” Kirby. He remains the only Saanich police officer who has died in the line of the duty since the inception of the department in 1906. (Photo courtesy of Saanich Police)

Saanich police prepare to salute local officer killed in the line of duty

Const. Robert Kirby died on April 24, 1960

Saanich Police Wednesday will remember its only officer who died in the line of duty.

According to the Saanich Police website, Const. Robert “Barrie” Kirby died on April 24, 1960, when 44-year-old Raymond Harold ambushed and shot Kirby, who was 31 years old at the time of his death. Harold had earlier that day escaped from the Colquitz Provincial Mental Home, a location in the Wilkinson Road area that now includes Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre.

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The escapee quickly broke into a nearby shed, where he stole two .22-calibre rifles, which he then fired upon some of the unarmed hospital staff.

When police responded, Kirby left his front desk post to immediately join other Saanich Police officers responding to the area.

Harold shot Kirby soon after he and Cpl. Coleman had formed a search team following their arrival. Jumping out of some bushes some five metres away, Harold shot Kirby in the chest. The rifle round split the top button of Kirby’s tunic in two, then pierced his heart, killing him instantly. Cpl. Coleman immediately returned fire, but the shooter fled into a wooded area just off Viaduct Avenue.

About 40 minutes later, Harold remained at large and he eventually opened fire again, shooting an unarmed psychiatric nurse in the shoulder. The nurse fortunately survived her injuries. Moments later, Const. Mycock shot and immobilized Harold, whom police quickly arrested. But he never stood trial because of his mental state. Authorities later recommitted him to a different institution.

Kirby had served with Saanich Police for about two years before his death. He had also served for seven years with the St. Boniface and Winnipeg Police departments, and with the Royal Canadian Navy.

Wednesday’s ceremony will take place at the Royal Oak Burial Park on Falaise Drive from 11 to 11:15 a.m.


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wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com