Detective Superintendent John Joseph "John Joe" Sheehy
 
 
"Chief John Joe" Sheehy was one of those rare breed of police officers who became a legend in his own lifetime.  Perhaps it was those steely blue eyes and his Irish "gift of the gab" that contributed to his brilliance as a detective who set the highest standard for those who worked with him and who followed in his footsteps.
 
 
John Joe was born in County Cork, Ireland, the son of a farmer, and he attended Farrenferruis College Catholic Preparatory School where he was both a very bright student and an outstanding athlete.
 
 
Although born in Southern Ireland he eventually applied for and was accepted as a young constable in the Bermuda Police Force which required him to swear allegiance to the Queen.  John Joe  took his oath of allegiance very seriously as anyone who ever worked with him would agree.
 
He joined the Bermuda Police on 15th February 1952 and his first posting was to Central Division. Hamilton Police Station was then located on Parliament Street next to Hamilton Jail on the site now occupied by the Government Administration Building.
 
 
This is a photograph of a group of Bermuda Police officers who attended one of the very first training courses
held at the Police Headquarters, Prospect, using Instructors specially brought in from U.K. Training Centres.
John Joe Sheehy is on the back row, 5th from the right.
 
He was transferred to Operations (Traffic) in 1954, and a year later he had his first taste of being a detective in Central CID.   In 1958 he was able to combine his motor cycle riding skills and investigative skills when he was transferred to the recently created Cycle Squad which aimed to curb the very high number of motor cycle and auxiliary cycles thefts that were plaguing the Island. The theft or removal of motor cars was almost unheard of at that time because the vast majority of vehicles thefts were committed by young men who often removed bikes to sell spare parts.
 
It was while he was working in Cycle Squad that John Joe was patrolling  Coral Beach property on the South Shore in Paget Parish when he met the love of his life, a beautiful young Canadian from Toronto by the name of (Mary) Joan Cosgrove who was working at Coral Beach Club. The two fell in love and were married In October 1959.
 
  
John Joe and Joan on their wedding day - October 1959
 
A year later John Joe was promoted to Sergeant whilst still in Cycle Squad, and in 1963 he was to make a move that turned out to be both pivotal and permanent.  He was transferred back into CID and remained a detective for the rest of his career. In December 1963 he was promoted to Detective Inspector.
 
CID Officers enjoy a gathering at the home of
Lieut-Colonel C.J.R. Newing, Head of CID in 1958
Top Row (l-r) Ian Morrison, Leon Bean, Lieut-Colonel Newing,  R.J. Irons,
Oliver Trott, and Hubert Simmons & John Joe Sheehy.
Kneeling (l-r) David Julian Hobbs, John Francis Kane, W.S. Freeman, John Starbuck, 
John Mullan, Sinclair Bean, Milton Marsh, “Happy” Duerden. (Missing John Logan - photographer)

 

 
Although John Joe had a spell as Inspector in charge of Western CID he spent the next few years first as Inspector in Central CID, and on 1st March 1967 he was promoted to Chief Inspector in charge of Central CID.  This was a position where the "Chief" would be actively involved in almost every serious criiminal investigation on the Island.
 
It is noteworthy that during his career John Joe received no less than 18 commendations, and probably far more. Those that are recorded include the arrest of a girl for breaking and entering early in his career,  for successfully investigating cycle thefts,  thefts, housebreaking, smash and grab raids, armed robbery, wounding, rape,  and murder.
On the home front, John Joe and Joan lived on Mary Victoria Road in Police housing  and they had three children,  Maureen in  1960, Kathryn in 1963 and Michael in 1969.
 
