Detective Inspector James O’Donnell QPM MM & BAR

Detective Inspector James O’Donnell QPM MM & BAR
13th December 1958
47 years old

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Formerly Blackburn Police (logo unavailable)

Blackburn Police Crest

On 12th December 1958, DI James O’Donnell attended an address where a man was armed with a shotgun.

Knowing that the man had already shot and killed his wife and shot another police officer, the unarmed Inspector entered the property in an attempt to talk to the gunman.

James was shot in the chest and died a short time later.

Posthumously awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for Gallantry.

Detective Inspector James ODonnell QPM MM and BAR

Detective Inspector James O’Donnell QPM MM & Bar Funeral, Memorabilia and other Images

Unveiling Photos – December 13th 2022 near the Construction Center at Blackburn College, BB2 1LH, Lancashire

Memorial Invitation

Detective Inspector James ODonnell MM and Bar QPM Memorial Invitation

Decorated war hero Police Inspector murdered in cold blood

Late on the night of 12th December 1958, a local petty criminal finished his sixth whisky in a Blackburn pub and announced to all there that he was going home to kill his estranged wife and her baby.

He said drunkenly: “I won’t see you again. You’ll read about it in the papers tomorrow.”

Around 11pm that same night a taxi-driver ran into Blackburn Police headquarters to report that the man was in a house in Brewery Street (now University Close) in Blackburn, threatening it’s occupants with a shotgun.

Three unarmed CID officers attended the scene where they saw the man pointing the shotgun at his wife. When one of the officers asked him to hand over the gun the man, without any warning, opened fire on the officers, hitting one in the groin.

The other detectives managed to pulled their injured colleague from the property and took cover. As they withdrew, the man shot his wife.

He then shouted: “Get out before someone else gets it! Get out the lot of you!”.

Then began what would become known as ‘The Siege of Brewery Street’.

The head of Blackburn CID, Detective Inspector James O’Donnell, a highly decorated veteran of WWII arrived at the scene to take charge. He was joined by uniformed police reinforcements. None were armed.

As DI O’Donnell had previously arrested the gunman, he knew him well.

The officer started to negotiate with the man who eventually allowed him together with another officer to enter the property.

There they found him standing over his wife’s dead body.
After a few minutes the man told the officers that he wanted to make a written statement. In an attempt to gain the man’s confidence and in order to pacify him the Inspector agreed to write down any statement he cared to make.

Whilst talking in a rambling, incoherent manner he accused Inspector O’Donnell of not writing fast enough. Then, without the slightest warning or provocation, raised the shotgun and shot Mr O’Donnell in the chest.

Albeit mortally wounded Inspector O’Donnell managed to make his way out of the premises. He was taken to Blackburn Royal Infirmary where he later succumbed to his horrendous injuries.

Meanwhile, the offender responded to repeated requests to give himself up by threatening to kill anyone else who entered the house.

Armed police officers eventually arrived at the scene and after a three hour standoff orders were given to end the siege. Tear gas was deployed into the property after which the report of the shotgun being discharged was heard.

Upon entering the house, officers discovered the offender had shot himself in an unsuccessful attempt to take his own life. He was arrested, later stood trial, and sentenced to imprisonment.

Inspector O’Donnell was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for Gallantry which was presented to his widow at Buckingham Palace.

Hundreds of people lined the route to DI O’Donnell’s funeral at which the Deputy Chief Constable of Blackburn said:

“His sense of duty was of the highest order and his loyalty to his colleagues, superiors and subordinates alike was something to be experienced to be believed”.

The Police Memorial Trust are honoured to have erected our memorial to celebrate DI Donnell’s service, bravery and sacrifice.

Please click on the link below to read the remarkable story of the officer’s life. By any definition of the word the man was a true hero.

The Remarkable Life Story Of A True Police Hero

Location Map

DI James O'Donnell MM and Bar QPM Memorial Location

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