Category Archives: Major events in The Troubles

Balmoral Furniture Company Bombing – 12.25 pm 11th December 1971

Balmoral Furniture Company Bombing

11 December 1971

 

balmoral funiture plaque

The Balmoral Furniture Company bombing was a paramilitary attack that took place on 11 December 1971 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A bomb exploded without warning outside a furniture showroom on the Shankill Road in a predominantly unionist area, killing four civilians, two of them babies.

 

retaliation for the bombing of McGurk’s

The bombing is one of the catalysts that spark a series of tit-for-tat bombings and shootings by loyalists and republicans  that made the 1970s the bloodiest decade in the 30-year history of The Troubles .

It is widely believed that the bombing was carried out by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in retaliation for the bombing of McGurk’s pub a week earlier, which killed 15 Catholic civilians. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) had carried out that bombing.

See : McGurk’s Pub Bombing

The bombing happened on a Saturday when the Shankill was crowded with shoppers, creating bedlam in the area. Hundreds of people rushed to help British Army troops and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) rescue survivors trapped under the rubble of the devastated building.

According to journalist Peter Taylor, the bomb site was

“reminiscent of the London Blitz”

during World War II. The attack provoked much anger in the tight-knit Ulster Protestant community and many men later cited the bombing as their reason for joining one of the two main Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisations: the illegal UVF or the then-legal Ulster Defence Association(UDA).

 

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Tommy Lyttle

Four such men were Tommy Lyttle, Michael Stone, Sammy Duddy, and Billy McQuiston.

The bombing was one of the catalysts that sparked the series of tit-for-tat bombings and shootings by loyalists, republicans and the security forces that made the 1970s the bloodiest decade in the 30-year history of the Troubles.

 

– Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

 

The Bombing

The bombing took place in the heart of the loyalist Shankill Road

 

shankill rd

At 12.25 pm on 11 December 1971, when the Shankill Road was packed with Saturday shoppers, a green car pulled up outside the Balmoral Furniture Company at the corner of Carlow Street and Shankill Road.

The shop was locally known as “Moffat’s” although Balmoral Furniture Company was its official name.  One of the occupants got out, leaving a box containing a bomb on the step outside the front door. The person got back into the car and it sped away. The bomb exploded moments later, bringing down most of the building on top of those inside the shop and on passersby outside.

Four people were killed as a result of the massive blast, including two babies—Tracey Munn (2) and Colin Nichol (17 months) who both died instantly when part of the wall crashed down upon the pram they were sharing.

Two employees working inside the shop were also killed: Hugh Bruce (70) and Harold King (29).[4] Unlike the other three victims, who were Protestant, King was a Catholic.  Bruce, a former soldier and a Corps of Commissionaires member, was the shop’s doorman and was nearest to the bomb when it exploded.

Nineteen people were injured in the bombing, including Tracey’s mother.  The building, which was built in Victorian times, had load-bearing walls supporting upper floors on joists. It was thus unable to withstand the blast and so collapsed, adding to the devastation and injury count.

 

Balmoral bomb

The bombing caused bedlam in the crowded street. Hundreds of people rushed to the scene where they formed human chains to help the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) free those trapped beneath the rubble by digging with their bare hands. Peter Taylor described the scene as “reminiscent of the London Blitz” in World War II.

One witness was Billy McQuiston, who had been walking down the Shankill with a friend when they heard the blast. Rushing to the scene, McQuiston later recounted what he saw and felt upon reaching the wrecked building:

 

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Women were crying. Men were trying to dig out the rubble. Other men were hitting the walls. One person was crying beside you and the next person was shouting ‘Bastards’ and things like that. I didn’t actually see the babies’ bodies as they had them wrapped in sheets, but the blood was just coming right through them. They were just like lumps of meat, you know, small lumps of meat.

All these emotions were going through you and you wanted to help. There were people shouting at the back, “Let’s get something done about this”. To be perfectly honest with you, I just stood there and cried, just totally and utterly numb. It wasn’t until I got back home that I realised, this isn’t a game. There’s a war going on here. These people are trying to do us all in. They’re trying to kill us all and they don’t care who we are or what age we are. Because we’re Protestants, they are going to kill us so we’re going to have to do something here.

The angry crowd at the scene shared McQuiston’s dismay and anger against the Provisional IRA, whom they automatically held responsible for the bombing. They also sought to retaliate against any Catholic they happened upon. A Protestant man nearby made a remark about the bombing, and someone who overheard it mistook the speaker for a Catholic and shouted out:

“He’s Catholic!”.

A mob of about one hundred men and women ran towards him and began kicking and punching him until he was left unconscious. It took the RUC and British troops half an hour to rescue him from his attackers.

Aftermath

 

balmoral funiture plaque

A mural showing the Balmoral bombing and other IRA attacks carried out on the Shankill Road

Although nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, the Provisional IRA was immediately and widely blamed.

In his book Loyalists, Peter Taylor explained that the Provisional IRA bombed Balmoral in retaliation for the McGurk’s Bar bombing one week earlier, which had killed 15 Catholic civilians.

This theory is supported by Susan McKay. Billy McQuiston, along with many other Protestant men who had been on the Shankill at the time of the explosion, immediately joined the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

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Others included Sammy Duddy, Michael Stone, and Tommy Lyttle.  Lyttle, who became brigadier of the UDA West Belfast Brigade, was not there but his wife and two daughters were near the bomb when it went off. They received no injuries, but his daughter Linda said that Lyttle:

 

“took it personally”.

 

Jackie McDonald, the incumbent South Belfast UDA brigadier, worked as dispatches manager for the Balmoral Furniture Company.  The leader of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF, the name the UDA used to claim attacks), John White, who was convicted of the double murder of Senator Paddy Wilson and Irene Andrews in 1973, used the Balmoral bombing as justification for these killings and others.

See:  Senator Paddy Wilson and Irene Andrews

Within a month of the bombing, the UDA had restructured, adopting a more military structure and establishing a thirteen-member Security Council under Charles Harding Smith to co-ordinate activity.

Michael Stone would go on to perpetrate the Milltown Cemetery attack in 1988, which was caught on camera. Another Protestant man, Eddie Kinner, had been at the scene following the explosion. He lived around the corner from Balmoral. He sought revenge against the IRA and later joined the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

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He later spoke about his reactions to the Balmoral bombing in an interview with Peter Taylor:

“On that occasion, if somebody had handed me a bomb to plant it anywhere you want in the Falls, I would have done it”,

adding that he had no qualms about taking somebody else’s life.

Within a week of the attack, the UVF retaliated by planting a bomb at Murtagh’s Bar on the Irish nationalist Springfield Road in west Belfast. A 16-year-old Catholic barman, James McCallum, was killed.

See:  18th December – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

The building which housed Balmoral’s Furniture Company was formerly “Wee Joe’s Picture House”, dating from the 1930s. Taking its name from “Wee” Joe McKibben, one of three owners of the cinema (which was nicknamed the “Wee Shank”), it was said locally that it cost a jam jar to get in on account of the fact that patrons could go to McKibben’s other place of business, a grocery shop, and swap an empty jam jar for a ticket to the cinema.

The edifice was demolished after the bombing.

Although a youth on the Shankill had seen the green car and person who planted the device, the bombers were never apprehended nor was anyone ever charged in connection with the attack.

The McGurk’s Bar bombing was the catalyst that sparked a series of tit-for-tat bombings and shootings by loyalist and republican paramilitaries that would help make the 1970s the bloodiest decade in the 30-year history of the Troubles.

The Balmoral bombing was not the first paramilitary attack in the Shankill Road area. On 29 September 1971, the Four Steps Inn pub had been bombed by the Provisional IRA, resulting in the deaths of two men.

It would not be the last either. In August 1975, the Provisional IRA carried out a shooting and bombing attack against the Bayardo Bar on Aberdeen Street, which killed three men and two women – one aged

A deadlier attack took place on 23 October 1993 when a two-man IRA unit from Ardoyne carried a bomb into Frizzell’s Fish Shop on the Shankill. The device detonated prematurely, killing one of the bombers and ten of the customers.

 

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See Shankill Road bombing 

Balmoral as a company was also established as a target by this attack and in October 1976 its premises in Dunmurry were blown up in another bomb attack. Three IRA volunteers were arrested not far from the scene of this attack with one, Bobby Sands, imprisoned for possessing a gun as a result.

Sands’ fellow hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, was also arrested following this incident. Sands and McDonnell had jointly planned the bomb attack.

See: Events to commemorate Shankill Road Bomb anniversary

 

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Walton’s Restaurant Bombing – 18th November 1975

Walton’s Restaurant Bombing

walton restaurant bombing

On 18 November 1975 an Irish Republican Army (IRA) unit nicknamed the Balcombe Street Gang without warning threw a bomb into Walton’s Restaurant in Walton StreetKnightsbridge, London, killing two people and injuring almost two dozen others.

Background

 

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The IRA began a bombing campaign on Britain on 8 March 1973 when they exploded a car bomb outside the Old Bailey which injured 180 people and one man died from a heart attack. The IRA unit responsible for the Old Bailey bombing were arrested trying to leave the country.

 

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Thereafter to try to help avoid their active service units (ASUs) from being captured and to have a better chance of carrying out a sustained bombing assault , the IRA decided to send to England sleeper cells who would arrive within weeks before actually carrying out any military activity and blend in with the public as not to draw attention to themselves. According to the leader of the Balcombe Street unit, the first bombing they carried out was the Guildford pub bombings on 5 October 1974, which killed five people and injured over 60 for which four innocent people known as the Guildford Four were arrested and received large jail sentences.

 

 In February 1975 the Provisional Irish Republican Army agreed to a truce and ceasefire with the British government and the Northern Ireland Office Several “incident centres” were established in Irish nationalist areas in Northern Ireland to monitor the ceasefire and the activity of the security forces. Before the truce, the IRA ASU, later dubbed the Balcombe Street Gang (because of the December 1975 Balcombe Street siege), had been bombing targets in England since autumn 1974, particularly in London and surrounding areas.

