Police Constable Victor Donald Ahearn

Constable Victor Donald Ahearn
New South Wales Police

New South Wales Police

Victor Donald Ahearn
Detective Constable 1st Class
Killed in the line of duty, August 11, 1946.

On 11 August, 1946, Detective Constable Ahearn and Detective Constable Bowie waited at Long Bay Gaol to arrest two suspects wanted for break and enter and motor vehicle theft offences. When the two men arrived to visit two female prisoners at the gaol, as expected, the Detectives arrested them. They then set out to convey the prisoners to Daceyville Police Station, with Constable Bowie driving, and Constable Ahearn seated in the rear of the police vehicle between the prisoners. Shortly after leaving the gaol, one of the prisoners produced a firearm and shot Constable Ahearn twice in the side. Constable Bowie quickly stopped the vehicle, and when trying to assist his colleague now struggling with the offenders, he was also attacked. After assaulting Constable Bowie, the offenders escaped, though were later arrested. Unfortunately, Detective Constable Ahearn died of his wounds before medical assistance arrived at the scene. The Constable was born in 1906 [the son of Percy Augustis and Elizabeth Anne Pirie] and joined the New South Wales Police Force on 8 January, 1930.
The Thin Blue Line

Shot By Two Men While Being Escorted To Police Station
SYDNEY, Sunday.   
Detective-Constable Vincent Donald Ahearn, 40, was murdered this afternoon in a police car in Anzac Parade, while two men were being taken to North Sydney police station for questioning in connection with car thefts. It was one of the most cold-blooded and callous crimes committed in Australia. The men had been detained after visiting two female prisoners at Long Bay Gaol, Joyce Read and Edna Grant. An attempt was made to shoot Detective-Constable Bowie, 27, who was seated in the police car, but the pistol jammed. The two men then bashed Bowie about the head and jumped from the car, escaping into the bush near the Bunnerong power house.

The shooting took place within a few miles of the Long Bay Gaol. As the police car approached the old speedway at Maroubra one of the men pulled a revolver that had been concealed among his clothing, and shot Ahearn twice through the chest, one bullet puncturing his heart. Detective Bowie was seated in the front seat of the car while Detective Ahearn was in the back seat between the two men. On hearing the shots Detective Bowie turned round and saw his colleague in a slumped position on the edge of the seat.

For the first time the new police plane was used in a search for the two escapees over the area of the crime. More than 400 police, assisted by police dogs and with soldiers armed with tommy-guns in support, are scouring dense scrub between Bunnerong Road and La Perouse Road. At the North Sydney Court last Tuesday, two attractive girls, Joyce Read, 19, and Edna Grant, 20, were committed for trial on three charges of illegally using motor cars, and one of breaking, entering and stealing from a Lindfield garage. Bail was fixed at £200 for Grant and £100 for Read, but they did not find the surety. During the hearing, in a statement allegedly made by Read, she told how she and Grant were arrested in a stolen car at Northbridge in the early hours on July 29, when they had been left by two men. Caught in the headlights of an oncoming car one of the, men called, "It's the 'coppers' go through." The men then disappeared into the bushes. The alleged statement added that Read had been lured into crime by a man and his associates whom she had met one night at the California, a cafe in Darlinghurst Road, King's Cross.

Detective-Constable Bowie applied the brakes at the same time as he was grappling with the two men, one of whom hit him about the head and face with the butt of a revolver. Bowie continued to fight back and shortly afterwards collapsed into unconsciousness. The two men were seen to leap from the car and run in opposite directions. When the police arrived, Bowie was still clutching his half-drawn revolver and the body of Ahearn was found crouched on the back seat. Darkness set in soon after the search of the Bunnerong scrub land had started, and military searchlights were used to assist. The police warned residents in the Malabar district, who owned cars, to be on the watch as the wanted men were experienced drivers.

The police are anxious to interview a man, known as Keith, who was in company with the two men this morning. Late to-night the police stated they were anxious to interview Sidney Greenep, alias Grant and also alias McMahon.

