VPD Constable Gordon SinclairOn December 6, 1955, Constable Gordon Sinclair had just finished having dinner with his family at their home at 1600 W. 14th Avenue, when he headed back to his patrols of the southwest area of Vancouver. Fifteen minutes later he would be dead just a few blocks away.

Constable Sinclair was the first officer to arrive at 1500 W.3rd Avenue for a report of two suspicious men prowling in the lane. When his cover unit pulled up, they found his car door open, the engine running, and Constable Sinclair hanging halfway out of the vehicle. He had been shot once in the head and once in the back. His overcoat and tunic were still buttoned up, covering his revolver, indicating he had no warning or chance to defend himself.

When Constable Hugh Wiebe arrived, he saw the two suspects fleeing in a blue convertible, with a third suspect at the wheel. As he pursued the vehicle, he watched the first two suspects get out and flee on foot at W.5th Avenue and Fir Street. When officers searched the area of W.5th and Fir hours later, they found a loaded but unfired .45 calibre pistol, which had been thrown by the fleeing suspects. It was not, however, the murder weapon.

Constable Wiebe broadcast the information to his fellow officers, continuing the pursuit of the vehicle, but he lost it several blocks later.

The blue convertible was located three hours later, and Constable Devries immediately recognized it as belonging to a known bank robber by the name of Joe Gordon. Within several hours, Gordon was arrested while hiding out at a downtown rooming house on Howe Street near the Granville Street Bridge. Despite strong suspicion – and that he was known to have access to firearms and was out on bail on an armed bank robbery charge -- there wasn’t enough evidence to hold him, and on December 12th he was released without charge.

A break in the case finally came two months later, in February of 1956, when the second suspect Donald Carey, was arrested 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 took them to the murder weapon, a .38 Webley revolver, which was hidden in an old stump near W.5th and Fir.

He told investigators that he and Gordon were casing a business in the lane for a future break-in to crack the safe. They were surprised to see Constable Sinclair and realized they were facing serious jail time if the guns they were carrying were found. When Constable Sinclair called them over to his police car, Joe Gordon saw a way out. They calmly walked up to the police car and briefly spoke to the constable, who was sitting in his car. As the constable placed his left hand on the door handle to open it and get out, his right hand reached for his radio microphone.

Joe Gordon pulled his gun and pointed it at the officer’s head. “If you touch that thing I’ll blow your head off,” he said, right before pulling the trigger, shooting him in the head. Constable Sinclair fell out the door and landed face down on the road. Joe Gordon then stood over him and shot him again in the back.

Both men were convicted and sentenced to hang. Joe Gordon was hanged on April 2, 1957, at Oakalla Prison. Donald Carey’s death sentence was later commuted to life in prison, where he remained until March 3, 1968, at which time he was paroled.

Gordon Sinclair was a world-renowned player of the Highland bagpipes, played in the Vancouver Police Pipe Band, and was president of the B.C. Pipers Association. He was 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, 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, joining the Vancouver Police Department and playing the bagpipes in the Vancouver Police Pipe Band. He retired as an inspector after a long and highly successful career.

Constable Gordon Sinclair was 40 years old when he died, and had served 14 years with the Vancouver Police Department.

Gordon Sinclair: police officer, father, husband, son.

More Information

VPD Pipe Band
Gordon Sinclair Memorial Fund

British Columbia Law Enforcement Memorial