Their last attack was an assassination attempt on former Prime Minister Edward Heath but he was not home when the attackers threw a bomb into his bedroom window on 22 December 1974.

Bombing

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The Provisional IRA bomb Waltons London restaurant – 18 November 1975

 

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After the 1975 PIRA–British Army truce began to break, the IRA’s Balcombe Street ASU stepped up its bombing and shooting campaign on mainland Britain. On the night of 18 November 1975 the unit picked Walton’s Restaurant to bomb. Two civilians, Audrey Edgson (aged 45) and Theodore Williams (aged 49), were killed  when a bomb was thrown by one of the IRA Volunteers through the window of Walton’s Restaurant in Walton Street, Chelsea.

The device injured 23 other people, the oldest of them 71 years of age. In the bomb the IRA used miniature ball bearings to maximise injuries. Two persons, a man and woman, died at St. Stephen’s Hospital shortly after being taken there. According to Dr. Laurence Martin the consultant in charge of the casualty department in St. Stephen’s Hospital said that four of those injured required emergency operations.

“We have been involved with nine bomb incidents in the past two years but this is the worst,”

Dr. Martin said.

 

Senior Scotland Yard official, James Nevin, deputy head of the bomb squad, said that the bomb used in the attack had been a “shrapnel‐like device.” containing three pounds of explosives.

“This was obviously designed to kill and injure people rather than damage property,”

he said.

This was a calculated bombing campaign aimed at destroying businesses and scaring customers in London’s West End.

Other previous attacks by the unit in 1975 included Scott’s Oyster Bar bombing on 12 November, the London Hilton bombing on 5 September and the Caterham Arms Pub Bombingon 27 August. In total the unit carried out around 40 bomb and gun attacks on mainland Britain between October 1974 – December 1975.

Aftermath

This was the Balcombe Street gang’s last major attack during their fourteen-month bombing campaign of the British mainland. The IRA units bombing campaign would come to an end in December 1975 when they were caught at the Balcombe Street Siege which is where the unit got its name from.

See: Balcombe Street Siege 

The unit would eventually end up exploding close to 50 bombs in England and carried out several shootings which cost millions of pounds in damages, claimed the lives of 18 people, which included 10 civilians, 7 British soldiers and one London police officer, and injured almost 400 people, but they were only sentenced for the deaths of seven people.

The IRA would continue to attack targets in England during the rest of the 1970s and throughout the 1980s but would not launch such a sustained campaign on the British mainland again until the early 1990s.

 In custody the ASU also admitted to carrying out the Guildford pub bombings and the Kings Arms, Woolwich bombing for which the Guildford Four had been arrested, and received lengthy jail terms

See: Guildford Pub Bombings

The Rise & Fall of UDA Brigadier of Bling James Gray – AKA ” Doris Day”

The Rise & Fall of UDA Brigadier of Bling James Gray 

 

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AKA ” Doris Day”

James Gray (1958 – 4 October 2005), known as Jim Gray, was a Northern Irish loyalist and the East Belfast brigadier of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the largest Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland.

He was often nicknamed “Doris Day” for his flamboyant clothing, jewellery, and dyed blond hair. Another media nickname for Gray was the “Brigadier of Bling”. He was the owner of several bars in East Belfast.

 

Jim Gray

 

Jim gray.jpg

Jim Gray
Birth name James Gray
Nickname(s) “Doris Day”
Born 1958
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died 4 October 2005 (aged 46–47)
East Belfast, Northern Ireland
Allegiance Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Rank Brigadier
Unit East Belfast Brigade
Conflict The Troubles

 

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

Early life

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Gray, the son of James and Elizabeth Gray, was born in 1958 and raised a Protestant in East BelfastHe had one sister, Elizabeth. He left school at age 15 and had ambitions of becoming a professional golfer, playing off a handicap of three.

He briefly worked at the Short Brothers‘ factory but did not hold the job long as he was heavily involved in petty crime with the Tartan gangs prevalent in loyalist areas at the time.

Ulster Defence Association

According to an interview in the Sunday World with his ex-wife Anne Tedford, to whom a youthful Gray was married for four years (a marriage that produced one son, Jonathan), Gray joined the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) when she was in maternity hospital. She claimed that Gray was offered a lift home by a near-neighbour, Gary Matthews, who was already a UDA member, and that Matthews had Gray sworn in as a member soon afterwards.

He eventually rose to become brigadier of the East Belfast Brigade, taking over after Ned McCreery was killed by the UDA in 1992.

 

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Who killed UDA Boss?

 

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Brigadier

Nicknamed “Doris Day” and the “Brigadier of Bling”, Gray, who was 6’3″ in height, became known as the most flamboyant leader in the UDA with his dyed blond bouffant hair, permanent suntan, gold earring, ostentatious jewellery, and expensive pastel clothing.

 

 

In their book UDA – Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror, journalists Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack described him as “looking more like an ageing New Romantic” than the leader of a paramilitary organisation.

He once attended a UDA meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern IrelandJohn Reid wearing a loud Hawaiian-print shirt with a pink jumper draped over his shoulders.

A heavy cocaine user, Gray made large amounts of money from selling drugs, protection racketeering, and extortion.

Gray’s criminal empire was reported to have made him one of the richest brigadiers in UDA history. He also acquired several bars in his native east Belfast. One of these, the “Avenue One” in Templemore Avenue, he used as the headquarters for his substantial criminal empire. He lived in an expensive luxury flat in an exclusive private residence and was protected by a devoted gang dubbed “the Spice Boys”.

 

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Rangers 3 Celtic 2…Amazing Penny Arcade & Blue Sea Of Ibrox

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A supporter of Rangers, Gray was reported as knowing a number of players personally and meeting them during his regular visits to Ibrox Park

Renowned for his violent temper, he once allegedly brutally beat then stomped on a man’s head during an outdoor Rod Stewart concert at Stormont in full view of the audience. On another occasion, he violently attacked a man with a golf club after the latter had beaten him in a game of golf. For that assault, Gray was barred from the Ormeau Golf Club.

He had allegedly ordered the killing of his predecessor McCreery, whom he accused of being a police informer. Gray then took over his brigade and one of his pubs. In January 2001, the gunman, Geordie Legge met a grisly end, allegedly at the hands of Gray and his henchmen. Legge had reportedly denounced Gray’s organised criminal racket and tried to interfere with Gray’s lucrative drug-dealing, and he was repeatedly tortured and stabbed to death inside “The Bunch of Grapes”, another of Gray’s east Belfast pubs.

 

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After the killing, Legge’s body was placed in a carpet and dumped outside Belfast. Legge’s knife wounds were so severe that his head was almost severed from the body. The pub was set on fire to eliminate the signs of the torture that had been carried out inside. Gray was one of the mourners who attended Legge’s funeral. 

Gray and his right-hand man Gary Matthews, who co-owned the Bunch of Grapes, sought to claim on their insurance for the pub fire and sued AXA when they refused to pay out. Gray and Matthews were eventually forced to drop the case as the judge did not accept their version of events surrounding the fire and AXA successfully argued that they had not disclosed their UDA membership when they took out the policy.

The following year on 13 September 2002, Gray was shot in the face by UDA rivals; the plastic surgery to repair the considerable facial injuries cost £11,000. The shooting, which was blamed on West Belfast Brigadier Johnny Adairhad been described by the police as “loosely related” to the death of Stephen Warnock, a Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader, in one of the loyalist feuds.

 

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Adair had previously started a whispering campaign against both Gray and John Gregg of the UDA South East Antrim Brigade, claiming both men were to be stood down as part of his attempts to take full control of the UDA.

As part of this Adair, who was close to the LVF, had visited the Warnock family and suggested that Gray had been involved in their relative’s death (which had actually been carried out by a hired Red Hand Commando gunman after Warnock refused to pay a drug debt to a North Down businessman).

As a result, Gray was shot by a lone gunman after he left the Warnock home, where he had been paying his respects to the deceased. On 25 September, Gray discharged himself from the Ulster Hospital to attend a meeting of all the brigadiers bar Adair at which he, John Gregg, Jackie McDonaldBilly McFarland and Andre Shoukri found Adair guilty of treason for his role in Gray’s shooting and released a press statement to the effect that Adair was expelled from the UDA.

 Two weeks after the attack, Gray flew to Tenerife for a holiday.[citation needed] He allegedly owned property in Spain.

Gray’s son, Jonathan, died of a drugs overdose in 2002 while with his father on holiday in Thailand. An October 2005 report by the Belfast Telegraph claimed that Jim Gray was bisexual and would regularly take holidays to Thailand to have sex with teenage boys.

 

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Loyalists Episode

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Expulsion and arrest

Gray was expelled by the UDA leadership in March 2005, for “treason” and “building a criminal empire outside the UDA”, according to the South Belfast brigadier, Jackie McDonald. It was suggested that Gray was a Special Branch informer who passed on information to the police about his friends and associates.

In April that year, he was arrested whilst driving; several thousand pounds were found in the car, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) believed he was intending to travel to the Republic of Ireland with what they suspected to be the proceeds of drug dealing and extortion. Gray was charged with money laundering, and held in custody until September when he was released on bail.

During this time, police raids on a number of locations brought in thousands of documents related to this investigation. At the same time the prominent Belfast estate agent Philip Johnston was also arrested under suspicion of money laundering.

Gray was replaced as head of the UDA East Belfast Brigade by Jimmy Birch.

Shooting death

Gray was shot five times in the back and killed outside his father’s house in the east Belfast Clarawood estate on 4 October 2005, by two unknown gunmen. The shooting took place at 8 p.m. while he was unloading weight-lifting equipment from the boot of his silver Mini Cooper.