The Canberra Times 12 August 1946

Intense Search for Accomplice
SYDNEY, Monday.
Early this morning Sidney Grant, 28, was arrested at gunpoint in a guest house at North Sydney, and charged with the murder on Sunday afternoon of Detective-Constable Victor Donald Ahearn. A police cordon had been thrown around Sydney to apprehend Keith George Hope, 23, alias Beckett, and all trains, planes and ships are being closely watched while the cooperation of the Victorian police has been sought in case Hope should break through the cordon in an at tempt to return to Victoria. The search for Hope is also being intensified in the Newcastle district. Grant was arrested by armed police while he was breakfasting at a guest house. He offered no resistance. A large squad of police was rushed to the guest house and, while all exits were guarded. Detective H. Hughes and Sergt. R. K. Knight, with revolvers drawn, rushed inside. They threw open the door of a room and found Grant having breakfast.

Later, Grant appeared before the North Sydney Court with his head bandaged and was charged with the murder of Detective Ahearn on which charge he was remanded to the Central Court on August 20, bail being refused. Grant appeared in court handcuffed to a detective-sergeant and was later removed under a heavy escort.

Sergeant M. Whelan, who conducted the prosecution, told the court that Grant and another man had been arrested at the entrance to the women's reformatory at Long Bay Gaol. The two men were placed in a police car, which was driven by Detective-Constable Bowie, while Ahearn sat between the men. After the police car had proceeded about a mile and a half from the reformatory, Grant drew a revolver and twice shot Ahearn, who died in a few minutes, Bowie, stopped the car and struggled with Grant, who was disarmed, but Bowie was assaulted about the face. Grant and the other man then disappeared.

Shortly before 3.30 p.m. Grant was again before the North Sydney Court and was remanded until August 20, on nine charges of breaking, entering and stealing, including the theft of four sub-machine guns, two revolver chambers, and a quantity of ammunition, to the value £50, from Rushcutters Bay naval depot, on July 30.

Four counts dealt with alleged thefts of wireless Sets. He was also charged with stealing clothing, valued at £200, from a shop at Crow's Nest on July 31, with breaking into a shop at King's Cross Road on July 5 and stealing women's clothing, worth £100, and with breaking into a garage at Killara on July 28, and stealing tyres and money to the value of £30. Grant was also remanded on two charges of having been in possession of firearms.

The police produced four Thomson sub-machine guns and two ammunition cases which were found among some bush at Roseville. The Victorian police advised that ballistic tests proved that the revolver which bad been used in the murder, had been stolen from a resident of Hawthorn in 1942. It is believed that Grant left a considerable sum of money in Melbourne. His arrest followed probably the greatest man-hunt ever staged in this State. Almost 500 police and soldiers were engaged. Grant told the police that he arrived by car from Melbourne on Saturday and, with a companion, booked in at the guest house early on Sunday morning.

There was no power to search any person whether visiting a gaol, a police court or any other establishment unless such a person was first arrested and charged, said the Minister of Justice (Mr. Downing) who added that such searching would be an offence.

The Minister explained there was no restriction about the number of visits by friends to gaol prisoners who were also permitted to receive foodstuffs, but there was no physical contact between such prisoners and visitors because of a heavy wire gauze separating them. A Sydney detective stated that when a policeman visited the gaol he was required to hand over his revolver and he could not understand why the same regulation did not apply to civilians. A late Melbourne message stated that two men had been detained at the C.I.B. office for questioning in connection with the murder.

The Canberra Times 13 August 1946

Victor Donald Ahearn
AHEARN. — August 11, 1946, Victor Donald. Dearly beloved husband of Irene Ahearn, and loving father of Max, aged 40 years.
Sydney Morning Herald 13 August 1946

