On December 7th 1955, Constable Gordon Sinclair was working one man, in a marked police vehicle, Car 12, on the southwest side of Vancouver known as District 4. He had just finished having dinner with his family at home at 2600 W. 14th Avenue and was back on patrol. At 18:45 hours, just fifteen minutes after leaving his house, he was dispatched to 1500 W. 3rd Ave. There was a report of two suspicious males prowling the lane. This type of police call is normally routine but the events that were to happen next were anything but routine.
Constable Sinclair was only a few blocks away and was first on the scene. The cover unit arrived a few minutes later and found him lying dead beside his vehicle, suffering from two gunshot wounds, one in the head and one in the back. His body was halfway out of the police car with the engine running and the door open. His overcoat and tunic were still buttoned up, covering his revolver, indicating he had no warning, nor a chance to defend himself. It was common then to wear a heavy overcoat in the car, as there was no heater.
As Constable Hugh Wiebe arrived he saw the two suspects fleeing in a blue convertible driven by a third suspect. He pursued the vehicle and saw the first two suspects exit the getaway vehicle and flee on foot at W. 5th Ave. and Fir Street. Constable Wiebe broadcast this information and continued the vehicle pursuit but lost it several blocks later. The two suspects on foot also escaped. As the search broadened the abandoned vehicle was located three hours later. Constable 167 Devries immediately recognised the vehicle as belonging to a known bank robber by the name of Joe Gordon. During the area search the same night, a loaded but unfired .45 calibre pistol was found near W. 5th and Fir St. where it had been thrown by the suspects but this was not the murder weapon.
The investigation progressed quickly, and within several hours Joe Gordon was arrested hiding out at a downtown rooming house on Howe Street near the Granville Street Bridge. However, he was released a few days later, on December 12th, without charge, for lack of substantial evidence, despite the fact that there was a strong suspicion. As well, he was known to have access to firearms as he was out on bail on an armed bank robbery charge.
Fortunately, a break came in the case when two months later, in February 1956, the second suspect Donald Carey was arrested hiding out in Toronto. As he was facing the death penalty he quickly agreed to give evidence against Joe Gordon. He told investigators the circumstances of the murder and also showed them where the murder weapon, a .38 Webley revolver, was hidden in an old stump near W. 5th and Fir.
He told police that they were "casing" a business in the lane and were planning on breaking in another night to attack the safe. They were surprised upon seeing Constable Sinclair and realized they were trapped and were facing serious jail time if the guns they both had were found. When Constable Sinclair called them over to the police car Joe Gordon saw a way out. They both calmly walked up to the police car and briefly talked to Constable Sinclair who was sitting in the car. Constable Sinclair had his left hand on the door handle about to open it, to get out to interview the suspects and his right hand reached for the radio microphone. At that point Joe Gordon drew his gun, pointed it at Constable Sinclair's head and said "If you touch that thing I'll blow your head off" and shot him in the head. Constable Sinclair fell out of the door and landed face down on the road, Joe Gordon then stood over him and shot him again in the back.
At the trial they were both convicted and sentenced to hang. Joe Gordon was hanged on April 2nd 1957, at Oakalla Prison. The accomplice Donald Carey's death sentence was later commuted to life in prison, where he remained until March 3rd 1968, at which time he was paroled. At the time of writing he is 71 years old and living in Canada.
Gordon Sinclair was a world-renowned player of the highland bagpipes and played in the Vancouver Police Pipe Band. He was president of the B.C. Pipers Association. He was considered a gifted and skilled musician who also played the side, tenor and bass drum. He shared his gift by teaching the bagpipes to whoever wanted to learn. His two daughters took up Highland dancing at an early age and enjoyed it, but lost interest after his death. His one son, Ian Sinclair, became an accomplished piper as a result of his father's teaching. He followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Vancouver Police Department and played the bagpipes in the Vancouver Police Pipe Band. He recently retired as an Inspector after a long and highly successful career.
Gordon Sinclair: policeman, father, husband, son. "We Shall Never Forget You."
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