Cst. Neil Bruce – 50th Anniversary Memorial Service

June 10, 2014 - Photograph of flowers laid at the "E" Division Memorial for the three Moncton RCMP members kille

 

 

This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of regimental #20824, Constable Neil M. Bruce, who, on April 14, 1965, succumbed to the effects of a gunshot wound sustained April 10th, 1965, whilst in the line of duty, near Westbank, B.C.

 

 

 

To commemorate the service and sacrifice of Constable Bruce, the management of Kelowna Regional detachment is in the initial stages of planning a memorial to he held at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2015, at the cairn marking the site where Constable Bruce was mortally wounded.  Location is in the Glen Canyon Park Aberdeen Street en route West Kelowna, B.C.

The Officer-in-Charge Kelowna Regional RCMP Detachment cordially invites you to a memorial event in honour of our fallen member, Constable Neil McArthur Bruce.

For more information, please contact Inspector Gord Stewart (250)470-6206 gord.stewart@rcmp-grc.gc.ca or Staff Sergeant Major Ross van de Brink at (250)491-2373 ross.vandenbrink@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

Preliminary indications are that members of the Bruce-Fuoco family will be in attendance as will a contingent of students and staff from the Constable Neil Bruce School in West Kelowna, in addition to serving members of the greater Kelowna region.

Photograph of Constable Neil

Photograph of RCMP Constable Neil (Reg.#20824)

For those police veterans who are not familiar with this murder, we have included the news articles from that time below.

MOUNTIE DIES OF GUN WOUND – International Hunt Launched

OKANAGAN POLICE from five RCMP detachments assemble at Westbank, hear Kelowna, for all-out search for Russell Spears, 59, wanted in connection with shooting of Constable Neil Bruce, 26, and Beverley Charest, 17, near Westbank (Source of photo - Dave Colville  of the Vancouver Sun Newspaper).

OKANAGAN POLICE from five RCMP detachments assemble at Westbank, hear Kelowna, for all-out search for Russell Spears, 59, wanted in connection with shooting of Constable Neil Bruce, 26, and Beverley Charest, 17, near Westbank (Source of photo – Dave Colville of the Vancouver Sun Newspaper).

April 14, 1965 – (Vancouver Sun Newspaper) – Kelowna – An international alert was issued for the suspect killer of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable.

The alert went out to all police forces in Canada and the United States following the death in hospital of Constable Neil Bruce, 26.

Bruce was shot down with a .22 calibre rifle Saturday when he and a fellow officer were checking a remote cabin on Powers Creek, near Westbank.

A full-scale manhunt had been underway since then on a round the clock basis for Russell Spears, 59, of Westbank.

Spears is sought on a warrant charging him with the attempted murder of Const. Bruce and Beverley Charest, 17, of Lumby, who was also shot at the cabin.

COULD BE ANYWHERE

RCMP Assistant Commissioner D.O. Forrest said in Vancouver that the alert to either police agencies was issued because Spears has eluded his pursuers for four days and could be anywhere.

There’s not a sign of him,” said a senior officer: “It’s very frustrating.”

Assistant Commissioner Forrest said his men have orders to take the suspect into custody, but will shoot to protect themselves if they believe their lives are in danger.

GREAT SHOCK

He said the death of Bruce came as a great shock to him.

The last report I had Tuesday evening was that he was progressing favourably,” Forrest said.

I know I speak for everyman on the force when I say we’re very upset. Const. Bruce was giving excellent service and had great prospects in the RCMP.”

Const. Bruce, who was shot in the chest, died just before 7 a.m. today.

The bullet, which pierced his right lung, was removed in an emergency operation Saturday and doctors were successful in re-inflating the lung.

RCMP said death resulted from complications in the lung injury.

Const. Bruce, a native of Fredericton, N.B.

TRAPPED BY POLICE, KILLER SHOOTS SELF – Dog Flushes Out Mountie Slayer

Photograph of Russell Spears (Source of photo - Vancouver Sun Newspaper)

Photograph of Russell Spears (Source of photo – Vancouver Sun Newspaper)

April 19 1965 – (Vancouver Sun Newspaper) – Kelowna – Russell Spears, 59, wanted for the murder of an RCMP constable, shot and killed himself today as a police posse closed in.

Police said Spars, object of an intensive manhunt for nine days, shot himself between the eyes with a .22 calibre rifle after he was rushed out of the woods by a police do and four constables.