Large Number At Funeral Of Detective
The funeral yesterday of Detective V. D. Ahearn, who was shot by a gunman on Sunday, was one of the largest seen in North Sydney. Christ Church, Lavender Bay, was crowded for a memorial service. About 300 members of the police force remained in the street, and many other sympathisers were unable to get into the church. Detective-Constable Alexander Bowie, who was injured in the police car in which Detective Ahearn was shot, was among the mourners. The funeral service was conducted by the Rev. Dr. Frank Cash. Archbishop Mowll, who gave the address at the service, said he hoped it would be some comfort to Mrs. Ahearn that so large and representative a gathering had come together to do honour to her husband, who in the course of his duty had suddenly been killed.
"Others are here," said Archbishop Mowll, "to show regard for the police force, to whom the community owes an increasing debt of gratitude. "The episode of last Sunday afternoon brings home to everyone the risk continually being run by members of the force. We are grateful to them for what they are doing to protect us." Boy Scouts of the 1st Lavender Bay Troop, of which Max Ahearn, son of the detective, is a member, occupied the choir seats at the service. The coffin was carried from the church after the service by Detectives Whiteman, Fagan. Griffin, Kelly, and Tupper, who had worked with Detective Ahearn. A detachment of about 300 uniformed and plainclothes men preceded the hearse. These were followed by a company of' military police in the charge of Captain Wiseman, and by members of the New South Wales Fire Brigade under Inspector J. Neville, who also represented the Chief Officer and the Board of Fire Commissioners.
The funeral proceeded through the city to Rookwood Cemetery. The cortege as it left the church was preceded by motor cyclists, a detachment of mounted police, and the police band. Along Lavender Street, Blues Point Road, and Blue Street to Bradfield Highway the route was lined by hundreds of spectators. Ordinary traffic along the route to the Bridge was held up for about half an hour. There were about 100 motor cars following the hearse. The chief mourners were Mrs. Ahearn, widow, Max Ahearn, son; Mr. P. Ahearn, father; Mrs. R. Moon, and Mrs. A. Clarke, sisters, Messrs. Moon and Clarke, brothers-in-law; and Mr. and Mrs. H. Mallard, father-in-law and mother-in-law. Officers and members of Masonic Lodge Tuscan also attended. Superintendent J. F. Scott represented the Chief Commissioner, Mr. Mackay. Other police officers present included Superintendent B. E. Sadler, who was in charge of the police arrangements; Superintendents F. Matthews, T. Wickham, and N. D. James, of the C.I.B.; Superintendent W. E. Sherringham, Inspectors M. Cahill, W. L. Alford, C. Kennedy, and J. Nealon; ex-Superintendent W. Sherringham and a number of retired officers and men.
Sydney Morning Herald 14 August 1946

Keith George Hope, who was wanted by the police for questioning in connection with the shooting of Detective Ahearn on Sunday, walked into the Scone police station at 11.45 p.m. and gave himself up. He told the police that he arrived at 3 a.m. on Monday and, after staying at the Royal Hotel, obtained work on a farm. The police were advised that a man answering to his description, had booked in at the hotel. Hope when he entered the police station, said, "I understand that you were making inquiries about me, so I thought I had better give myself up." He added that the farmer, by whom, he had been employed, had driven him to the police station.

Two detectives will leave Sydney to-morrow to take Hope back to Sydney. They have been instructed to take no chances with him. Police in Sydney to-night hinted that intensified co-operation between forces in other States, following the murder of Ahearn on Sunday, may lead to a clean-up of certain inter-state crimes. A senior officer of the C.I.B. said that detectives in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane had been working to break up certain interstate criminal activities.

Large crowds gathered to-day to pay their last respects to Detective Constable Ahearn, when the funeral was held. Mounted police were in attendance with detachments of police, military provosts and motor cyclists. The funeral of Detective Ahearn was conducted to-day. A service was held at Christ Church where Archbishop Mowll paid a moving tribute to the service rendered to the community as a whole by the police force.

The Canberra Times 14 August 1946

Hope Charged With Murder
Keith George Hope, also known as Keith Beckett, 23, labourer, was charged at Central Police Court yesterday with having on August 11 murdered Detective Victor Donald Ahearn. Hope was also charged with having had in his possession a car stolen in Victoria, knowing it to have been stolen. The police prosecutor, Sergeant Whelan, said that last Sunday afternoon, Detectives Ahearn and Bowie were escorting in a car Hope and a man named Grant from the women's reformatory at Long Bay gaol. Some distance from Long Bay gaol Ahearn had been shot three times and had died almost immediately. Sergeant Whelan asked for a remand until August 20. Grant had been remanded to that date, he added. Mr. Beavers, S.M., granted the remand and refused bail. Hope was escorted into the court by the two detectives who had brought him back from Scone yesterday morning. He was neatly dressed in a brown suit, blue shirt, and red tie.
The Sydney Morning Herald 16 August 1946