Senior Officers circa 1969
John Joe Sheehy is top row centre
 
John Joe was promoted to Detective Superintendent on 15th March 1975, and he continued to serve in this capacity as Head of C.I.D. in Bermuda until his retirement in 1985.  An inspirational leader he stood on the shoulders of giants such as Charles Edward "D.O" Simons, our first ever Detective Officer who went on to lead C.I.D. until his retirement in 1935 (see article on "D"O" Simons at http://expobermuda.com/index.php/hof2/308-dosimons, and "Chief" Oliver Trott, who was also an outstanding detective who headed CID for many years and under whom John Joe served and gained invaluable experience as a young detective. Chief Trott is also in our Hall of Fame at  http://expobermuda.com/index.php/hof2/184-olivertrott
 
During his service in  the Bermuda Police, John Joe attended numerous professional police courses, including a Detective Training Course in Wakefield, England in 1957, Special Branch Courses in 1958 and 1961, a Forensic Science Course in 1962, and Bramshill Police College in 1963.  In 1970 he completed a CID  attachment to the Surrey Police in England to gain wider experience, and he also attended Seminars on Terrorism, and a Crime Symposium.
 
John Joe received numerous awards including the Colonial Police Medal (1968), the Police Long Service Medal (1970) the Colonial Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (1981), the Queen's Police Medal (1981) and the Colonial Police Medal 30 year Clasp (1982).
 
Rare Photo of Detective Superintendent John Joe Sheehy in uniform - Ceremonial Uniform!
(l-r)  Sgt Campbell Simons, Insp. Gerry James, Inspector Harry Lister, Superintendent Maurice 'Syke' Smith,
Superintendent John Joseph Sheehy, and Chief Inspector Ernie Moniz
 
Shortly after his retirement, John Joe and his wife Joan moved to the United States and settled in Texas.  Joan sadly passed away in 1997, and we heard the sad news that John Joe passed on September 15th 1999.  When news of his passing reached Bermuda the Royal Gazette published the following article which reported that John Joe had risen through the ranks to become one of the "father figures" of the Criminal Investigations Department.  The article includes a sincere tribute from then recently retired Commissioner of Police Lennett "Lenny" Edwards, who had served alongside Mr. Sheehy and had worked under him for nearly a decade.  
 
 
Mr Edwards described Mr. Sheehy as, "a great man - and I do not say that lightly. And he was a tremendous Police officer.  He was very often referred to by his colleagues as a policeman's policeman  -  and a lot of officers would like to be remembered like that."  Mr Edwards added, "He served this country very well and he was a very accomplished officer.  He was a tremendous resource for me and he was always interested  in me getting on and saw to a few of my early promotions.  John Joe wished me well and wanted me, as a born Bermudian, to get to the top."
 
 
 
Detective, Chief Inspector Carlton Adams had also worked under  Mr. Sheehy for many years and described him as a "mentor" and one of the "father's of criminal investigation in Bermuda".  Chief Inspector Adams, who went on to become Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of CID noted that "When it came to criminal investigations, I think he was a mentor to a number of officers who rose through the ranks, partly because of the experience they gained under his supervision - myself being one of them.  He was certainly a demanding task master when it came to criminal investigations, but most of those who worked with him certainly benefitted from his experience.  And much of what he taught us is still held today by many of us who had the benefit of his tutelage."
 
 
This article appeared in the Royal Gazette shortly after the passing of John Joe Sheey in 1999
 
 

EULOGY FOR RETIRED DETECTIVE SUPERINTENDENT JOHN JOSEPH SHEEHY

December 7th 1929 ~ September 15th 1999

Thank you for coming today to celebrate this Mass in honor of our father, John Sheehy.
 
 
Our hearts are so full today. Full of sorrow for ourselves, for we will miss Papa so much. Full of thankfulness, for we were so blessed to have had him in our lives. What a unique person he was. I think you’d agree that you’ve never met anyone like him.
 
He was born on December 7th, 1929 in Lisarourke, Enniskeane, County Cork, Ireland. He was the first born son of Eugene and Ellen Sheehy, and is survived today by his sister Philomena, brother Teddy, along with numerous relatives.
 
It was decided being a first born son that he would go to Farrenferris College, a Catholic Preparatory school, with the intentions of becoming a priest. While there, he excelled academically and was an accomplished athlete, defeating the Munster Champion in the 400, 600, 800 and 1000 meter races. He was also distracted by the beautiful Irish lasses, who were impressed with this Irish farm boy from Cork, who ran fast, had dark hair, beautiful blue eyes and charm.
 
Over time he chose to join the British Police Force, which led him to Bermuda in 1952. He enjoyed an accomplished career, moving from Sergeant to Chief Detective Superintendent of C.I.D., over the course of 33 and one half years. He is remembered in very high regard by his former colleagues and Bermudians whose lives he touched.
 