As his body lay on the front lawn, local people took photos and passed the news to others via their mobile phones.

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According to Gray’s father, his son had left the house after Gary Matthews arrived to give him a set of weights and cigarettes that he had bought for Gray in Spain. Shots rang out and when Gray’s father went out to see what had happened he found his son had been shot and Matthews was ringing for an ambulance.

The involvement of other loyalist factions was suspected, fueling speculation that he was murdered to prevent him making an agreement with the police to expose his former associates in the UDA. Six people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder,

Ultimately however no charges were brought with the investigating officer, Detective Inspector Deborah McMaster, admitting at Gray’s inquest in 2007 that the police had largely given up on securing any convictions due to a lack of evidence.

East Belfast MP Peter Robinson (later First Minister of Northern Ireland from 2008 to January 2016) stated after Gray’s killing that:

“there was no excuse for the murder”.

 

Fellow UDA member and former friend, Michael Stone claimed that Gray had told him he was a businessman rather than a loyalist, as loyalism did not pay the bills.

Unlike most brigadiers, he was not given a paramilitary funeral, complete with volleys of gunfire fired over the coffin. It was a private affair, attended by only 14 mourners. As a further sign of his unpopularity among loyalists, a street disco was held in east Belfast to celebrate his death.

 

doris day funeral

Gray’s effigy, with a curtain ring representing his trademark single gold earring, was thrown upon a bonfire. In lieu of murals dedicated to his memory, there was only graffiti scrawled on an east Belfast wall which read:

“Jim Gray RIP – Rest in Pink”.

 

Gray’s estate was frozen by the Assets Recovery Agency as part of an investigation into his criminality.

 

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MacIntyre’s Underworld Mad Dog

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See:  John Gregg (UDA) The man who shot Gerry Adam?

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See: Michael Stone – Loyalist Hero or Psychopath?

 

 

Bibliography

  • Lister, David & Jordan, Hugh (2004). Mad Dog – The Rise and Fall of Johnny Adair and C Company, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing.
  • McDonald, Henry & Cusack, Jim (2004). UDA – Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror. Dublin: Penguin Ireland.

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

 

Jean McConville – The Shameful & Unforgivable Murder of a Widow & Mother of Ten

Jean McConville

Jean McConville

The Shameful & Unforgivable Murder of a Widow & Mother of Ten

Jean McConville (née Murray; 7 May 1934 – December 1972) was a woman from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who was kidnapped and shot dead by the Provisional IRA and secretly buried in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland in 1972 after being accused by the IRA of passing information to British forces.

In 1999, the IRA acknowledged that it had killed McConville and eight others of the “Disappeared”.

It claimed she had been passing information about republicans to the British Army in exchange for money and that a transmitter had been found in her apartment.

A report by the Police Ombudsman found no evidence for this or other rumours. Before the Troubles, the IRA had a policy of killing informers within its own ranks; however, from the start of the conflict the term informer was also used for civilians who were suspected of providing information on paramilitary organisations to the security forces. Other Irish republican and loyalist paramilitaries also carried out such killings.

As she was a widowed mother of ten,  the McConville killing was particularly controversial. Her body was not found until 2003, and the crime has not been solved. The Police Ombudsman found that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) did not begin to investigate the disappearance properly until 1995.

 

Biography

Jean Murray was born on 7 May 1934 to a Protestant family in East Belfast but converted after marrying Arthur McConville, a Catholic former British Army soldier, with whom she had ten children. After being intimidated out of a Protestant district by loyalists in 1969, the McConville family moved to West Belfast’s Divis Flats in the Lower Falls Road. Arthur died from cancer in January 1972.

At the time of her death, Jean McConville lived at 1A St Jude’s Walk, which was part of the Divis Flats complex.  This was an IRA stronghold, from which attacks were regularly launched against the British Army and RUC. Since the death of her husband, she had been raising their ten children, who were aged between six and twenty.

Their son Robbie was a member of the ‘Official’ IRA and was interned in Long Kesh at the time of her death; he would defect to the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1974.

 

Killing

In the months leading up to her death, tension and suspicion grew between McConville and her neighbours.  One night shortly before her disappearance, she was allegedly attacked after leaving a bingo hall and warned to stop giving information to the British Army.

According to police records, on 29 November 1972 a British Army unit found a distressed woman wandering in the street. She told them her name was McConville and that she had been attacked and warned to stop informing.

One of McConville’s children claimed she was kidnapped the night after this incident, but others gave the date of the kidnapping as 7 December.

On the night of her disappearance, four young women took McConville from her home at gunpoint, and she was driven to an unknown location. Dolours Price admitted that she was one of those involved in driving her across the border.

McConville was killed by a gunshot to the back of the head, there was no evidence of any other injuries to her body.

Her body was secretly buried across the border on Shellinghill Beach (also known as Templetown Beach) on the Cooley Peninsula in the north of County Louth, about 50 miles from her home. The place of her death is uncertain.

Although no group admitted responsibility for her disappearance, there were rumours that the IRA had killed her for being an informer. Another rumour is that she was killed because neighbours claimed they saw her helping a badly wounded British soldier outside her home; however, there is no record of such an incident.

McConville’s children say they recall her helping a wounded British soldier some time before their father died in January 1972.

In a 2014 interview published in the Sunday Life, former veteran Irish republican Evelyn Gilroy claimed the person who had tended to the soldier was her [Gilroy’s] sister.

The IRA did not admit involvement until after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It claimed she was killed because she was passing information about republicans to the British Army. Former IRA member Brendan Hughes claimed the IRA had searched her flat some time before her death and found a radio transmitter, which they confiscated.

He and other former republicans interrogated her and claimed she admitted the British Army was paying her for information about republicans. Hughes claims that, because of her circumstances, they let her go with a warning. However, he claims when the IRA found she had resumed working for the British Army, it decided to “execute” her.

Reluctant to kill a clearly desperate woman – not least because of the adverse publicity it would engender – the Brigade HQ Staff allowed McConville to live, albeit with a warning of fatal consequences should she be caught spying again. By December their patience was ended and after a short discussion over “banishment” versus “execution” her death was ordered through a majority vote. Among those supporting the latter option was the brigade OC or officer commanding,

Gerry Adams. However the manner of her killing was hotly debated. There were continuing fears that the acknowledged detention and killing by (P)IRA of a widowed mother of ten children (including a young political prisoner) would have a disastrous effect on support for the movement; that it would be exploited by Britain’s well-oiled propaganda-machine, as well as Republican rivals in (O)IRA; and that the slaying could reduce moral among local Volunteers. In the end those favouring a “public execution” were out-voted by those supporting a secret death sentence and “disappearance”, a solution which would have the added benefit of sowing confusion amongst their adversaries in the British intelligence groupings.

This was a practice that was already beginning to take root – albeit intermittently and with a great  deal of controversy – in the conflict-cockpit of Belfast. In this decision it seems that Gerry Adams was again in the majority camp.

See: AN SIONNACH FIONN for full story

 

Usually the bodies of informers were left in public as a warning, but the IRA secretly buried McConville, apparently because she was a widowed mother-of-ten. The IRA had first done this two months earlier, when it killed and buried two IRA members who were found to be working undercover for the British Military Reaction Force (MRF).

Aftermath

After her disappearance, McConville’s seven youngest children, including six-year-old twins, survived on their own in the flat, cared for by their 15-year-old sister Helen. After three weeks, the hungry family was visited by a stranger, who gave them Jean’s purse, with 52 pence and her three rings in it.

On 16 January 1973, the story of the abduction appeared on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph, under the headline:

“Snatched mother missing a month”

The following day, the children were interviewed on the BBC television programme Scene Around Six. The children reported to the social services, and were immediately brought into local council care.

The family was forcibly split up by social services.Among the consequences of the killing, Jean’s orphaned son Billy was sent to De La Salle Boys’ Home, Rubane House, Kircubbin, County Down, notorious for child abuse; he testified in 2014 to the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, describing repeated sexual and physical abuse, and starvation, saying :

“Christians looking after young boys – maybe they were Christians, but to me they were devils disguised in that uniform.”

Within two days of her kidnapping, one of her sons reported the incident to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army. However, the Police Ombudsman did not find any trace of an investigation into the kidnapping during the 1970s or 1980s.

An officer told the Ombudsman that CID investigations in that area of Belfast at that time were “restricted to the most serious cases”. On 2 January 1973, the RUC received two pieces of information stating:

“it is rumoured that Jean McConville had been abducted by the [IRA] because she is an informer”

In March 1973, information was received from the British Army, saying the kidnapping was an elaborate hoax and that McConville had left of her own free will.  As a result, the RUC refused to accept that McConville was missing, preferring to believe an anonymous tip that she had absconded with a British soldier.

The first investigation into her kidnapping appears to have taken place in 1995, when a team of RUC detectives was established to review the cases of all those who were thought to have been kidnapped during the conflict.

In 1999, the IRA gave information on the whereabouts of her body.  This prompted a prolonged search, co-ordinated by the Garda Síochána, the Irish police service, but no body was found. On the night of 26 August 2003, a storm washed away part of the embankment supporting the west side of Shellinghill Beach car park, near the site of previous searches. This exposed the body.

Jean McConville boby.jpg

On 27 August, it was found by passersby while they were walking on Shellinghill Beach (also known as Templetown Beach) in County Louthat the eastern tip of the Cooley Peninsula. McConville was subsequently reburied beside her husband Arthur in Holy Trinity Graveyard in Lisburn.

Investigation

Police Ombudsman’s report

In April 2004 the inquest into McConville’s death returned a verdict of unlawful killing.

In 2006 the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O’Loan, published a report about the police’s investigation of the murder. It concluded that the RUC did not investigate the murder until 1995, when it carried out a minor investigation. It found no evidence that she had been an informer, but recommended the British Government go against its long-standing policy regarding informers and reveal whether she was one.