He died instantly.

The shooting took place at Trepanier Bench, about a mile west of highway 97. The area is 10 miles south of here.

RCMP said a resident Maynard Haskell, phoned police at 6:30 a.m. after his wife saw a man in a clearing near his house.

He disappeared after a few moments, Haskell said.

Police said a search patrol of four men and a dog heading south to Summerland was diverted to check the report.

The dog took scent immediately and followed a trail down a ravine and up the other side at the run,” an RCMP officer said.

Photograph of RCMP Dog Services handler - Constable George Hawkins from Cloverdale Detachment (Source of photo - Vancouver Sun Newspaper).

Photograph of RCMP Dog Services handler – Constable George Hawkins from Cloverdale Detachment (Source of photo – Vancouver Sun Newspaper).

KNOCKED DOWN

He flushed out Spears and knocked him down near a small jack pine.”

Dogmaster George Hawkins (Reg.#19758) of Cloverdale, who was right behind, called on him to surrender.”

The man put his rifle to his forehead and shot himself between the eyes.”

The others in the party with Hawkins and the dog, Prince, were Constables D.M. McLay of Lytton, D.N. Marchard of Kelowna and Ken Jones of Kelowna.

Spears was wanted for the capital murder of RCMP Const. Neil Bruce, 26, and the attempted murder of Beverley Charest, 17, of Lumby.

The two were shot April 10 at a cabin on Powers Cheek, west of Highway 97 near Westbank.

The constable died Wednesday from a bullet wound in the right lung. the girl, shot in the jaw and shoulder, is recovering in Kelowna General Hospital.

NEARLY MISSED

Mrs. Haskell to The Sun she almost missed seeing Spears.

I was sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee when I saw this guy just disappear into the bush about 150 yards from the house.”

If I’d looked out a second later I wouldn’t have seen him.”

Spears was hunded down on a neighbouring farm owned by Ross Oatman, who is away on vacation.

Police said Spears’ .22 calibre semi-automatic rifle contained 13 live shells.

In one of his pockets they found a receipt for $24 signed by Miss Charest.

Spears had no food. A dog earlier believed to have accompanied him when he left the cabin was not with him.

Police surmised the dog was wounded by shots fired by Const. Bruce at the cabin as he fell.

They said Spears, who had been working at sawmills in years, had a long criminal record.

CONVICTIONS LISTED

It included convictions in 1935 for carnal knowledge, 1938 for rape, 1948 for assault with intent to commit rape, 1949 for escaping custody, 1959 for contributing to juvenile delinquency, and 1962 for assault.

The last conviction was recorded after Spears assaulted an 18 year old Merritt girl who he hired as a house-keeper. Police said the circumstances were similar to those involving Charest girl, also hired as a housekeeper.

SERVED 16 MONTHS

Spears was charged with indecent assault but found guilty of a reduce charge of common assault. He was sentenced to two years in the BC Penitentiary and was released March 15, 1964, after serving 16 months.

Police said Kelowna coroner Don White will hold inquests into the deaths of both Const. Bruce and Spears.

The inquests are not likely to be held until Miss Charest, unable to speak because of her jaw wound, is able to give evidence.

NEAR SHOOTING SCENE

The Trepanier Bench area is about four miles from the cabin where the shooting occurred. Const. Bruce had gone there to investigate a report that Miss Charest was being held against her will.

A posse of up to 50 policemen from five detachments aided by three tracking dogs, a plane and a helicopter, had searched the rugged area thoroughly without finding a trace of the fugitive.

The manhunt had been kept up on a 24-hour basis, with heavily-armed officers searching the area on foot by day, and roving road patrols watching for movement at night.

RCMP HONOR GUARD - was given Constable Neil Bruce, 25, Saturday, where he was buried in Kelowna.  Bruce died of gunshot wounds while investigating complaint at cabin near Westbank.  His slayer, Russell Spears, shot and killed himself today when cornered in bush 10 miles south of Kelowna.

April 19, 1965 -RCMP HONOR GUARD – was given Constable Neil Bruce, 25, Saturday, where he was buried in Kelowna.  Bruce died of gunshot wounds while investigating complaint at cabin near Westbank.  His slayer, Russell Spears, shot and killed himself today when cornered in bush 10 miles south of Kelowna.

 

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