Senior Constable

Harold Rae PANNELL




South Australia


Harold Pannell lay dead on the ground at the Bow Hill farm of John Fischer who had shot him at point-blank range in the head. The young police officer and father of two had arrived at 10am with a truck and its driver Colin Jackson to execute a warrant to seize property. Fischer had failed to pay damages awarded against him in a civil court case which arose from a 1955 vehicle accident. Pannell acting as an assistant bailiff for the Local Court set about loading rolls of chain fencing, which belonged to Fischer, onto Jackson’s truck. He had explained to Fischer during the previous week that he would have to take the items to cover his outstanding debt. But the 36-year-old farmer still seemed unable to understand why he had to forfeit any of his personal property. As Pannell and Jackson loaded the fencing onto the truck Fischer stood nearby holding a shotgun. In a statement to police Jackson would later describe the shooting. “As we were about to load the last roll of wire Fischer walked to within a few feet of Pannell and said “Leave it there”” he explained. Pannell, who was bending at the time and preparing to lift the roll, told Fischer to drop the gun (and) then asked me to help him lift the wire. Fischer who had brought the gun to his shoulder pointed it at Pannell and from a distance of about three feet shot Pannell through the forehead. Pannell died instantly and Jackson went on to explain that Fischer had shown neither temper during nor concern after the shooting. In a funeral with full police honours Pannell was buried at Centennial Park Cemetery on March 14. He had joined SAPOL as a 19-year-old junior Constable in 1938 and through the following years worked at Port Adelaide Hindmarsh Port Pirie and in the CIB. In 1951 he transferred to Karoonda as officer-in-charge and won promotion to the rank of Senior Constable. Fischer went to trial for murder but a Supreme Court jury found him not guilty on the grounds of insanity. Justice Reed ordered him into strict custody in a mental institution at the Governor’s pleasure. He died in 1988 at the age of 67.

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