Journalist Ed Moloney called for the British Government to release war diaries relating to the Divis Flats area at the time. War diaries are usually released under the thirty-year rule, but those relating to Divis at the time of McConville’s death are embargoed for almost ninety years.

The police have since apologised for its failure to investigate her abduction.  In January 2005, Sinn Féin party chairman Mitchel McLaughlin claimed that the killing of McConville was not a crime, saying that she had been executed as a spy in a war situation.

This prompted Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole to write a rebuttal, arguing that the abduction and extrajudicial killing of McConville was clearly a:

“war crime by all accepted national and international standards”

The IRA has since issued a general apology, saying it :

“regrets the suffering of all the families whose loved ones were killed and buried by the IRA”.

PSNI investigation and Boston College tapes

 

In August 2006, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Sir Hugh Orde, stated that he was not hopeful anyone would be brought to justice over the murder, saying:

“[in] any case of that age, it is highly unlikely that a successful prosecution could be mounted.”

Boston College had launched an oral history project on the Troubles in 2001. It recorded interviews with republicans and loyalists about their involvement in the conflict, on the understanding that the tapes would not be released until after their deaths.

Two of the republican interviewees, Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, both now deceased, admitted they were involved in McConville’s kidnapping. Both became diehard opponents of the Good Friday Agreement and Sinn Féin’s support of it. They saw Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams as a traitor for negotiating the Agreement and persuading the IRA to end its campaign.

In 2010, after Hughes’s death, some of his statements were published in the book Voices from the Grave.   He claimed McConville had admitted being an informer, and that Adams ordered her disappearance.

In a 2010 newspaper article, Price also claimed McConville was an informer and that Adams ordered her disappearance, which has been strenuously denied by Ed Moloney.  Price, who died in 2013, said she gave the interviews as revenge against Adams.  Former republican prisoner Evelyn Gilroy, who lived near McConville, claimed Adams was an IRA commander and the only person who could have ordered the killing.

Adams has denied any role in the death of McConville. He said:

“the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family”

In 2011, the PSNI began a legal bid to gain access to the tapes.  Acting on a request from the PSNI, the United States Justice Department tried to force Boston College to hand them over. Boston College had promised those interviewed that the tapes would not be released until after their deaths, and other interviewees said they feared retribution if the tapes were released. Following a lengthy court battle, the PSNI was given transcripts of interviews by Hughes and Price.

2014 arrests

In March and April 2014, the PSNI arrested a number of people over the kidnapping and killing of Jean McConville. Ivor Bell, former IRA Chief of Staff, was arrested in March 2014.  Shortly afterwards, he was charged with aiding and abetting in her murder.

In April, the PSNI arrested three people who were teenagers at the time of the kidnapping: a 56-year-old man and two women, aged 57 and 60. All were released without charge.

Following Bell’s arrest in March, there was media speculation that police would want to question Gerry Adams due to the claims made by Hughes and Price. Adams maintained he was not involved, but had his solicitor contact the PSNI to find whether they wanted to question him.

On 30 April, after being contacted by the PSNI, Adams voluntarily arranged to be interviewed at Antrim PSNI Station. He was arrested and questioned for four days before being released without charge. A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to decide whether further action should be taken, but there was “insufficient evidence” to charge him.

The arrest took place during an election campaign. Sinn Féin claimed that the timing of the arrest was politically motivated; an attempt to harm the party’s chances in the upcoming elections. Alex Maskey said it was evidence of a “political agenda […] a negative agenda” by elements of the PSNI.

Jean McConville’s family had campaigned for the arrest of Adams over the murder. Her son Michael said:

“Me and the rest of my brothers and sisters are just glad to see the PSNI doing their job. We didn’t think it would ever take place [Mr Adams’ arrest], but we are quite glad that it is taking place.” 

In a later interview on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, he stated that he knew the names of those who had abducted and killed his mother, but that:

“I wouldn’t tell the police [PSNI]. If I told the police now a thing, me or one of my family members or one of my children would get shot by those [IRA] people. It’s terrible that we know those people and we can’t bring them to justice”

 

Anthony Mc Intyre and the Boston Tapes

 

See: The Disappeared – Northern Ireland’s Secret Victims

 

UDR – Ballydugan Four – Lest We Forget!

LEST WE FORGET!

udr 9th april 1990

UDR – Ballydugan Four  – Slaughtered by the IRA

1990 Downpatrick Roadside Bomb

 

Related image

On 9 April 1990 the Provisional IRA (PIRA) detonated a massive IED roadside bomb under an Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) mobile patrol which killed four members of the UDR. It was the worst attack against the UDR since seven years previously when, in July 1983, four soldiers of the same regiment were killed in a similar attack near Ballygawley.

It was also one of the worst attacks against the security forces in County Down since the Warrenpoint Ambush of August 1979 when 18 British soldiers were killed and six injured.

The Attack

Pte John Birch (28), LCpl John Bradley (25), LCpl Michael Adams (23) and Pte Steven Smart (23), all members of the Ulster Defence Regiment were killed in an attack on their patrol on the morning of 9 April 1990.

 

The Innocent Victims 

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09 April 1990


John Bradley  (25)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on Ulster Defence Regiment mobile patrol, Ballydugan Road, Downpatrick, County Down

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09 April 1990


John Birch  (28)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on Ulster Defence Regiment mobile patrol, Ballydugan Road, Downpatrick, County Down.

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09 April 1990


Steven Smart   (23)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on Ulster Defence Regiment mobile patrol, Ballydugan Road, Downpatrick, County Down.

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09 April 1990
Michael Adams   (23)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on Ulster Defence Regiment mobile patrol, Ballydugan Road, Downpatrick, County Down.

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The men were killed in a Provisional IRA land mine attack on their mobile patrol on the Ballydugan Road, Downpatrick. They were travelling as part of a two Land Rover patrol from Ballykinlar to Downpatrick when the PIRA used a command wire to detonate a 1000lb landmine bomb hidden in a culvert beneath the road which exploded under the men’s Land Rover killing them instantly. Four UDR soldiers in the lead Land rover were treated for injuries along with two civilians passing by.

The force of the explosion was so powerful that it launched the Land Rover over a hedge and 30 yards into a field and left a crater 50 feet long, 40 feet wide and 15 feet deep

See : 9th April – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

 

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Parliament logo

It is always a privilege to speak in this House on any issue, but on this occasion I speak about something I have wanted to raise for some time: the case of the four Ulster Defence Regiment men who were murdered at Ballydugan, outside Downpatrick.

Four men jump into a vehicle and head to the next part of their job. They have worked together for some time, and the craic is great as they journey through the beautiful countryside on an idyllic morning. Just as any of us might do on any given day, they leave behind wives, children and loved ones to do their job and earn their pay. There the similarity ends, however, as the atrocity unfolds.

This is an important issue, and I am sure that Members in the House will heed its significance. I declare an interest as a former member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I served in it for three years, as did some of my colleagues on this side of the House. Other hon. and gallant Members in this House have served in other regiments, and I am pleased that they have made an effort to come to the Chamber as well.

On the morning of 9 April 1990, Private John Birch, Lance Corporal John Bradley, Private Michael Adams and Private Steven Smart, all members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, were murdered by the Provisional IRA in an attack on their mobile patrol on Ballydugan Road, Downpatrick. The four young soldiers, all in their 20s, were travelling as part of a two Land Rover patrol en route from Ballykinlar to Downpatrick when a 1,000 lb bomb placed in a culvert beneath the road—I repeat, a 1,000 lb bomb; imagine the magnitude of that—was detonated by command wire. The explosion was so powerful that it lifted the soldiers’ Land Rover 30 ft into the air and hurled it 30 yards into a field, killing them instantly and leaving a crater 50 ft long, 40 ft wide and 15 ft deep.

Those are the facts of what happened on that fateful morning. These are the faces of those whose lives were destroyed and whose family’s lives were torn apart, never to be the same. The men in the service of Queen and country, much like the officer on duty in this place last month, were simply doing their job and nothing else; there were no links to anything other than their desire to wear a uniform and their bravery in serving the community in Northern Ireland, which we salute.

I remember three of these men very well. Lance Corporal John Bradley, 25, of Cregagh, Belfast, was married with a two-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter. He had recently been promoted, having served four years with the Ulster Defence Regiment. He had served with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, and came from Port Glasgow in Renfrewshire. Private John Birch, 28, was married with a four-year-old son. He had joined the regiment in February the previous year, and came from Ballywalter, where I was raised. The fact of the matter is that I can remember when John Birch was born. His wife was expecting again. Private Steven Smart, 23, was from Newtownards, the main town of my Strangford constituency. He had served for 18 months in the regiment. His mother is dead, but his father is still living.

See: here for more details

See : 9th April – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

 

Torrens Knight – Natural Born Killer

Torrens Knight

Image result for Torrens Knight pictures

– Natural Born Killer –

 

Torrens Knight (born 4 August 1969) is a Northern Ireland loyalist, who belonged to the North Antrim and Londonderry Brigade of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

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UDA Flag

In 1993 he took part in the Greysteel massacre (in which eight civilians were shot dead) and the Castlerock killings (in which three civilians and a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) member were killed). After being convicted—along with three others—for the killings, he served seven years in the Maze Prison before his release in 2000 under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

 

Disclaimer 

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

Early life

Knight spent his formative years living at his grandmother’s farmhouse in the rural area of Aghadowey after the split of his parent’s marriage. In adulthood he developed an addiction to poker gambling machines which resulted in his exposure of stealing money from his grandmother to fund his habit.

As a result of this he was asked to leave the home and subsequently moved to the mostly Protestant town of Portstewart. Living with a loyalist, he started drinking alcohol and involving himself with criminality.

Paramilitary Activity

His initial starting point within loyalism was selling a magazine for a loyalist prisoners association. He progressed to the ranks of the UDA and carried out acts like robberies and punishment beatings. Knight was part of a four-man UDA group sent to conduct an attack in revenge for the Shankill Road bombing.

