Murdered in the Line of Duty
Constable James Archibald
Lanarkshire Constabulary and Vancouver Police Department
James Archibald was born on the 16th of July 1885 in the village of Longriggend near Airdrie.
He grew up in the Glengowan area of Caldercruix and on leaving school he became a coal miner.
James joined Lanarkshire Constabulary around 1907/08 and was stationed in Motherwell. He lived in police barracks located near the police office in High Road, Motherwell.
He married Margaret Liddle Campbell on the 15th of December 1908 in Caldercruix. They started their married life living at 5 James Street, Motherwell.
They had a son, John, who was born on the 28th of September 1909 in Motherwell.
James decided to emigrate with his family to Canada in 1912 and he joined the Vancouver Police Department.
He served as a beat policeman for over a year in Vancouver.
On the night of May 28, 1913, Constable James Archibald headed out to walk the beat on Powell Street. When he failed to return to the station after his shift, a search was launched. His fellow officers found his body in a vacant lot on Powell Street the next morning. He had been shot three times.
Constable Archibald spent his last shift diligently patrolling the commercial area on Powell Street, as there had been a recent rash of burglaries. The investigation into his murder would later reveal that as he was walking past the office of Hastings Shingle Mall No.2 in the 1300 block of Powell Street at 1:30 a.m., two men were coming out a side door after burglarizing the business. When one of the men lit a cigarette, Constable Archibald saw the flash from the match, and walked toward it.
He approached cautiously, holding his flashlight in his left hand and his revolver in his right. When his flashlight captured the two men, he asked them what they were doing.
One of the men told him they were looking for a place to sleep in the bushes. The constable was suspicious and detained them for further investigation. In order to search them properly, he needed both hands, so he put his revolver back in his holster. When searching the first man, later identified as Herman Clark, he quickly found a pry-bar hidden in his pocket. At this point, he would have realized he was in a dangerous situation – outnumbered by two burglary suspects.
Constable Archibald reached for his revolver to arrest them, however Clark and his partner-in-crime, Frank Davis, were both also armed. Clark drew first, shooting the constable three times from point blank range, killing him instantly. The men fled, but then quickly returned to hide the evidence. They hid Constable Archibald’s body in some nearby bushes, and tossed his revolver and flashlight, along with their burglary tools, into a mud-hole.
The two men, however, left behind valuable evidence next to the body – a crudely-made, black cloth mask, which would lead to their arrest later the same day. Detectives Levis and Tisdale made the arrests, arresting not only Clark and Davis, but also Joseph “Blackie” Seymour and William Hamilton. An informant’s tip led police to their hideout in a nearby waterfront shack. When searched, police found a match to the mask found beside Constable Archibald’s body. A piece of black material was found with the outline of the mask cut from it.
All four men were taken to jail and interrogated by Detectives Levis and Tisdale. As they were all facing the death penalty, Joseph “Blackie” Seymour and William Hamilton quickly decided to give “King’s evidence” and were granted immunity.
They provided evidence to the investigators regarding where the murder weapon was hidden and also testified at the trial. On November 6, 1913, Clark and Davis were found guilty. His lordship Justice Morrison sentenced them “to be hanged by the neck until dead.”
They were hanged on May 15, 1914, in the provincial jail in New Westminster almost a year after the murder.
Constable James Archibald was 27 years old when he died, with only 13 months on the job with the Vancouver Police Department. He was the second officer of the Vancouver Police Department to be killed.
It is ironic to note that on the day prior to the murder PC Archibald paraded with his colleagues outside the Police HQ where several members of the force were presented with Bravery medals.
Over 60,000 members of the public lined the streets for the funeral with over 600 police officers, firemen and soldiers in attendance.
During the investigation, a background check of Clark revealed he had escaped from Folsom Prison in California on July 29, 1912, where he was serving a 12-year sentence for first-degree burglary.
Ironically, Detective Levis, one of the arresting officers, would also be killed in the line of duty almost a year later.
Margaret Archibald returned to Scotland with her family and again settled in Caldercruix. She re-married in 1919. She died on the 18th of July 1853 aged 67 years at her home – 196 Main Street, Caldercruix.
Some of this entry has been courtesy of the Vancouver Police Museum who hold records on Constable Archibald’s service and death in the line of duty.