Saanich Police honoured the death of Const. Robert Norman Barrie Kirby on Tuesday.
Kirby is the only Saanich Police member to have been killed in the line of duty during the department’s 112 years.
Const. Graham Walker, a history fan who is still new to Saanich Police, came across Kirby’s story after he made the move from the Metro Vancouver Transit Police. It was at his former position that Walker had become familiar with B.C’s history of fallen police officers, and suggested Saanich Police hold a memorial service, possibly annually.
“I noticed there wasn’t an annual event, which I thought might remind us all of his sacrifice and the risk we face,” Walker said.
A four-person honour guard and nine officers in formal dress, plus one documenting the event, held the memorial at Kirby’s grave in Royal Oak Burial Park.
Kirby was killed on April 24, 1960, by 44-year-old psychiatric patient Raymond Harold, when the latter escaped from the Colquitz Provincial Mental Home (now the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre). Harold broke into a nearby shed, where he stole two .22 calibre rifles. He fired upon some of the unarmed hospital staff.
Kirby was working at the front desk when the call came in and he immediately joined other Saanich Police officers in response to the Wilkinson Road area.
Kirby teamed up with Corp. Coleman on a search team and 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 Kirby’s tunic in two and pierced his heart, killing him instantly. Coleman 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 (who survived). Moments later, Mycock shot and immobilized the escapee. He never stood trial due to his mental state and 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.
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.
“Even though none of us ever knew him he’s still part of the living thing [where we work],” Walker said. “Some of the people that we work with worked with people he worked with and it feels like we know him.”