 

Trick or Treat

Their target was the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel, where Knight, Stephen Irwin, Jeffrey Deeney and Brian McNeill shot eight dead (six Catholics and two Protestants). After the leading gunman, Irwin shouted “Trick or treat”, he and Deeney raked the bar with gunfire, while Knight, armed with a shotgun, stood at the door. 19 other people were injured. McNeill was the driver of one of the cars used after the shootings.

 

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UFF Flag

The attack was claimed by the “Ulster Freedom Fighters”, a covername used by the UDA.

Knight was given eight life sentences for his part in the killings and a further four more for the killing of an IRA member and three Catholic civilians in CastlerockCounty Londonderry. He served seven years in the Maze Prison before paramilitary prisoners were granted a general release under the Good Friday Agreement in 2000.

Allegations of being an informant

According to David McKittrick, there had been rumours that Knight had been a police informer. Suspicions have been voiced by John Dallat, a member of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

Dallat, who said he was in touch with police about Knight before the attacks in Greysteel and Castlerock, claimed they might have been prevented since it was known Knight was an extremist.

In 2000 Knight attracted the attention of staff at a bank where he was withdrawing large amounts of money from an account into which £50,000 a year was being paid. The bank’s concern was that Knight was involved in money laundering, but, when police were contacted, an assurance was given that everything was in order.

The money was said to be from a Scottish engineering firm, but the account was quickly closed down.

Image result for Nuala O'Loan, Baroness O'Loan

Nuala O’Loan

Police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan investigated Dallat’s claim that police had prior information about Greysteel, stating that there was no evidence this was the case. She also stated that Knight’s conviction and sentence led her to believe that he was not being protected by police, but added that it was beyond her remit to investigate whether or not he was a paid informer.

Alleged membership of Apprentice Boys

In 2008 Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard claimed that Knight was a member of the Kilrea branch of the Apprentice Boys. It was claimed that Knight took part in a parade in Kilrea and laid a wreath at the cenotaph in the village.

The Kilrea branch of the Apprentice Boys denied this as did Knight himself. A spokesman stated that Knight wasn’t a member and that they will demand an apology and explanation from Sinn Féin.

Knight also stated that John Dallat and Billy Leonard are taking part in a ‘hate campaign’ against him and challenged the nationalist politicians ‘to get off his back’

2009 conviction

In October 2009 Knight was found guilty of assaulting two sisters in a bar in Coleraine As a result, his early release licence was suspended and he was returned to jail.

He was later sentenced to four months jail for the assault. The judge said:

“The injuries sustained were consistent with a vicious attack on the two women and of particular concern in this case is that you kicked Ms Nicholl while she was on the ground, prone and unable to defend herself…. People who do that can expect no mercy or sympathy from these courts.

You acted as a bully when you approached these sisters. You lost control and lashed out”.

After Knight was returned to prison in 2009 it was revealed that Trevor Collins, a member of Jim Allister‘s Traditional Unionist Voice political party from Garvagh, was collecting signatures campaigning for his release from prison. The TUV said it would not be taking action against Collins for instigating the petition.

 

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Knight was released on 6 August 2010

 

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See:  The Greysteel Shootings

 

See:  Castlerock Killings

See: Shankill Bombing

—————————————————————————————

Greysteel

Confessions of serial killer Torrens Knight

Recording reveals loyalist’s life of drugs, crimes and sectarian murder

Notorious ‘trick or treat’ killer Torrens Knight has spoken frankly about his life of crime, drug abuse and sectarian murder.

The once defiant, gloating loyalist gunman says his life “spiralled out of control” when he joined the UFF and he knew the Greysteel massacre was wrong.

But the born-again Christian, 46, has also admitted that he relished being in the UDA/UFF, saying: “I was on a road to destruction but I liked it because it fuelled my anger.

“I looked upon the UDA as my family. It was sad in a way but that’s how I looked at the UDA.”

 

Co Londonderry man Knight – the most infamous of the Greysteel killers – has spoken candidly of his life as a terrorist in a 33 minute audio testimony made for a Christian group and broadcast online on the same site that published the testimony of Ballymena ‘glued lips’ killer Adrian Hayes.

Choking with emotion on occasions, Knight tells how he descended from being a poker machine addict who took cash from granny’s purse, to becoming a UDA robber and enforcer before joining a UFF murder squad.

Aged 24 he led the UFF gang that shouted “trick or treat” before raking the Rising Sun bar with machine gun fire in Halloween 1993.

A 19-year-old woman and an 81-year-old man were among the eight people mercilessly killed in the sectarian slaughter at the village pub on Saturday, October 30.

Following his arrest TV pictures of an unrepentant Knight screaming abuse and defiance outside Limavady courthouse were beamed around the world.

Bible-basher Knight now says that his snarling, hardman stance was all a front.

He planned to go on the run but says he knew in his heart the atrocity in the pub was wrong and allowed police to arrest him.

Speaking at a Gospel meeting, Knight began by telling fellow Christians of his early days, living with his God-fearing granny on a farm in Aghadowey when his parents’ marriage broke up.

Knight’s life began to go wrong when he became addicted to poker machines at a local pub.  He took cash from a purse where his granny kept money for church missions and his gran and furious dad told him to pack his bags.

He moved to Portstewart with a pal from a hardline loyalist background who had been told to leave his family home when he started going out with a Catholic girl.

“I went to Portstewart to live. I started drinking and going out. I lost the influence and fear of my father.

“One thing led to another. I had anger issues. I would say I had a chip on my shoulder and I got involved in criminality.

“A few years later I got involved in an organisation. I started off just going round the doors selling magazines for the LPA (Loyalist Prisoners Association) and lifting money. I enjoyed it.

“Then I progressed. I moved up into the UDA, going round the doors wasn’t enough. I started doing robberies and beatings, things like that. But that still wasn’t enough. I wanted to go further.

“I progressed to the UFF, which was really the murder teams of the loyalist paramilitaries. My life just spiralled out of control.

“I joined the organisation to fight against the IRA who I saw as the enemy and it just progressed and progressed. It was a scary time.

“I got involved in shooting and ended up killing not only IRA men but also killing innocent people. That was a thing I never ever thought I would do. I never planned it.

 

Aftermath: RUC officers outside the Rising Sun bar where Torrens Knight murdered eight innocent people on Halloween night 1993.
Aftermath: RUC officers outside the Rising Sun bar where Torrens Knight murdered eight innocent people on Halloween night 1993.

“But that’s just sin. Once you go down the road of sin, it sucks you in, it can just take over.

“It was just like I was going down a road of destruction. And I liked it because it fuelled my anger,” said the man who was also jailed for the killings of four men in Castlerock in 1993.

He said he looked on the UDA as his family.

“I was part of something. I felt special. I had boys who would watch my back and I would do the same for them.”

Knight talks about “eyeing up” a Provo for assassination for a few days prior to the Greysteel murders but he now thanks God that the man did not turn up.

“Then the Shankill bomb happened and orders came down the line something big was going down, that we were to cancel what we were doing. And I was asked to take charge of the team that were going to carry this out.

“The place that was picked was the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel. I didn’t question it.”

He said he would have done anything he was asked to do by UDA leaders at that point.

“At that time we were so, in a way brainwashed, that’s being truthful. We believed what we were doing was right.”

After the pub massacre Knight considered going on the run but instead effectively gave himself up.

“I had a gut feeling when the ‘job’ was carried out that something wasn’t right.

“I was actually ready to go on the run and go into hiding but there was something in here [he thumps on his heart a number of times] that didn’t sit right with me.

 

“I says ‘I’ll man up’ because I knew they [police] were looking for me. A pile of my mates had been lifted. I saw the police in Macosquin and I just stood and they took me and another chap away.”

Knight said he had been interrogated by CID at Castlereagh Holding Centre previously and regarded it just as a game which he enjoyed. He never thought the cops would ‘get under his skin’ but this time was different.

He added: “I tried to put on this hard exterior, I tried to justify it but deep down I knew it wasn’t right, these innocent people, it wasn’t right.

“And I think that’s what helped break me too because I knew it wasn’t right.”

He talks about spending time in the Maze jail on remand after “wrecking the Crum (Crumlin Road Gaol)” and finding drugs in easy supply.

“It was a scary place. It was a mad place. It was full of mad men. I thank God he brought me through it all.”

Knight says he “dabbled” in drugs prior to going into the Maze but cannabis became a way of life in jail.

“Whenever we went into prison unfortunately drugs were readily available and that’s the way we put in our days in, smoking weed and getting stoned.”

The multiple killer, who was given 12 life sentences, said: “I suppose it [the drugs] were a way of us dealing with what we were going through because it was traumatic, our lives were just turned upside down. It was a form of escapism.”

In his testimony Knight, who is understood to work for a joinery firm on the North Coast, tells how he found God while serving time in prison.

He says his partner Carolyn also came to the Lord after seeing how he had changed. At times he chokes with emotion as he talks about his life and the role of God in his life. The killer admits that on occasions he has backslid, saying “he took the hand off the plough”.

After being given early release under the Good Friday Agreement terms he was later returned to jail for assaulting two women and disorderly behaviour in a Coleraine bar. But he says he now thanks God he was jailed for a second time.

Choking up, he says: “I had drifted away from God and that’s why I got into the mess that I did.  I was one of those men who the Bible talks about, a man who had taken his hand off the plough.

“Since then I cry a lot. God touched me in a special way. God has had to break me a few times but he hasn’t broke me to destroy, he has broke me to build me up again, to teach me.”

The audio of Torrens Knight’s full testimony was recently uploaded to the website of Set Free Prisons Bangor.

