Only once has ‘Y’ Squadron been asked to carry firearms on a search and this was the occasion when they hunted with the Police for a murderer.
The story of the incidents leading up to the murder was not their concern, suffice it to say that it happened and Traffic Officer John KEHOE was shot dead (Monday, 31 January 1949) and Arthur WIGGINS who went out on to the road to investigate the noise of the shots was shot and severely wounded. John KEHOE was shot as a result of a grudge against him by a young man of dangerous character, Richard Angus McGILL, who was noted for his prowess with a gun and who owned a large collection of firearms.
McGILL left the dead officer and Arthur WIGGINS on the highway, returned to his room at the Board Mills Hostel, wrote a note to his mother and disappeared with selected firearms and a considerable amount of ammunition.
Mrs WIGGINS raised the alarm with Police but as the Sergeant-in-Charge was ill and his two constables away on other duties, it fell to Constable THOMASON of Taneatua, eight miles away, to organise help. Although some civilians were enlisted as bridge watchers, it was not until early morning that the Police from Gisborne with Superintendent McINTYRE, arrived.
The services of ‘Y’ Squadron were requested and members were out on duty by 7 am 1 February 1949 reporting to the Police Station and were all armed with .303’s and departed for Bill Simons’ store at Poroporo which was Police HQ for the search.
There was a fair amount of panic about the district and alarms were frequent, especially at night. As day after day went by and no new clues, even the Police became jittery. False alarms were plenty. Large search parties were sent out on Saturday 5 February 1949, but it was, that Mrs DAHL, who went to her orchard located on high ground behind an old shed only to find the body of McGILL. She immediately called the Police who arrived with a group of Frontiersmen and identified the body as McGILL.
It is interesting to note that apart from those Frontiersmen who assisted in the search, and Bill SIMONS who helped at HQ, others joined the Legion including Arthur WIGGINS joining in 1952, Theo DAHL joined in 1951 until his passing in 1956.
John KEHOE was 25. He is buried in the Soldiers’ section in acknowledgement of his service as an Able Seaman in the Royal New Zealand Navy during the Second World War.
He joined the Traffic Safety Service in 1945 and, despite being from Wellington, was serving in the Bay of Plenty as a motorcycle officer.
He had married his sweetheart Maureen directly after the war; they had a daughter and another child on the way when, on 31 January 1949, he set out for work for the last time.
KEHOE, known as Jack, was talking to taxi drivers in the main street of Whakatane at around 8.30pm when a motorcyclist passed by. The motorcyclist then returned and sped past at 60mph. KEHOE followed and pulled the rider over at Poroporo, a few kilometres out of town.
The rider drew a .38 revolver and shot KEHOE several times. A farmer who came to investigate was shot and wounded. KEHOE died shortly afterwards.
The offender escaped and, for days, there was fear that he would strike again. A week after the killing, however, the man was found dead in an orchard at Awakeri. He had shot himself. Two revolvers, a pistol and 74 rounds of ammunition lay nearby.
The killer was Richard Angus McGILL, aged 19. He was a local mill worker who, it emerged, had an unhealthy interest in firearms. When police searched McGILL’s bedroom, they found two rifles and a shotgun.
He had previously been sent to borstal after firing a stolen rifle at neighbours. At the age of 15, it was reported, he had used a picture of a police officer as a target for airgun practice.
OC Bob Whittaker receiving instructions from Supt. McIntyre.
Personnel depicted here are: Frontiersmen Boon, Parker, Bathe, Gartshore, Capt Whittaker, Brabant, Supt McIntyre, Imspector --------, Detective ---------, and Frontiersman Fred Comer leaning on car.
THE MANHUNT BRIEFING INSTRUCTIONS
Captain Whittaker and Frontiersmen Gartshore, Comer, Parker, Hunt, Bathe, Brabant, Judd (nearly obscured) Boon and H. Mole (kneeling)
THE SCENE OF THE MURDER
SHOT OUTSIDE GATE
Wounded Man’s Story
LATE HAYMAKERS REACH SCENE
Excellent progress is being made in the Whakatane Hospital by Mr Arthur Wiggins, of Poroporo, who received bullet wounds in the chest and left arm, in the shooting affray on Monday night. His condition is not serious.
Describing his part of the tragedy, Mr Wiggins said he and his wife were in the kitchen of their home when they heard what sounded like a collision between two vehicles followed by an engine misfiring. “I went outside my gate and saw the Traffic Inspector’s car parked across the road,” he said. “Mr Kehoe, whom I recognised, lying groaning on the road, another man was standing in the open door of the car.”
“Bullet caught me in Chest”
“I walked toward the other man and he came to me. Flashing my torch at him, I asked, “What’s wrong?" With that he raised his arm and fired. I spun sideways and the bullet caught me in the chest. I staggered backward and fell on to the side of the road. I purposely lay there, and said nothing, because the other man was moving about.”
”While I was lying down my wife called to me from the house, but I did not answer her.” Mr Wiggins continued, “However when she came to the gate, the other man made off and I went to her and said that I’d been shot. I warned her to get inside as quickly as possible, and she helped me indoors.”
“Five Neighbours Arrive”
The first persons to arrive at the scene after the tragedy were five neighbours of Mr Wiggins, who were completing a day’s haymaking in a field about 200 yards away. They were two brothers, Messrs Edward Samuel Grant and Herbert Sydney Grant. Mr R. Laurie, a cartage contractor. Mr CD Dudson, and his assistant Mr O Cameron.
Mr Edward Grant said they were just finishing the last few bales of their haymaking when they heard the horn of the Inspector’s car as it passed the motorcycle on the main road in front of the field. They then heard the sound of a skid near Mr Wiggins’ home. “We thought the motorcyclist had had an accident and we were preparing to go to his assistance when we heard what we thought was an engine back-firing.” Mr Grant said. “At this we considered that the cyclist had righted his machine and had started off again. We heard only the one sound similar to that of a shot.”
Inspector Lying on Road
Some minutes later when we had finished the work and we had reached the gate opening onto the main road we saw the silhouette of the Inspector’s car across the road, Messrs Cameron and Dudson were going in that direction so they said they would stop if there was anything the matter. However we decided to follow them and we reached the scene of the accident to see Mr Kehoe lying on the road. His hat and torch were beside him. His breath was coming in short gasps and he was groaning weakly.”
“Mr Laurie went into Mr Wiggins’ home to use the telephone but returned to say the house was in darkness,” Mr Grant continued, “We were just setting out for my house to ring for assistance when Mr Wiggins came out and said he had been shot. We asked ‘By Whom?’ he said ‘the man on the motorcycle’ My brother went into the house with Mr Wiggins and telephoned for Dr Akle, who arrived from Whakatane shortly after. He examined Mr Kehoe and pronounced him dead and then rendered first aid to Mr Wiggins.”
Bullet Holes in Road
The first Policeman to arrive was Constable GH Thomasson of Taneatua. It was later found that there were four bullet holes in the surface of the road in a half circle around a spot where Mr Kehoe had been lying.
The Wiggins house is situated a mile and a half from the Poroporo turnoff on the Whakatane main highway. The road surface outside is loose metal. The surrounding countryside consists of small farming units, mainly dairying.
Behobeho East Africa 1915 - 1917 Nyangao Kilimanjaro Great War 1917 Belgium 1914 -18