February 26th, 1947 is one of the most infamous days in the history of the Vancouver Police Department. On that day Constable Charles Boyes and Constable Oliver Ledingham would die together, shot dead by three bank robbery suspects. A third, Detective Percy Hoare, would be shot and wounded.
The following story is reprinted with permission of the Vancouver Sun newspaper, originally published February 26th, 1997, written by Lindsay Kines."Percy Alan Hoare returned to the scene of the crime 50 years later and saw nothing he remembered. A skytrain now skirted the railyard near Clark and Great Northern Way, a new Home Depot store sprawled next to the tracks and someone had even paved the side roads. The 90-year-old former police detective surveyed the site of one of the most horrific gun battles in Vancouver Police history and found nothing familiar. "It's all changed," he said. All except for the grass and brambles still choking the ditches near the tracks-Hoare remembered them too well. Fifty years ago today, the Vancouver Police detective fell there, two bullets in his leg and shoulder, two fellow officers dying nearby and a would-be bank robber lying dead a few metres away. The shooting stunned a city just two years out of the Second World War, scarred a police department and, like so many murders before and since, wounded more people than were shot that sunny afternoon.If anyone doubts the damage done by a few seconds of violence, the shooting on False Creek Flats might convince them otherwise. It left a senior police detective haunted by nightmares and a boy without his father.
The events of Wednesday, Feb. 26, 1947 began routinely with an anonymous call to police headquarters just before noon. The caller told a detective that men were putting on masks in a car near First and Renfrew, apparently preparing to rob the Royal Bank. The detective dispatched plainclothes officers to the scene, and the sudden police attention apparently spooked the would-be robbers. They took off in a maroon car, which they later abandoned in front of a house at 2325 Kitchener. Hoare and his partner, George Kitson, found the car a short time later. While Kitson stayed with the stolen auto, Hoare went in search of the bandits. He soon spotted 12-year-old Arnold Montgomery near Lord Nelson School. The boy said he had seen the three men, and Hoare took him in the police cruiser to help hunt for the trio.
They headed west and saw the suspects walking along the railway tracks near the Great Northern Roundhouse. Arriving only minutes after officers Charles Boyes and George Ledingham, Hoare parked the car, showed Montgomery how to work the radio and ran to help. Hoare later testified that he saw Ledingham flash his badge and step in front of the three men-subsequently identified as Harry Medos, 23, Douglas Carter, 18, and William Henderson, 17. "They spread out in a line, coming toward me on the tracks", Hoare testified. "And when I was about 10 feet away, I asked: "Who are you three fellows anyway". There was no reply. Then the wind blew open Henderson's coat and Hoare spotted the butt of a handgun sticking out of his pants. The detective reached down, pulled out the gun and asked: "What are you doing with that" Before he could say anything else, all hell broke loose.
Running along the tracks, Medos and Carter wheeled and fired on the officers, killing Boyes, 39, and Ledingham, 40, and wounding Hoare in the hip. "I tried to get my gun out as I fell", Hoare said later. "As I did this, a bullet hit me in the left shoulder." He lay quiet for five seconds, feigning death. Then, still prone and bleeding, he shot the running Carter and saw him fall in the weeds. Medos and Henderson headed in another direction and Hoare, who had learned to shoot on a farm in Alberta, fired a long, arching bullet that hit Medos in the buttocks. By then, Carter was back on his feet and Hoare, still on the ground, fired again. This time, Carter fell and did not get up. "I could hear him breathing from where I sat," Hoare told a coroner's jury. "He must have expired a short time later."
Montgomery, who watched the shooting from the police car, radioed for help, then ran to Hoare's side. Now retired from his job at B.C. Electric and living in Parksville, Montgomery, 62, said he has kept his role on that fateful day to himself. I never told anybody, hardly," he said. "Just a few close friends. I just didn't want to talk about it, that's all. It's something that's in the past and it's not important anymore."