See Belfast Telegraph for full story

 

 

IRA Rheindahlen Barracks Bombing 23rd March 1987

 

Rheindahlen Barracks Bombing

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23rd March 1987

30 hurt as car bomb hits Army base

Thirty-one people have been injured after a car bomb exploded at a British army base in West Germany.

The device, believed to contain 300lbs (136kg) of explosive, went off close to the officers’ mess at Rheindahlen, 50 miles (80km) from the West German capital Bonn.Twenty-seven West Germans and four Britons were hurt in the bombing at 2230 local time.

The force of the blast ripped up the road and caused extensive damage to parked cars and surrounding buildings.

We were very lucky that people were not killed

Nigel Gillies, Army spokesman

 

The injured have been treated for shock and wounds caused mainly by flying glass. Firefighters at the scene say none of the injured are in a critical condition. Army spokesman, Nigel Gillies, said:

“Indeed we were very lucky that people were not killed.”

Mr Gillies said the fact that it was night-time when the bomb went off and the heavy curtains at the base had helped to protect people.

Most of the injured were German officers and their wives, who were enjoying a farewell party at the base. The injured have been taken to the RAF hospital at Wegberg, a few miles south of Rheindahlen, near the Dutch border. The bomb caused parts of the ceiling to collapse and doors were ripped from their frames. A police spokesman said the blast blew out windows in buildings several hundred yards away.

A German air force officer at the base said:

“We are investigating the possibility that there may be other bombs on the base.”

Servicemen have been put on alert and police have sealed off the area around the barracks.Public roads run through the middle of the base, which is the Army’s largest in Europe. Service personnel, families and civilian staff make up the community.All vehicles are being checked by soldiers to stop any other attempts to breach security after the bombers drove into the open base.

Armed Forces Minister John Stanley said Rheindahlen was on a higher state of security alert than normal at the time of the attack.

Mr Stanley said if this had not been the case, casualties would have been much higher. A man speaking in English had telephoned a warning to the German press before the blast, Mr Stanley confirmed.

An internal investigation is to be held but Mr Stanley has spoken to MPs about the “immense difficulties” of ensuring total security on such a sprawling base.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman has denied that the public have unrestricted access to the mess area although he said there are :

“different security levels at various parts of the base”.

 

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

1987 JHQ Rheindahlen bombing

Thirty-one people were injured on 23 March 1987 after a 300 lb (140 kg) car bomb exploded near the visitors officers’ mess at JHQ Rheindahlen military barracks. The Provisional IRA later stated it had carried out the bombing. It was the start of the IRA’s campaign on mainland Europe from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.

 

Background

The bombing was one of several high-profile attacks in mainland Europe by the IRA in the 1980s. It was the first IRA attack in West Germany since a British Army officer, Colonel Mark Coe, was shot dead by an IRA unit outside his home in, BielefeldWest Germany in February 1980. Coe’s assassination was one of the first high-profile killings by the IRA in Germany and on mainland Europe.

A year before in August 1979 the IRA injured four British soldiers in a bomb attack in BrusselsBelgium just one day after the killing of Lord Mountbatten and the Warrenpoint Ambush, which killed 18 British soldiers. In November 1981 the Irish National Liberation Army bombed a British Army base in Herford, West Germany. There were no injuries in the attack.

The Bombing

Other than attacks in Northern Ireland & mainland Britain the Provisional IRA also carried out attacks in other countries such as West Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, where British soldiers were based. Between 1979 and 1990, eight unarmed soldiers and six civilians died in these attacks, including the British Ambassador to the Netherlands Sir Richard Sykes and his valet, Karel Straub.

There was also a mortar attack on British Army base in Germany in 1996.

 According to author Ed Moloney’s “The Secret History of the IRA”, IRA Chief of Staff Kevin McKenna before the capture of the Eksund (a ship that was to ship heavy weaponry to the IRA from Libya) envisaged a three-pronged offensive that would start in the Northern Ireland and then spread to British targets in mainland Europe.

The IRA planted a 300-pound car bomb inside the JHQ Rheindahlen the British Armies military base in West Germany near the officers’ mess. When the large car bomb exploded 31 people was injured, some of them badly. Twenty-seven West Germans and four Britons were hurt in the bombing at 22:30 local time.

The force of the blast ripped up the road and caused extensive damage to parked cars and surrounding buildings. The injured were taken to the RAF hospital at Wegberg, a few miles south of Rheindahlen, near the Dutch border. The bomb caused parts of the ceiling to collapse and doors were ripped from their frames. A police spokesman said the blast blew out windows in buildings several hundred yards away.

It looked like it was a reasonably successful attack from the IRA’s point of view but the IRA actually had a close escape. The only reason people had not been killed was that the IRA ASU was unable to position the car bomb closer to the mess, because the car park was full of vehicles.

Unknown to the IRA unit, most of the vehicles were owned by West German military officers who had been invited to spend a social evening with their British counterparts. Had the IRA’s operation plan been carried out fully many of these German officers could have been killed and the start of the IRA’s Europe campaign would have been a diplomatic and military disaster and a big blow to any of the IRA’s international support.

Aftermath

The IRA later said it had carried out the bombing of the Rheindahlen barracks.

A statement from the IRA said: “Our unit’s brief was to inflict a devastating blow but was ordered to be careful to avoid civilian casualties.” The National Democratic Front for the Liberation of West Germany, a previously unheard of group, also claimed to have been behind the attack, but this was dismissed by police investigators.

More than 12,000 service personnel were stationed at the base. It was the joint headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine and the Royal Air Force.

The British Army of the Rhine was renamed British Forces Germany (BFG) in 1994.

See also: Osnabrück mortar attack

Castlerock Killings – 25th March 1993

Castlerock Killings

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25th March 1993

The Castlerock killings took place on 25 March 1993 in the village of CastlerockCounty LondonderryNorthern Ireland. Members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group, shot dead three civilians and a Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteer as they arrived for work. Another was wounded. The men were all Catholics.

The five men were builders and had been renovating houses in the Gortree Park housing estate for some months. As they arrived in their van at Gortree Park, at least two gunmen jumped out of another van and opened fire.

— Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries  are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

 Those killed were James McKenna (52), Gerard Dalrymple (58), Noel O’Kane (20) and Provisional IRA volunteer James Kelly (25).

—————————————————————————

25 March 1993


James Kelly,   (25)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on van, as he arrived at his workplace, renovating houses, Gortree Park, Castlerock, County Derry.

—————————————————————————

25 March 1993
 James McKenna,  (52)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on van, as he arrived at his workplace, renovating houses, Gortree Park, Castlerock, County Derry.

—————————————————————————

25 March 1993


Gerard Dalrymple,  (58)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on van, as he arrived at his workplace, renovating houses, Gortree Park, Castlerock, County Derry.

—————————————————————————

25 March 1993
Noel O’Kane,  (20)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on van, as he arrived at his workplace, renovating houses, Gortree Park, Castlerock, County Derry.

—————————————————————————

 

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The gunmen drove off toward Castlerock before doing a U-turn and passing their victims again. The van used by the gunmen was found burnt-out two miles from the attack.

Later in the day, the UDA shot dead a Catholic civilian Damian Walsh and wounded another at Dairy Farm Shopping Centre in Belfast.

—————————————————————————

25 March 1993


Damian Walsh,   (17)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot at his workplace, Dairy Farm Shopping Centre, Twinbrook, Belfast.

See: 25th March – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

————————————————————————

The UDA claimed responsibility for the attack using the covername “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF) and said the men were republicans.

 Sinn Féin councillor Patsy Groogan said the men were regularly stopped and harassed by the security forces and that he had:

“no doubt that this behaviour played a part in targeting these men for assassination”.

The weapons were later used by the same gang in carrying out the Halloween Greysteel massacre at the Rising Sun pub on 31 October 1993. It has been claimed that one of the gang was a double agent and protected by RUC Special Branch.

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Torrens Knight

Torrens Knight received eight life sentences for the Greysteel massacre, together with four more for the Castlerock killings. He served seven years in the Maze Prison before paramilitary prisoners were granted a general release under the Belfast Agreement.

 

See:  The Kingsmill Massacre – 5 January 1976

See: 25th March – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Massereene Barracks shooting 2009 – The Despicable & Cowardly murder of two off-duty British soldiers. Lest We Forget!

 Massereene Barracks Shooting

Saturday 9th March 2009

Lest We Forget!

 

Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey

 Saturday 7th March

2009

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On 7 March 2009, two off-duty British soldiers of 38 Engineer Regiment were shot dead outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim townNorthern Ireland. Two other soldiers and two civilian delivery men were also shot and wounded during the attack.

An Irish republican paramilitary group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility.

The shootings were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since 1997. Two days later, the Continuity IRA shot dead a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer; the first Northern Irish police officer to be killed by paramilitaries since 1998. These attacks marked the beginning of the most intensive period of “dissident republican” activity since the start of their campaign.

 

Massereene Barracks shooting
2009 Massereene Barracks shooting is located in Northern Ireland

2009 Massereene Barracks shooting
Location Massereene Barracks, Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Coordinates 54°43′18″N 6°13′51″WCoordinates54°43′18″N 6°13′51″W
Date 7 March 2009
~21:40 (UTC)
Attack type
Ambush
Weapons AKM automatic rifle
Deaths 2 soldiers
Non-fatal injuries
2 soldiers, 2 civilians
Perpetrator Real IRA

Background

From the late 1960s until the late 1990s, Northern Ireland underwent a conflict known as the Troubles, in which more than 3,500 people were killed. More than 700 of those killed were British military personnel, deployed as part of Operation Banner. The vast majority of these British military personnel were killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), which waged an armed campaign to force the British to negotiate a withdrawal from Northern Ireland. In 1997 the IRA called a final ceasefire and in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

This is widely seen as marking the end of the conflict.