We know that as his children, we have been very blessed to have had him for our Father. Throughout our lives he has shown us by example to love sincerely, to persevere, to do our best and also to look for leprechauns!
 
He brought a lot of smiles to a lot of people. From the checker at the grocery store to the Governer of Bermuda, Daddy had a way of making people feel special. I was told by an old Irish childhood friend of his that, “ John Joe had a way of making every female feel like she was the “only one”.
 
His Irish charm and our good Lord led him to our mother Joan. They met and married in Bermuda and celebrated 38 years together. Our mother passed away two years ago, and he has missed her every day since. We find comfort knowing that they are reunited with each other and are together in Heaven.
 
 
Daddy recently made a trip to his homeland and spent time with much loved family and friends. He made a difference in so many peoples’ lives. We will miss him. He would want us to be happy for him.
 
 
The Sheehy family would like to thank all of you for sharing this time with us today. If he were here today, Dad would wish this Irish blessing for you....

An Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rains fall softly upon your fields

And, until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

….And may the luck of the Irish be with you!

 

A Promise Kept for John Joe Sheehy

Before his passing John Joe requested of his family that his ashes and those of his wife  Joan be buried in the Police Cemetery at Prospect in Devonshire, Bermuda, just a short distance from both the Police Headquarters where he worked for many years, and from the home where John Joe and Joan had raised their three children. Typical of a thorough and highly efficient detective, John Joe, had even gone to  the trouble of writing to the then Commissioner of Police asking for official permission to have his ashes interred at the Police Cemetery.  

 

His children had every intention of obeying their father wishes, but the years passed by until Kate happened to see a photo of a 5 year old girl in the "Who Where and When" Section of our ExPo website in early 2013.  The photo had first appeared in the Summer 1965 edition of the Bermuda Police Magazine as a "PLAYMATE of the SEASON"! and we wanted to know if anyone could identify her.

 

 

Playmate of the Year, Ms Maureen Sheehy taken by Mike "Crazy Horse" Woods

 

Kate happened to spot the article (which did not include the photo caption etc) and immediately recognized the little girl as her sister Maureen.  She wrote to us about the photo and this set in motion a chain of events resulting in the Sheehy family deciding that it was time to fulfill their father's wishes  and bring his ashes, along with those of his beloved wife Joan, to be interred at the Police Cemetery.  

 
Prospect Military Cemetery with Police Cemetery at the far end
 
 
Fortunately, Commissioner Michael Desilva, quickly confirmed official approval of John Joe's request, and Maureen (Sheehy) Brichetto, carrying her parents ashes, flew to Bermuda with her husband John and their daughter Lordon, and we held a brief service at the Police Cemetry also attended by John Joe's son, Michael Sheehy, who still resides on Island, at which their ashes were interred.  In attendance were many of the officers who had the privilege of serving under John Joe.
 
John Joe Sheehy and his beloved wife Joan
 
 
There followed a reception at the Officers Mess at which Commissioner DeSilva gave an excellent eulogy about "Chief" John Joe, despite the fact that Mr. DeSilva had joined the Police Cadets just 3 months  before John Joe retired!   Details and photos of the interment and subsequent reception can be viewed at http://expobermuda.com/index.php/articles/216-jjs
 

Editors note  -  This article is being published on 15th September 2017, on the 18th Anniversary of the passing of the late Detective Superintendent John Joseph Sheehy.

 

Reflections on “John Joe” Sheehy submitted by
retired Detective Superintendent George Rose
 
Young D.C. George Rose

As a Detective Sergeant in the Central CID I was called upon a couple of times to travel overseas as both a colleague and assistant to ‘John Joe’ on crime investigations and always found him to be highly amusing and witty. He was very well read as copious library books per week would attest to. So much so, that I was in the habit of keeping a written record of many of his ‘John Joe isms’ as I called them. They were, in my mind, a true indication of a characteristic quality in ‘John Joe’ which fascinated me.

