Lancashire Constabulary – Plaque unveiled for war hero detective killed in line of duty
A plaque commemorating a decorated Lancashire Police officer who was killed on duty was erected a few yards from where he was shot.
Detective Inspector James O’Donnell, a decorated war hero, was shot dead just 100 yards from the old Blackburn Police Station in Northgate on December 13, 1958 while responding to reports of a gunman holding his family hostage.
The perpetrator not only fatally shot Mr O’Donnell in the chest, but also killed his own wife and shot a second officer in the leg. He was serving 18 years for manslaughter.
At the outbreak of World War II, Mr. O’Donnell gave up his role as a police officer to join the army. He became a celebrated war hero. He was shot and captured by the Nazis in Holland in May 1940 during Operation Harpoon – a mission to evacuate the Dutch royal family and government from Hook of Holland and bring Dutch gold and currency reserves to England.
After being taken from The Hague to a POW camp in Thorn, Holland, he made nine escape attempts, eventually winning his freedom in April 1945 and rejoining the advancing Allied troops at Bergen.
Mr O’Donnell, who lived in Higher Croft Road, Blackburn, later returned to the police force and joined Blackburn’s CID. He rose to the rank of Detective Inspector in 1955.
During his police career, which saw him becoming head of Blackburn’s CID, he received six awards, earning two in one day.
A special ceremony was held today (December 13) to officially unveil the memorial, funded by the Police Memorial Trust, an independent police charity. This is the first memorial ever erected by the Trust in Lancashire.
Present were representatives of the Trust, Mr O’Donnell’s family, civil servants and detectives, the Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Cllr Suleman Khonat and representatives of Blackburn College including its student body.