Constable Thomas McDonald and Constable Charles Hill

Constables Thomas McDonald and Charles Hill

On 4th September, 1952, Constables John MacLeod and Thomas MacDonald, were on duty in plain clothes in Glasgow’s Marine Division when they were told to search for Edwin Costley Finlay who had embezzled £1000 and was believed to be frequenting his old haunts in the West End of Glasgow. They decided to search for him and about 8 pm they saw a young man who closely matched the description of their quarry walking in Hyndland Road near its junction with Great Western Road.

The youth was on the opposite side of Hyndland Road when they initially spotted him, so they crossed to the footway where he was walking and approached him. When the Officers were about 6 feet away from the him he suddenly produced 2 pistols from beneath his clothing and opened fire. He was, indeed, Edwin Costley Finlay and, unknown to the 2 Constables, he was armed and determined not to be arrested.

Several shots rang out and Constables MacLeod and MacDonald fell to the ground. At such close range it was difficult for Finlay to miss and several of his bullets found their mark. MacLeod was hit in the abdomen and MacDonald in the shoulder and side. Both Officers fell to the ground.

PC MacDonald and PC MacLeod

At this stage Constable Charles Hill, attracted by the sound of gunfire, arrived at the scene. He saw his 2 colleagues lying on the ground and also noticed Finlay running off along Hyndland Road. Constable Hill pursued him and eventually saw him run into Westbourne Gardens Lane. Constable Hill was aware this Lane was a cul-de-sac and realised Finlay was trapped.

Constable Hill then removed his uniform cap and, after taking cover, held it round the corner of the wall at the end of the lane. Finlay opened fire on seeing the cap and Constable Hill continued to expose his cap to Finlay’s view at regular intervals. Each time he did this, Finlay responded with a fusillade of shots. Hill’s intention was to make Finlay use up as much of his ammunition as possible.

Eventually, Finlay realised the hopelessness of his position and, preferring death to the disgrace which would follow his inevitable arrest, he turned his gun on himself and shot himself in the head.

When his body was searched, Finlay was found in possession of a total of 3 revolvers. All the firearms were in new condition and it was later discovered Finlay had purchased them and the ammunition illegally in Dublin and smuggled them back into Scotland.

Constables MacLeod and MacDonald were taken from the scene of the shooting to the Western Infirmary where Constable MacLeod was pronounced dead as a result of the gunshot wound he received.

Constable Thomas McDonald was seriously injured as a result of being shot by Finlay but he recovered and eventually returned to duty. He was later promoted Sergeant and retired from the Police Service in that rank many years later. At the time of the shooting he had completed 4 years service and prior to that had served in the Parachute Regiment.

As a result of the shooting, Constable MacDonald and Constable Charles Hill were awarded the British Empire Medal and the Glasgow Corporation Medal for Bravery. Constable MacLeod was posthumously awarded the Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct and the Glasgow Corporation Medal for Bravery.

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