SYDNEY, Thursday.   
Keith George Hope, 23, was charged at the Central Court to-day with the murder of Detective-Constable Ahearn on Sunday last and was remanded until August 20. He was also charged with being in possession of a stolen motor car. Hope was escorted into court by Detectives Hargreaves and Strachan, who had brought him from Scone where he had given himself up. During the brief court proceedings Hope did not speak.
The Canberra Times 16 August 1946
Back to Index

Det. Ahearn's Death
SYDNEY, August 16.—The big, dark-haired policeman kissed his wife [Irene] before sitting down to breakfast in his cheerful flat at Lavender Street, North Sydney. He had been up late the night before, but that had not affected his good-humour. Nothing, his wife reflected, ever seemed to affect that. He ate his cornflakes and chops, drank his cup of strong coffee. Then, with his 11-year-old son to help, he started to paint the kitchen woodwork. He had promised his wife to do it, and, once he had promised — even little things — she could always count on him to do them. It was Saturday. He stuck at the painting until he had to go on duty.

Sunday, he was on duty again. As he went out this time, whistling softly, his wife saw him turn, heard him call back cheerily: "I'll finish off the paint when I get home." But this week, the woodwork was still waiting to be finished. Early on the Sunday afternoon policeman Victor Ahearn was shot twice through the heart while doing duty as an escort. Said his widow, pretty, sad-eyed Rene Ahearn, this week: "Vic. was a big, strong chap; but be never thought it sissy to help me in the flat. He was always doing something for me. "I get sciatica. When I was sick he used to do all the shopping for me. Sometimes he'd get so many vegetables we wouldn't know what to do with them. "He used to cook for our son Max and me when I was ill. He was a good cook, too. "When you met him once you knew him. He never changed. I met him when I was 16 and he was 28. He lived in a boarding house next door. We married four years later. That was nearly 13 years ago. "He was in the Police Force sixteen and a half years. The last 10 he'd been a detective. "That meant broken shifts, working until the job was done, coming home at odd hours. But he was always so dependable, so jolly. I didn't mind the anxiety, the strain of being a policeman's wife. "Week-ends, when he was off duty, we used to go fishing with our son. Vic. loved fishing more than any other pastime. We had planned a trip from Mosman Bay this week-end. "He had only lately been transferred from Clarence Street Station to North Sydney. He liked the move because it brought him nearer home — he could come back to the flat for lunch when he was working early shifts. "Vic. took me to the C.I.B. ball two days before he was killed. I wore a new wine velvet evening dress — my first since the end of the war. Vic. said to me: 'You don't look a day older than when I married you. Let's have our photo taken.' "He asked me three times before I agreed. I was so surprised, because he hadn't had a photo taken since our wedding. He hated posing for a picture." Widowed Mrs. Ahearn will continue to live in her flat at the corner of Walker and Lavender Streets. Said she: "My friends are here. So are my happy memories. Why should I move?

Townsville Daily Bulletin 17 August 1946

SYDNEY, Tuesday.
Sidney Grant and Keith George Hope, charged with the murder of Detective V. D. Ahearn at Matraville on August 11, were remanded until September 10 at the Central Court to-day. Grant said that a writ of habeas corpus had been served on the police to enable his wife to give evidence on a theft charge against him. Grant also faces nine charges of breaking, entering and stealing and two of possessing firearms while being a person previously convicted. Bail was refused both men.
The Canberra Times 28 August 1946

SYDNEY, Tuesday.
Evidence of the shooting of Detective Ahearn in a police car at Matraville on August 11, was given at the Coroner's Court to-day by Constable Bowie, who was driving the car. Sydney Grant and Keith George Hope were present in custody, charged with murder. Constable Bowie told how he and Ahearn were driving in a police car, in which the accused were also sitting. Previously they had met the accused at the women's reformatory and told them they were wanted for a "couple of jobs at North Sydney." They ran their hands over the accused's clothes, after which the men got in the car with Ahearn between them.