 

I joined the C.I.D. proper at the end of my second stint on Beach Squad in late 1967 as an Aide. Frank “Gruff” Hammond was the D/Supt and ‘John Joe’ was the newly promoted D/Chief Inspector.  Sinclair Bean was a D/Sergeant and Bill Black, Tom Cassin, John Bailey, Tom Hill, Aaron Scott, Clive Donald, Mike Palmer, Shaun Sheehan, Neville Darrell, Lenny Edwards and Brinley Jones were among the detective officers I joined and from whom I learned a lot. At this time we worked upstairs of the Allenhurst Building with an entrance on Reid Street, Hamilton. The Forbes/DeSilva murder enquiry was under way at this time but I was not involved as such.

 

I was late turn with Mike Palmer at the outbreak of the 1968 riots. We worked from the Allenhurst building and were kept on duty throughout the night until mid-morning the following day. From a concealed position in the darkness inside the Cabinet grounds behind the Cenotaph, I saw the first bottle launched against the riot squad who were forming across Front Street at the bottom of Parliament Street. The offender was later prosecuted in the lower court and fined for the offence.

 

‘John Joe’ oversaw the subsequent serious crime investigations and guided me along with enquires such as the burning down of A.S. Coopers warehouse on Union Street for which a man later received 7 years imprisonment.      

 

The entire C.I.D. office then moved north along Parliament Street to the Police Station / Jail / Magistrates’ Court building where we occupied the upstairs offices directly above the cell area and the hanging gallows at the rear of the station.

 

‘John Joe’ commanded the office from his desk at the rear of the premises and many serious criminal matters were conducted therein. Case histories abound and are yet to be published. Throughout them all, DCI Sheehy held a steady influence on the staff through numerous rough times on the streets culminating in the 1972/1973 high profile killings on the Island. ‘John Joe’ moved to the Murder Room proper in September 1972 together with many officers from Central CID to work with Scotland Yard. I remained as OIC of the Hamilton CID office until the March 1973 murders when I joined the expanded Murder Room at Prospect. The 250 strong Black Beret Cadre was very active in raising funds by means of weekly armed robberies which kept us very busy.

 

In late 1976 from Central CID I took over as OIC Eastern CID and in May 1978 I took over as the DI in charge of Narcotics reporting to Asst. Commissioner (Crime). In late 1982, at my request, I returned to Central CID where I became DCI and OIC Central CID on 01.01.1984 reporting to D/Supt. Jackson.

 

Looking over my list of isms as said by ‘John Joe’ I’ve selected the following few as examples of his thought process:

 

“Do you have pen in hand?” he would ask, when he called on the telephone with a job to be done.

 

“Call every fool Sir and you can’t go wrong”

 

“Far away cows have long horns” – told to me to pass on to DC Mike Jent who was thought to be fraternizing too much with Scotland Yard during the Jean Burrows murder.
In his defense, Mike was a Londoner like them and was a former Met officer to boot.

 

“Remember Carlton, keep your chickens under your wing” – advice to DS Adams to look after his men when he was posted as OIC Western CID.

 

“In the R v Sinclair Ernest Palmer case – a machete attack on a Portuguese farmer in Watlington Road, Devonshire. – ‘John Joe’ was formulating a ‘TO DO’ lists for his investigation team. He wrote – ‘Proceed with stealth’ but then immediately looked up and wanted to know from DI Lawry Jackson whether or not there was an ‘L’ in stealth.

 

“Doctors differ and patients die’ – sudden death enquiries of a questionable nature.

 

“Those who live in hen houses shouldn’t throw stones” – ‘John Joe’ kept a small farm at the rear of his house on Mary Victoria Road which included chickens. He was said to sleep in the hen coop on occasions when the night had kept him out too late!!!

 

Advice I was to pass on to DS Angus Brown who had been found in a state of professional undress – “Tell him to keep his pants up and not get caught with them around his ankles all the time”

 

“The honeymoon is over”

 

“In the June year of your life”

 

‘John Joe’ once asked then Chief Inspector Lennet "Lenny" Edwards at Special Branch –
“Er Len, does your boss speak to you? That fellow Morrison, does he do anything over there?”

 

“God’s mill grinds slowly”

 

“A wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse”

 

A favourite - “We have spoken”

 

“Eaten bread is soon forgotten”

 

“If you kiss a girl behind the ear George then you’ve got her for the rest of her life” –sitting in the PRC one night in company with a girlfriend of mine.

