36. Alexander Henry Pitman (1872-1926) and John Joseph Walsh (1862-1926), policemen
Alexander Pitman was born in Victoria in October 1872. He married Angela Fitzgerald, and joined the WA Police Force in 1897, serving in the Murchison, Eastern Goldfields and two years in Fremantle. He was promoted to detective sergeant and was active in the gold-stealing detection staff in Kalgoorlie.
John Walsh was born in Ireland in June 1862, migrated to Australia in 1881, joined the WA Police Force in 1891 and married Marie Newell in 1900. He was stationed at York and Beverley in the early years of his service, and in 1894 was in charge of the police station in Coolgardie. Walsh was promoted to detective sergeant in 1897. In 1912, he was sub-inspector and in 1920 was in charge of C.I.D.
Gold stealing was always a major problem in the WA Goldfields and a Royal Commission in 1906 recommended the establishment of a gold squad to work independently of the local police force. Some years later, the two members of the gold squad, Pitman and Walsh, worked together in Kalgoorlie.
On 28 April 1926, both policemen rode out of Kalgoorlie on their bicycles to an unknown destination and did not return. On 12 May 1926, their charred and dismembered bodies were found in a disused mine shaft nearly ten kilometres south west of Kalgoorlie.
On 6 June 1926, Evan Clarke, Philip John Treffene and William Coulter, partners in a gold stealing operation, were arrested for the murder of Pitman and Walsh. Evan Clarke turned King’s evidence against his partners and avoided going to trial. His evidence assisted in the conviction of Treffene and Coulter. The coroner’s inquest finished on 9 July, the trial began 15 September, and an appeal was dismissed on 1 October. William Coulter and Philip Treffene were hanged at Fremantle Gaol on 24 October 1926.
The funeral of Alexander Pitman and John Walsh began with a requiem mass at St Mary’s Cathedral. The cortege then passed through the centre of Perth to West Perth and Karrakatta Cemetery. The foot police travelled by car to the cemetery, and the mounted police by train. Archbishop Clune conducted the service, attended by thousands lined up along the route and at the cemetery to pay their respects.
A memorial statue honouring the two men was unveiled in December 1929 outside the Police Barracks in James Street, Perth. Today, the statue stands at the Joondalup Police Academy and is dedicated to all police officers who have lost their lives in the course of their duty in Western Australia.