Roy Tabbutt arrived at the scene a few moments after the shooting just as Boyes was closing his eyes. The two men were partners for two or three years until both got promoted to plainclothes duty earlier that year. The friends saw each other for the last time only minutes before the shooting. Tabbutt was headed in one direction searching for the suspects and Boyes in another, but for some reason, they swapped routes, Tabbutt said. "The next time I saw him, he was dead." Now 84 and long since retired from the police department, Tabbutt has often wondered over the years what might have happened if he and Boyes had not changed routes. He has never forgotten that day. "I guess it's one of those things, you know, that happen when you work like that," he said.
Police found Medos and Henderson holed up in a basement at 647 East Sixth, and seven months later, Medos was hanged for the murder of Boyes. Henderson was convicted, but acquitted on appeal. He subsequently served time for heroin possession, and his whereabouts today are not known.
Police estimated that 100,000 people stood 10 deep along Burrard and Georgia streets for the funeral of the two dead officers. Naomi Boyes, who was just six years old at the time, did not attend the funeral, perhaps because she was considered too young. She was not, however, too young to absorb the pain. "I remember being told and then everything kind of went blank" Now a mother of two boys, Naomi Macey, 56, spent four years in therapy in later life to work through that time. "I kind of lived in my own little world, but I think I'm sort of coming out of that now," she said. "Things are seeming to be a lot better, but it did take a long time." She remembers her father performing magic tricks, which he had learned from the Fakirs in India, where he served in the British Army. She remembers, too, her father inviting other policemen over in the evening to play poker. She would sneak from her bed and creep up on to his knee to watch them all play. Fifty years after his death, certain events still trigger the emotions of that time. "I guess the only other thing I can say about it is every time a policeman dies on duty, it's like an intense blow to the solar plexus for everyone in my family," she said. 'I went to a bank in Calgary close to where I work last spring and I arrived about 15 minutes after it had been robbed and my stomach did flip-flops just looking at the scene." Her mother, who remarried, has said not a day goes by that she doesn't remember that time. "It seems that these kind of intense incidents in life imprint themselves on us on a cellular level," Naomi Macey said. "And so every time something comes up to remind us of this, all the emotions come right to the surface again."
Bill Ledingham, who was 13 when his father died, prefers not to talk about that time now. A retired schoolteacher, he said he remembers little of it, except that he had to work summers after his father's death to earn extra money. "I liked those days," he said. "I learned a lot about life digging ditches." But he sees no value in dredging up the unpleasant past-the anniversary stories only upset his mother and serve no real purpose.
Retired Vancouver Police Inspector Ian Sinclair-whose own father Gordon, was killed on the job in 1955-said he understands Ledingham's reluctance. Sinclair said his own mother and sisters suffer every time something is written about their dad. He also said there is value in remembering the risks of the job and the sacrifices officers make in the line of duty. For that reason, police officers from Canada and the U.S. gather on Parliament Hill in Ottawa every September to remember the 330 police and peace officers killed in Canada since Confederation. "I don't think we should forget these things," Sinclair said.
Hoare's own sacrifice remained all but forgotten until a few years ago. He retired from the police department almost two years to the day after the shooting, and went to work in the security department of B.C. Electric. He was never the same physically after the shooting, and he sometimes woke at night screaming and replaying the scenes in his head, wondering how it might have turned out differently. He was 85 before he received a Chief Constable's Commendation from the Vancouver Police Department for his courage in the line of fire. The commendation he received in 1992 hangs over his bed. "It's kind of like a medal, you know?" Two years later, the Workers' Compensation Board finally agreed that he had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and awarded him $15,000"
Charles Boyes: policeman, husband, father, son. "We Shall Never Forget You."
Later investigation implicated the anonymous caller as a known robbery suspect named "Fats" Robertson. The foursome usually robbed banks together but this time he was not invited. He was angry he was left out and phoned the police on his friends. Consequently, there was already a policeman inside the bank when the other three suspects arrived."All the stories and words on this site were written from the heart, by Sgt. Steve Gibson. They are the result of research and interviews by Cst. Tod Catchpole with families and friends of the officers killed in the line of duty. For the sake of authenticity, the stories appear exactly as written and have not been edited by the site creators. While the Vancouver Police Department stands by the stories, visitors to this site should accept that they may contain minor factual inaccuracies."