 

The anatomy of a detective – “Jumps over tall buildings in a single jump. Stops locomotives in their tracks; Catches bullets between his teeth”

 

Said to DI Rose OIC Narcotics – when ‘John Joe’ was seeking additional manpower for pressing CID duties – “We may have to come look over your fence George – is the grass over there any greener?

 

“Keep your back yard clean”

 

Keeping the men together – “We all work for the Queen”

 

When the Hamilton police station required structural repair and police offices were relocated to a Mobile post set up outside ‘John Joe’ responded - “We shall work on the sidewalks if necessary”

 

At the beginning of a major enquiry investigation – “The longest journey begins with the first day”

 

In the R V Lefferty case – the homosexual prosecuted for a public mischief over a false report to the police – I heard John Joe say to Lefferty, “We are not here to tell the ‘trut’ to each other but to our Sovereign Lady the Queen and the man who died on the cross”
Lefferty said, “But sir, I’m not a Christian”
‘John Joe’ responded, “Well, we won’t hold that against you”

 

The day DCI Lawry Jackson lost his ‘bleeper’ – the forerunner of the cell phone – down the toilet at Central CID ‘John Joe’ proclaimed it be “the 2,000 dollar crap”

 

‘John Joe’ was at home one morning suffering with a small case of ‘malaria’ picked up the night before. He telephoned his office and on finding that DCI Clive Donald immediately answered the phone he asked – “What are you doing sitting at my desk?”

 

“God Bless the Queen”

 

“If you run with dogs you must learn to pant”

 

Comment made to DS Ernie McCreight who was persuading ‘John Joe’ to pose for a retirement photograph – “You know Ernie, there’s a lot of milk and honey left in me yet”

 

A frequent comment made to Woman Inspector Jean Vickers who occupied the office at Hamilton Police Station immediately next to ‘John Joe’s’ office, separated by a locked door between them -
“Er Jean, what do we do about this secret door between us?”
 

 ________________________________________________

 

Editors note  -  Many thanks to George Rose for shedding light on the unique personality that was John Joe Sheehy.  He certainly had in innate sense of humour as these “isms” so clearly illustrate. It was also fascinating to hear that despite working ridiculously long hours during his time in CID John Joe was an avid reader.

We would be delighted to receive insights from anyone else who worked with or knew John Joe during his 33 year Police career.  Please feel free to add your brief comments in our Comments column below, but we also encourage you to write in more detail and send your experiences to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

24th September 2017

George Rose was conducting more research recently when he came across the following passenger lists which include John Joe travelling back to Bermuda from the UK some 3 years after joining the Bermuda Police in 1952. The first is clearly a return trip to Bermuda after taking leave, and John Joe was travelling on the ship "Walsingham" which set sail from Liverpool on 16th September 1955.  John Joe was accompanied on this journey by another young Bermuda policeman from Ireland,  James "Jim" Walsh.

 

John Joe had joined the Bermuda Police in February 1952, along with James "Jim" C.P. Hanlon. Thomas "Tommy" Doyle who all arrived here in early March 1952,  followed a few days later by Leslie Waddell, and later in the month by James "Jim" McMaster.  And what did all of these young men have in common?  They were all recruited from Ireland, with some from the North and from the South.

 
Set out below are two
Returns of Passengers leaving the United Kingdom who have contracted to land at Ports out of Europe
 
This first return records the
Names and Descriptions of
BRITISH COMMONWEALTH AND IRISH REPUBLICAN
Passengers Embarked at the Port of
LIVERPOOL
In the Ship
“WALSINGHAM”
Date of Departure 
16th September 1955
Name of Passenger
SHEEHY
John Joseph
 
Port at which Passenger has contracted to land
BERMUDA
 
Date Birth
7.12.29
A single male travelling Saloon Class
 
Address in the United Kingdom
Lissarourke, Enniskeanne, Co. Cork, IRELAND
 
Occupation
Police Officer
A Citizen of
Ireland
Country of last permanent residence
Bermuda
Country of intended future permanent residence
G. Britain

NOTE: Another passenger traveling on this journey was James WALSH, a single male Police Officer, born 14 July 1925 who gave his address in the UK as Ballinagoth, Inistroge, Co. Kilkenny, IRELAND.