After proceeding about a mile and a half, something was said about cigarettes and this was followed immediately by a shot. He heard Ahearn say he had been shot. Almost immediately there were two more shots. Witness stopped the car and saw Hope get out. Grant had a pistol pointed at witness but the pistol jammed. He took the gun from Grant who punched him about the head, but witness grabbed the gun and hit Grant with the butt. The latter replied he had had enough and, referring to Ahearn, said, "Will the poor ———— die?" Grant then leaned back in the seat and kicked witness about the face. The inquiry was adjourned until next Tuesday.

The Canberra Times 11 September 1946

Alleged Admission by Accused
SYDNEY, Tuesday
At the resumed inquest to-day into the death of Detective Ahearn, the police produced two letters, alleged to have been written by Sidney Grant, one of the accused, to his wife who was an inmate of Long Bay Gaol. An extract from one letter read: "He got in my way, so I let him have it. As for the other fellow, well, he's lucky he's not there calling for the angels too. Only for my rod jamming he would have been."

The second letter said in part: "Ahearn got the works for standing in my way and yours." and also stated: "I got the word through that everything is working as planned by the boys in Melbourne and as soon as they take that escort off, well, it's on and I'll be free again." Telling the court that the letters had been forwarded to the C.I.B., but he could not say by whom, Detective-Constable H. J. Hughes said that Grant had admitted writing the letters but had claimed he did not mean what was in them.

The police also tendered to the Court a statement allegedly made by Grant in which it was claimed that the shooting of Detective Ahearn was accidental. According to the statement Grant was getting cigarettes from his pocket when Ahearn saw that he had a gun and tried to grab it. "It accidentally went off the first time and realising what I had done I just went on with it by shooting him again," the alleged statement added.

Also tendered was a statement allegedly made by Keith George Hope, the statement read in part: "I did not want to give myself up until after Grant was caught, as I was frightened at what he might do to me, because after he shot the detective in cold blood he would shoot me without compunction."

The Canberra Times 18 September 1946

SYDNEY, Tuesday.   
A demonstration to support his claim that the shooting was accidental was given in the Criminal Court to-day by Sidney Grant. Grant and Keith George Hope are jointly charged with the murder of Detective Victor Ahearne, at Matraville, on August 11, and both pleaded not guilty. Grant denied that he was a cold-blooded killer and claimed he had had an opportunity to seize Detective Bowie's pistol and also shoot him, but had refrained from doing so. With the assistance of a constable, two chairs and a pistol, Grant demonstrated to the jury how the pistol had been removed from his hip pocket. Grant said that when he had withdrawn the pistol, Detective Ahearne saw it and grabbed at it. The safety catch was on when he put it in his pocket and the pressure of Ahearne's hand must have set it off. "After the first shot Was fired I wanted to let the gun go and escape but I feared that if I left the gun in Ahearne's hand he might shoot me". I tried to take the gun from his hand and, in doing so, I shot him again." Grant claimed he handed the gun to Bowie who pointed it at his (Grant's) head and he heard three distinct clicks. He did not know the pistol was loaded until it went off. Hope declared on oath that he had taken no part in the shooting. He had not given himself up until Grant was caught as he thought that Grant might shoot him, seeing he was the only witness to the crime. The trial will be resumed to-morrow.
The Canberra Times 4 December 1946