 

However, breakaway groups opposed to the ceasefire (“dissident Irish republicans“) continued a low-leve  armed campaign against the British security forces in Northern Ireland (see Dissident Irish Republican campaign). The main group involved was an IRA splinter group known as the ‘Real’ IRA. In 2007, the British Army formally ended Operation Banner and greatly reduced its presence in Northern Ireland.

The low-level ‘dissident republican’ campaign continued. In January 2009, security forces had to defuse a bomb in Castlewellan  and in 2008 three separate incidents saw dissident republicans attempt to kill Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers in DerryCastlederg and Dungannon. In all three cases, PSNI officers were seriously wounded. Two of the attacks involved firearms while the other involved an under-car booby-trap bomb.

Massereene Barracks.PNG

Shooting

At about 21:40 on the evening of Saturday of 7 March, four off-duty British soldiers of the Royal Engineers walked outside the barracks to receive a pizza delivery from two delivery men. As the exchange was taking place, two masked gunmen in a nearby car (a green Vauxhall Cavalier) opened fire with Romanian AKM automatic rifles.

The firing lasted for more than 30 seconds with more than 60 shots being fired. After the initial burst of gunfire, the gunmen walked over to the wounded soldiers lying on the ground and fired again at close range, killing two of them.

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Sapper Mark Quinsey with his mother Pamela and sister Jaime 

Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Sapper Azimkar was 21 and came from London. He joined the Royal Engineers in 2005 and completed his basic recruit training and combat engineer course before attending artisan training as a carpenter and joiner.

He was posted to 38 Engineer Regiment in Ripon, North Yorkshire, in 2007. In January 2008 he completed a construction task in Northern Ireland and then deployed to Kenya in support of the infantry unit with whom he was due to work in Afghanistan. Following his return he participated in the regimental move to a new permanent base in Northern Ireland.

Fiercely competitive, both as an individual and team player, Sapper Azimkar was a very talented footballer. He had represented his squadron and the regiment and, as a younger man, had trials with Tottenham Hotspur.

Sapper Azimkar was a jovial, courteous and fun-loving soldier whose easygoing character found favour with all ranks. Hugely enthusiastic about the regiment’s deployment to southern Helmand, Sapper Azimkar was looking forward to facing the challenges of his first operational tour and the potential of JNCO (Junior Non-Commissioned Officer) training thereafter.

Sapper Patrick Azimkar’s family issued the following statement:

Patrick was a great character and a good sport who never said anything bad about anyone. Decisive, generous, proud and dignified he really enjoyed army life. He particularly enjoyed living in Belfast and he talked of settling there with his girlfriend after his return from Afghanistan – a mission which he was within just two hours of leaving for.

Sapper Azimkar’s parents said:

We are completely devastated by the loss of our beautiful son Patrick. There are no words to describe what this senseless killing has done to our family in taking from us our beloved son and brother at just 21 years old.

Patrick was generous, loyal and tenacious. He brought great fun into our lives and we will miss him forever.

We are thankful for the messages of support we have received from the people of Northern Ireland.

We join with them in our sincere hope for a return to lasting peace.

Brother James said he was courageous, strong and a loyal and true friend.

The family ask that the media respect their wishes to be left to grieve in private.

See: here for more information on:  Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Those killed were Sappers Mark Quinsey from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar from London. The other two soldiers and two deliverymen were wounded. The soldiers were wearing desert fatigues and were to be deployed to Afghanistan the next day.

A few hours later, the car involved was found abandoned near Randalstown, eight miles from the barracks.

Image result for Patrick Azimkar

Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Sapper Mark Quinsey

Sapper Quinsey was born in Birmingham in 1985 and joined the Army when he was 19. Following his basic training he attended the combat engineer course at Minley before qualifying as an electrician at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham. He served with 38 Engineer Regiment in both Ripon and Northern Ireland and deployed on a number of training exercises throughout the UK. Most recently he attended the intensive class 1 electricians’ course, which he completed with flying colours in 2008.

Sapper Quinsey was a charismatic and affable young soldier. Eager to put his recently gained trade knowledge to use, Sapper Quinsey was looking forward to the operational challenges that Afghanistan would offer. At only 23 he had already emerged as a mature, reliable and hugely capable young soldier with vast future potential.

Lieutenant Colonel Roger Lewis, Commanding Officer 38 Engineer Regiment, said:

Sapper Quinsey was an outwardly calm, resolute and motivated young soldier. A social live wire and hugely popular across the regiment, he was rarely away from the centre of the action.

Professionally his approach reflected his infectious enthusiasm for life. As one of the few soldiers within my regiment to have completed the demanding class 1 electricians’ course his trade skills were invaluable. He was hugely passionate about his trade and eager to put his new qualifications to good use in Afghanistan. We were expecting him to play a vital role maintaining the living and working conditions of British soldiers serving in southern Afghanistan. Tragically he has been denied this opportunity.

This has been a traumatic time and the regiment and I are devastated to have lost such a fine and promising soldier. It is with greatest sympathy that I extend my sincere and heartfelt condolences to Mark’s family and friends for their irreplaceable loss.

Major Darren Woods, Officer Commanding 25 Field Squadron, said:

The death of Sapper Quinsey has dealt a heavy blow to the squadron, many of whom have already deployed to Afghanistan. To lose such a charismatic young soldier in the prime of his life has been a tragedy of immeasurable magnitude.

I have known Sapper Quinsey for almost two years and in that time have never found him without a positive word or the ability to make light of any situation. His wide circle of friends pays testimony to his popularity. As a soldier he was committed to achieving the best he could in all areas. In particular he was an accomplished tradesman who new that his work could and would make a difference to the daily lives of his friends and comrades on operations. This was always Mark’s motivation.

My last and perhaps abiding memory of Sapper Quinsey will be him helping the second-in-command work late to complete the final deployment preparations to send the squadron on operations. It was neither Mark’s role nor responsibility, but he did it and did it well. That was his way; no complaints, just get it done. He will be sorely missed.

Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are now with Mark’s family throughout this period and into what will undoubtedly be a difficult time ahead.

Lieutenant Chris Smith, 2 Troop Commander 25 Field Squadron, said:

Sapper Quinsey was a humorous and willing soldier. He had a dry sense of humour and a thick brummie accent making him stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to get to know him as well as I would have hoped as he had recently returned to the troop having completed his electricians’ training.

He instantly threw himself back into troop life, both socially and professionally; keen to learn all the skills he needed for our deployment to Afghanistan this summer. In the short time I knew him I enjoyed working with him immensely; he was impossible not to like. I, and the Troop, send our sincere condolences to Sapper Quinsey’s family in Birmingham.

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Squadron Sergeant Major) Paul Dixon said:

If you ever needed a steady hand to crew the ship Mark was your man. He could and would turn his hand to most things. Yet, at the end of the working day, he would always be at the front, immaculate appearance, ready to party and charm the ladies with a bit of his brummie banter.

Sapper Sean Pocock, 2 Troop, 25 Field Squadron, said:

The thing is, he wasn’t just my friend in the Army, he was a friend from back home in Birmingham. It’s hard to believe he won’t be around anymore. He will be sorely missed by me and his comrades around him, within our troop especially.

Sapper Andrew Sharples, 2 Troop, 25 Field Squadron, said:

Mark Quinsey was a good friend of mine, I used to share a room with him back at camp and used to weight-train with him now and again. I can’t believe this has happened. My deepest sorrows go out to Mark’s family, he will be greatly missed by all in the Troop and Squadron.

Brigadier Tim Radford, Commander of 19 Light Brigade, said:

My thoughts and condolences go to all the families who have suffered such dreadful losses and to those who have been injured in this appalling incident.

The two young Royal Engineers from 19 Light Brigade, although based in Northern Ireland, were about to deploy to Afghanistan for 6 months as part of Task Force Helmand. These brave and dedicated men typify the professional and selfless nature of the Armed Forces. We will cherish their memory.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said:

See here for more information on Sapper Mark Quinsey

Dublin-based newspaper, the Sunday Tribune, received a phone call from a caller using a recognised Real IRA codeword. The caller claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Real IRA, adding that the civilian pizza deliverymen were legitimate targets as they were:

“collaborating with the British by servicing them”.

The shootings were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in February 1997, during the Troubles. The attack came days after a suggestion by Northern Ireland’s police chief, Sir Hugh Orde, that the likelihood of a “terrorist” attack in Northern Ireland was at its highest level for several years.

Civilian Security Officers belonging to the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service were criticised for not opening fire during the incident, as a result of which plans were made to retrain and rearm them.

The barracks were shut down in 2010 as part of the reduction of the British Army presence in Northern Ireland.

Craigavon shooting

Two days after the Massereene Barracks shooting, PSNI officer Stephen Carroll was shot dead in CraigavonCounty Armagh. This was the first killing of a police officer in Northern Ireland since 1998.The Continuity IRA claimed responsibility for this shooting and stated that

“As long as there is British involvement in Ireland, these attacks will continue”.

Reaction

The morning after the attack, worshippers came out of St Comgall’s Church after mass and kept vigil near the barracks. They were joined by their priest and clerics from the town’s other churches. On 11 March 2009, thousands of people attended silent protests against the killings at several venues in Northern Ireland.

The killings were condemned by all mainstream political parties in Northern Ireland, as well as the Irish government, the United States government and Pope Benedict XVISinn Féin condemned the killings, but was criticised for being less vehement than others in its condemnation.

  • First Minister Peter Robinson suggested that the shooting was a “terrible reminder of the events of the past” and that “These murders were a futile act by those who command no public support and have no prospect of success in their campaign. It will not succeed”.

 

  • Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said “I was a member of the IRA, but that war is over now. The people responsible for last night’s incident are clearly signalling that they want to resume or restart that war. Well, I deny their right to do that.” He later stated that the shooters of the PSNI officer killed two days later were “traitors to the island of Ireland”.