 

 

 

MS WALSINGHAM

Source: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at http://www.ecsodus.com/PSNC/index.html

MS WALSINGHAM (1955-1957)
Steel screw motor-ship 3,343gross tonnage, 363ft. Launched 1950 as SYCAMORE 1955 chartered to Watts, Watts & Co. renamed WALSINGHAM
1957 reverted to SYCAMORE
1965 transferred to Prince Line Ltd and renamed MERCHANT PRINCE
1968 sold to Kaldelion Shipping Co., Poseidon Shipping Agencies, renamed ELIAS L 1973 sold to Maccomar Shipping Co., Limassol renamed JARA
1975 sold to Melteco Navigation Ltd. renamed MELTEMI for operation by Fulmar Navigation Co. of Nicosia.
1977 sold to Green Spirit Inc. of Limassol renamed TEMI under the same management.  1979 [May] arrived Gadani Beach where she was broken up.
 
Returns of Passengers leaving the United Kingdom who have contracted to land at Ports out of Europe
 
This second return records the
Names and Descriptions of
BRITISH COMMONWEALTH AND IRISH REPUBLICAN
Passengers Embarked at the Port of
LONDON
In the Ship
“ESSEQUIBO”
 
Date of Departure 
14th AUGUST 1959
 
Name of Passenger
SHEEHY
John
 
Port at which Passenger has contracted to land
Bermuda
 
Date Birth
7.12.29
A single male travelling Saloon Class
 
Address in the United Kingdom
Lissarourke, Enniskeanne, Co. Cork, IRELAND
 
Occupation
Police Officer
 
A Citizen of
Ireland
 
Country of last permanent residence
Bermuda
 
Country of intended future permanent residence
Bermuda
 
 
ESSEQUIBO

A Cargo / Passenger ship of 7785 Gross Tonnage. Carried general cargo out to the Caribbean – mainly sugar. She was a Caribbean trader and one of two 12-passenger ships of just under 8,000 tons. The closed shelter-decker ship was built for the Royal Mail Lines West Indies and Latin American service in 1952.

A crew member Dennis, when writing to another, said: “Did my 1st trip at sea as 2nd R/O on the Essequibo in 1959. A good start I thought as it was a nice run - Bermuda, Kingston Jamaica, other West Indies ports then back to London. I found it a nice ship and 12 passengers added to the entertainment.”

Another crew member wrote: “I was a.b. [able bodied seaman] in the Essequibo back [between] 13/7/61 9/10/61. We broke down in Casablanca for 10 days. We had to discharge number 1 as we were taking water and it was turning our cargo of sugar to molasses.

The Essequibo was broken up in 1976

Editors note  -  

It is perhaps noteworthy that John Joe was travelling in "Saloon Cass" on both journeys.  It is understood that both of these were merchant ships which could carry a maximum of 12 passengers, and for the avoidance of any doubt "saloon class" meant that there was a saloon on board!   

 

This was in the days before recruits from the UK flew out by plane, and also a time when  if you wanted to take a trip home to the U.K. this would usually have been the only form of treansport!

Tagged Under

Comments  

#2 Laura Brennan nee S 2017-09-19 22:52
I was privileged to live with John, Joan, Maureen, Kate and Michael for an extended period in 1972/73. They treated me like family and do to this day. Have so many wonderful memories of my time there. Their son Michael, a toddler at the time, called me "Lodat" rather than Laura and they still call me that today.They took a 17 year old Canadian girl into their home and hearts and so they remain in this now 62 year old grandmother's heart . My only regret is that I only saw Joan and Kate once after they moved to Texas. I feel fortunate to still keep in touch with them Maureen, Kate and Michael to this day.
Quote
#1 Ray Sousa 2017-09-18 02:42
:-) Another excellent article. I was privileged to have served with JJS. " Great men inspire others to become great leaders. " As shown in this article, this applies to John Joe Sheehy.

All the best to his family and friends.
RAY SOUSA 241
Quote

Add comment


Security code
Refresh