Detective Shot Accidentally, Accused Claims
Sydney Grant, 28, labourer, claimed in the Central Criminal Court yesterday
that Detective Constable Victor Donald Ahearn was shot accidentally
at Matraville on August 11.
Grant and Keith George Hope, 23, farm labourer, were charged with having murdered Ahearn in a police car travelling from Long Bay Gaol to North Sydney. Grant said in evidence yesterday that Ahearn had been shot accidentally while struggling in the car for a gun which he (Grant) was trying to dispose of. Grant said he came to Sydney from Melbourne in a stolen car on August 11. He was accompanied by Hope. He found an automatic pistol in the glove box of the car. In the afternoon, he and Hope went to Long Bay Gaol to see his wife. When he went into the gaol, he put the pistol in his hip pocket. As they left the gaol, they were approached by Constables Ahearn and Bowie, who asked them to accompany them to the North Sydney police station for questioning.
Ahearn sat in the middle of the back seat, and Constable Bowie sat at the wheel. He asked Ahearn if he could smoke and he agreed. While trying to pull the revolver out of his pocket it became jammed. Ahearn looked down and saw the weapon. Ahearn grabbed his hand, and tried to pull it forward, causing the pistol to explode. "I realised then what had happened, and thought of escaping," said Grant. "I thought I would take the gun because Ahearn might shoot me. His body slumped over my shoulder, but he continued to struggle for the gun. I now know he had a death grip on the gun, and it again exploded. The recoil of the gun again caused it to fire."
Grant, with a police officer sitting on a chair, demonstrated on the floor of the Court to the jury the movements of the struggle in the car. "After the third shot, I handed the revolver to Constable Bowie," Grant added. Constable Bowie said, 'You have killed my mate in cold blood.' I replied 'It was an accident. I had no reason for shooting him.' Hope tried to leave the car after the first shot. Bowie pointed the revolver at me and tried to shoot me, but the pistol had jammed. I punched and kicked Bowie in the face. I felt justified in doing this, because he had just tried to take my life. I eventually worked my way to the offside door of the car. I was in a position to see Bowie's service pistol in a holster. If I had been what the police and public believed me to be-a coldblooded killed-I could have taken his pistol and killed him in cold blood, but I did not, because I am not a killer."

Grant said he got out of the car and picked up a taxi. Hope, he added, did not know he had the pistol in his possession when they went into the gaol. He denied that he had told Hope previously that he would use it if he got into a jam. Keith George Hope, in evidence, said he first knew Grant had a pistol when he went with him to the gaol. He asked him whether it was loaded, and Grant replied that it was, and that he wanted to do a few hold-ups to get his wife out of gaol.

Mr. Kinkead (for Hope): At any time was there an arrangement to prevent yourselves from being arrested? Hope: No. Hope added that he thought Grant might shoot him as the only witness to his crime. He made up his mind to surrender to the police as soon as Grant was arrested.

Sergeant Brown, ballistics expert, recalled, said that if the first shot had been fired as indicated by Grant, with the hands in the position shown by him, the pistol would have jammed after the first shot, because the hands on the pistol would have interfered with the movement of the slide and the ejection of the fired shell.

The trial will resume this morning. Mr. T. S. Crawford, K. C. (by Mr. F. Cleland) for the Crown; Mr. Kincaid (by Messrs. J. E. Carruthers and Co., for Hope; and Mr. A. G. Brindley for Grant.

The Sydney Morning Herald 11 December 1946

SYDNEY, Wednesday.
Sidney Grant, who was found guilty by a jury in the Criminal Court to day of murdering Detective Ahearn on August 11, was sentenced to death. Keith George Hope, who was presented on the same charge was found not guilty but he is being held on other charges.
The Canberra Times 12 December 1946

   Civilians and police have contributed £1,294/16/8 to the fund for the education and future welfare of Max Ahearn, 11, son of Detective V. D. Ahearn, who was shot dead while arresting two men at Matraville recently.
   Detective Sergeant H. Miller, who is secretary of the fund said yesterday that the money would be invested in Commonwealth stock. The Masonic schools would take care of Max's education until he was ready to continue his education at the University. The fund would be used for this higher education.
The Sydney Morning Herald 25 March 1947

SYDNEY, Tuesday—State Cabinet to-day commuted the death sentence imposed on Sidney Grant, 28, for the shooting of Detective Ahearn at Matraville on August 11, to life imprisonment.
The Canberra Times 11 June 1947

Public subscriptions to the fund for the education of Max Ahearn, 11, son of Detective Don Ahearn, of North Sydney who was shot dead in a car at Matraville last September, total £1,428. Detective-Sergeant H. Miller, of Petersham, who acted as chairman of the appeal has announced that the fund is closed. "One thousand pounds has been placed in Commonwealth war loans and £250 in war savings certificates," he said. Max Ahearn will enter a High school soon.
The Sydney Morning Herald 10 July 1947

Return to The Ahern Family HomePage

This page copyright © 2012 by Dennis Ahern.
This page was last updated 07 July 2012.