RCMP Cpl. Barry W. Lidstone, RCMP Cst. Perry J. Brophy

RCMP Cpl. Barry W. Lidstone, 34
RCMP Cst. Perry J. Brophy, 28

To be effective, policemen have been trained to treat people with forbearance and understanding. They have been instructed repeatedly that they are not to draw their guns unless their life is threatened. The problem is that they are often faced with unpredictable persons who are either emotionally disturbed or mentally deranged. Sometimes these people can appear to be calm and lucid, but then, without warning, they will suddenly strike out at the police in a violent manner. Usually this sudden aggression arises in the heat of the moment, but sometime it is devised and planned well in advance. Whether the violence is spontaneous or calculated, it can occur so suddenly and without warning that the police, with their forbearing attitude and their guns in their holsters are caught off guard. This is precisely what happened to Cpl. Barry Lidstone and Cst. Perry Brophy when they became embroiled in a family dispute on the night of Friday, January 6, 1978 at Hot, New Brunswick.

A man named Leslie Crombie lived alone in a mobile home in Hot, which is a sleepy little town about 15 miles south of Fredericton, New Brunswick. He and his wife, Bonita, were separated. She had left him several times in their stormy marriage and, in August 1977, had him charged with threatening. As a result, Leslie was put under a bond to keep the peace. Just after Christmas in 1977, Bonita had allowed their daughter, Wanda, to go to Leslie’s place for a visit with her father. But six days after New Year’s, Leslie became quarrelsome with his wife about letting the little girl return home to her mother.

Because of this, Bonita called the Fredericton RCMP Detachment and asked for some help in retrieving her daughter from her estranged husband’s mobile home. The woman was reluctant to go to Crombie’s alone because she was afraid of her husband ho had physically abused her. Cpl. Lidstone and Cst. Brophy agreed to help and suggested they meet her at a roadside intersection near the Village of Hoyt. When the police got there, Bonita showed up in a car with the police, they agreed to follow the RCMP cruiser to Leslie Crombie’s mobile home. Once they got there, Bonita and DiGiacinto waited outside in their care while officers Lidstone and Brophy went inside to talk to Leslie Crombie.

Wanda sat on the couch listening while the two policemen and her father had a quiet and reasonable discussion in Crombie’s kitchen. The RCMP talked to Crombie about the fact that he was legally required to return Wanda to his wife’s custody. Crombie seemed so amiable and compliant that the police felt comfortable in calling to Bonita to come inside and join them. When Bonita did come in, she sat down on the couch beside her daughter while the discussion among the men continued. Then Leslie Crombie politely excused himself from the kitchen saying, “Wait a second, I’ll be right back. I have a surprise for you.” The others thought he was going to the bedroom to get a gift for his daughter.

Crombie went down a short hallway to the bedroom and came back our armed with a 30-30 rifle. As soon as he stepped back into the hallway, he began shooting. The first shot hit Cpl. Lidstone behind the left ear before he had a chance to turn around. As Lidstone was falling to the floor, Crombie’s second shot hit Cst. Brophy in the leg. The constable was in the process of trying to draw his gun when Crombie’s third shot hit him in the head. Both policemen were killed instantly by their wounds.

Then Crombie went to the door of the trailer and took three shots at Bonita’s startled boyfriend sitting outside in the car. That rattled John DiGiacinto and made him scramble away in the darkness to summon more help from the police. Crombie watched him disappear into the night and then turned his attention back to his wife. He wanted to know who her new boyfriend was. When Bonita wouldn’t tell him, Crombie shot her in the leg. Because Wanda was sitting so close to her mother, the bullet that wounded Bonita also nicked the little girl in the leg, causing it to bleed profusely. Seeing what he’s done, Crombie phoned his father, for Crombie, to come over and take Wanda to the hospital.

Within minutes the grandfather arrived. When he was at the scene of devastation in the trailer, the older man whisked Wanda away without trying to discuss the matter with his son. Then Leslie Crombie and his wife talked to each other for about 40 minutes. After that, they went into the bedroom together and Crombie shot and killed his wife with the high powered rifle. Then he turned out all the lights, put his arm around his wife and shot himself in the head. When the backup RCMP arrived and went into the trailer, they found their two comrades dead in the kitchen and the two Crombie’s dead in the bedroom.

An inquest determined that this was another case where the police had been called into a highly volatile conflict situation with an emotionally disturbed person who had irrationally decided to take out his wrath on anyone who got in his way. The fact that he concealed his intentions behind a mask of sober civility made it all the more lethal for the unsuspecting police.

Thus Cst. Brophy ended his brief RCMP career of less than 2 years prior to joining the Force; he had served with the Newcastle Town Police for 4 years and before that, had held the post of Chief of Police of the Village of Blackville for two years.

Cst. Brophy was survived by his wife Pamela, and their two young daughters. His funeral service was held at St. Raphael’s Church in Blackville, New Brunswick.

Cpl. Lidstone was only a few days short of completing 12 years with the RCMP. He was engaged in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in 1966, and then served in the far north, in detachments at Frobisher Bay, Griese Fiord, Yellowknife, Fort Rae and Igloolik as well as in Grand Falls, NS. Cpl. Lidstone was working only his third shift at the Fredericton Detachment when he died.

He was cremated and his ashes remain at the People’s Cemetery in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. His wife, Janet Ann, was left to raise his two young daughters who were both under four.

IN THE LINE OF DUTY – The Honour Roll of the RCMP since 1873.