Assassination of Sir Richard Sharples

Sir Richard Sharples holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only Governor of Bermuda to be assassinated.

Officially Major Sir Richard Christopher Sharples KCMG OBE MC, he was born on August 6, 1916. He passed out from Sandhurst in 1936 and was commissioned into the Welsh Guards. He married Pamela in 1946 and they had two sons and two daughters. He moved into politics and was elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Sutton and Cheam in a 1954 by-election. After the 1970 general election, he served as Minister of State at the Home Office, before resigning his seat in 1972 to take up the position of Governor of Bermuda.

- The shooting

At midnight on March 10, 1973, 56 year old Governor Sharples was killed along with his 26 year old aide-de-camp, Captain Hugh Sayers of the Welsh Guards and his Great Dane, Horsa. They were ambushed outside Bermuda’s Government House while taking the dog for a walk following a dinner party. Captain Sayers was reportedly killed instantly, falling with his hands in his pocket reaching for his gun. It was the night of the annual police ball and the governor’s residence was reported to have only one guard on duty

[ The Funeral

With a full state funeral, their caskets were carried from Hamilton to St. Georges through Bermuda’s waters aboard a British warship the HMS Sirius; the only time in Bermuda’s history this has occurred. Bermudians lined the streets to view the proceedings. Members of the Bermuda Regiments acted as Governor Sharples pallbearers, and Welsh Guardsmen acted as Captain Sayers pallbearers.

- The Burial

They were both buried in St. Peter’s Church Graveyard in St.Georges. This was considered the highest honour Bermuda could proffer, as the site was long barred to new burials.

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- The Suspects

The principal suspect Erskine Durrant “Buck” Burrows was captured in October 1973, carrying two loaded guns. Ballistics apparently matched the shotgun Mr. Burrows carried with the one used in the Governor’s murder. Mr Burrows had prior criminal convictions. “Buck” Burrows confessed to shooting and killing Sir Richard and Captain Sayers. In some circles, it is still debated whether Buck Burrows was actually innocent of the crime. Although many Bermudians think Larry Tacklyn was convicted of Governor Sharples assassination, he was actually acquitted, but was convicted of the Shopping Centre killings carried out 6 months earlier. In April 1976 they were both sentenced to death.

- Rumoured Third Suspect

There are unconfirmed reports of a third man being involved, who is said to have escaped Bermuda dressed as a woman. He is said to have had family assistance to flee to Israel. Credible sources say he was the son of a very well known Bermudian figure. Some say that the son was unfairly targeted due to the father’s activity in the civil rights movement. He was rumored to have returned to Bermuda in the late 1990′s for a short time.

- The Hangings

In spite of a mercy petition to the Queen signed by 6,000 Bermudians [one report list the signatures as high as 13,000], both Buck Burrows and Larry Tacklyn were hung during the early hours of December 1st 1977 within the walls of Casemates Prison and laid to rest in unmarked graves. They were the last people executed under British rule worldwide.

- The Riots

Riots followed the hangings, see this page [coming soon]

- Continued Sharples Bermuda Connection

Decades later the Sharples family still maintain Bermuda ties. His son Christopher Sharples maintains a home in Bermuda; “Tideway” in Point Shares. His widow Baroness Sharples is a honourary member of the St. Georges Foundation Board.

-A now declassified report sent to London’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the immediate aftermath of the worst civil disturbances in Bermuda’s history, said agitators “set the stage” for rioting which broke out when convicted murderers Erskine (Buck) Burrows and Larry Tacklyn were executed in December, 1977.