 

  • Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams condemned the shootings, saying that those responsible had “no support, no strategy to achieve a United Ireland. Their intention is to bring British soldiers back onto the streets. They want to destroy the progress of recent times and to plunge Ireland back into conflict. Irish republicans and democrats have a duty to oppose this and to defend the peace process”.

 

  • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the scene of the attack on 9 March 2009 and met political leaders in Northern Ireland to urge a united front in the face of the violence. He stated that “The whole country is shocked and outraged at the evil and cowardly attacks on soldiers serving their country” and also that “No murderer will be able to derail a peace process that has the support of the great majority of Northern Ireland”.

 

  • Taoiseach Brian Cowen said “A tiny group of evil people can not and will not undermine the will of the people of Ireland to live in peace together. Violence has been utterly rejected by the people of this island, both North and South”.

 

  • At a press conference on 25 March 2009, Richard Walsh, the spokesman for Republican Sinn Féin, a party linked to the Continuity IRA, said the killings were “an act of war” rather than murder. “We have always upheld the right of the Irish people to use any level of controlled and disciplined force to drive the British out of Ireland. We make no apology for that”. He also described the PSNI as “an armed adjunct of the British Army”.

 

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The coffin of Sapper Patrick Azimkar is taken from Guards Chapel after his funeral

Trials

Image result for IRA prisoner Colin Duffy

On 14 March 2009, the PSNI arrested three men in connection with the killings, one of whom was former IRA prisoner Colin Duffy. He had broken away from mainstream republicanism and criticised Sinn Féin‘s decision to back the new PSNI.

On 25 March 2009, after a judicial review of their detention, all the men were ordered to be released by the Belfast High Court, however, Duffy was immediately re-arrested on suspicion of murder. On 26 March 2009, Duffy was formally charged with the murder of the two soldiers and the attempted murder of five other people. The following day he appeared in court for indictment and was remanded in custody to await trial after it was alleged that his full DNA profile was found on a latex glove inside the vehicle used by the gunmen.

Brian Shivers, a cystic fibrosis sufferer, was charged with the soldiers’ murders and the attempted murder of six other people. He was also charged with possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life. He was arrested in Magherafelt in July 2009.

In January 2012 Shivers was convicted of the soldiers’ murders, but Duffy was acquitted. In January 2013, Shivers’s conviction was overturned by Northern Ireland’s highest appeals court. A May 2013 retrial found Shivers not guilty. He was cleared of all charges and immediately released from jail. The judge questioned why the Real IRA would choose Shivers as the gunman, with his cystic fibrosis and his engagement to a Protestant woman.

Shivers’s solicitor stated:

Brian Shivers has suffered the horror of having been wrongfully convicted in what now must be described as a miscarriage of justice. He was convicted of the most serious charges on the criminal calendar. He was sentenced to a life term imprisonment, which would have seen him die in prison.

The original conviction was overturned on a narrow legal basis. It was only during his re-trial that important new material was disclosed which completely undermined the case against him. This failed prosecution – another failed prosecution – is a cautionary tale against the reliance upon tenuous scientific evidence in high profile criminal cases.

Image result for memorial to Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Jaime Quinsey, sister of Mark Quinsey, with James Azimkar, brother of Patrick Azimkar

Mum’s tribute to Massereene murder victim sapper Patrick Azimkar

geraldine ferguson

Geraldine Ferguson

The mother of a young soldier who was gunned down by dissident republicans will today make an emotional return to the spot where he was murdered.

Geraldine Ferguson, whose son, Sapper Patrick Azimkar (21) was killed outside Massereene Barracks on March 7, 2009, along with his colleague Sapper Mark Quinsey (23), will mark the eighth anniversary of her son’s death with a floral tribute.

The anniversary comes days after she spoke of the loss of her son at a seminar in Co Fermanagh, attended by other victims of paramilitary violence.

Today, Mrs Ferguson will make the heartbreaking journey to Antrim, to the spot where Patrick was killed.

“We will lay some flowers and then go to the memorial that Antrim council erected for Patrick and Mark,” she said.

“We will try and get through the day, but it is very difficult.

“The main feeling I will have is being absolutely broken-hearted.

“We said goodbye to Patrick a few weeks after his 21st birthday and we never saw him again. We feel very sad and upset and very churned up because it’s exactly where he fell and it’s a terrible waste of good, young lives. The futility of it, the pointlessness and senselessness of it.”

Mrs Ferguson explained that as the years go on, her emotions are not as raw but admits she finds it hard to describe the pain of losing her son.

“The horror and heartache is too deep for words,” she said.

“A very common experience when you lose a child is that the days that were once the best days suddenly become the worst days, including birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day. They are supposed to be family days but he’s not there any more.

“Our loss is most acute on those days. We always put a little candle where Patrick would have sat. It’s painful.”

Three people were arrested over the murders of Mr Azimkar and his colleague Mr Quinsey, whose grief-stricken mother Pamela Brankin died in 2013 aged 51.

See Belfast Telegraph for full story

See Deaths in the Troubles 7th March

 

See also

See: Operation Banner

 

 

Maguire Seven – 1976: Guilty verdict for ‘Maguire Seven

1976: Guilty verdict for ‘Maguire Seven’
mAGUIRE 7

A 40-year-old Irish born mother has been jailed for 14 years for possessing explosives at her London home.

Five other members of her family and a close friend were also found guilty of the same offence and jailed.

Anne Maguire, from Willesden, North London, was convicted of possessing nitro-glycerine, which was then passed on for use by IRA terrorists to make bombs.

Throughout the six-week trial at the Old Bailey all seven have continually protested their innocence.

‘No greater offence’

As Mrs Maguire was carried kicking and screaming from the dock she shouted: “I’m innocent you bastards. No, no, no.”

Her husband, Patrick Maguire, 42 was also sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. Her two younger sons, Vincent, 17, and Patrick, 14, were given five and four years respectively.

Mrs Maguire’s brother, William Smyth, 37, brother-in-law Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon, 52, and family friend Patrick O’Neill, 35, were each sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

Passing sentence, Judge Justice Donaldson said: “There can be no greater offence than this, for it strikes at the very root of the way of life for which generations have fought and, indeed, died to preserve.”

Chief Constable Peter Matthews, of Surrey police, who led the investigation, said:

“We are delighted with the verdicts. These are the people we were after.

“We have cut off a major supply pipeline to the terrorist.

“We are only sorry we did not find the bombs.”

Police were first led to the Maguire family in Willesden when they followed Giuseppe Conlon to their home in December 1974.

Mr Conlon had arrived in London from Ireland for talks with solicitors who were defending his son Gerry, under arrest on suspicion of carrying out the Guildford pub bombings.

Anne Maguire, too, was implicated in the Guildford bombings and was also arrested in December 1974 and charged with the murder of 18-year-old WRAC recruit Caroline Slater, who died in the attacks.

The murder charge was dismissed by Guildford magistrates’ court the following February but the police had become suspicious of the Maguire family.

Image result for nitroglycerin

In a raid on their home in Willesden, evidence of nitro-glycerine was found. Swabs were taken from the hands of several male members of the family and evidence of the substance was detected.

Mrs Maguire has always denied the offence. During her trial she said: “There were never any explosives in my house. I would never have any explosives there. I am the mother of four children.”

See BBC on this day for more details.  4th March 1976

The Guildford Four

— Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries  are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

The Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven were the collective names of two groups whose convictions in English courts in 1975 and 1976 for the Guildford pub bombings of 5 October 1974 were eventually quashed after long campaigns for justice.

The Guildford Four were wrongly convicted of bombings carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the Maguire Seven were wrongly convicted of handling explosives found during the investigation into the bombings.

Both groups’ convictions were eventually declared “unsafe and unsatisfactory” and reversed in 1989 and 1991 respectively after they had served up to 15–16 years in prison. Along with the Maguires and the Guildford Four, a number of other people faced charges against them relating to the bombings, six of them charged with murder, but these charges were dropped. 

No one else was charged with the bombings, or supplying the material; three police officers were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and found not guilty.

Maguire Seven

The Maguire Seven were charged with possessing nitroglycerine allegedly passed to the IRA to make bombs after the police raided the West Kilburn house of Anne Maguire on 3 December 1974.

They were tried and convicted on 4 March 1976 and received the following sentences.

Defendant Relationship Age at
time of trial
Sentence
Anne Maguire 40 14 years
Patrick Maguire Anne’s husband 42 14 years
Patrick Maguire Son of Anne and Patrick 14 4 years
Vincent Maguire Son of Anne and Patrick 17 5 years
Sean Smyth Brother of Anne Maguire 37 12 years
Patrick O’Neill Family friend 35 12 years
Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon Brother-in-law of Anne 52 12 years

Giuseppe Conlon had travelled from Belfast to help his son, Gerry Conlon, in the Guildford Four trial. Conlon, who had troubles with his lungs for many years, died in prison in January 1980, while the other six served their sentences and were released.

Appeals

The Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven sought leave to appeal their convictions immediately and were refused. Despite this, a growing body of disparate groups pressed for a re-examination of the case.

In February 1977, during the trial of the Balcombe Street ASU, the four IRA men instructed their lawyers to “draw attention to the fact that four totally innocent people were serving massive sentences”, referring to the Guildford Four.

Despite claims to the police that they were responsible they were never charged with these offences and the Guildford Four remained in prison for another twelve years.

The Guildford Four tried to obtain from the Home Secretary a reference to the Court of Appeal under Section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (later repealed), but were unsuccessful. In 1987, the Home Office issued a memorandum recognising that it was unlikely they were terrorists, but that this would not be sufficient evidence for appeal.

See: Balcombe Street Siege

Campaigns

Following the failure of the 1977 court appeal a number of ‘lone voices’ publicly questioned the conviction. Among them David Martin in The LevellerGavin Esler and Chris Mullinin the New Statesman and David McKittrick in the Belfast Telegraph.

On 26th February 1980, BBC One Northern Ireland aired ‘’Spotlight: Giuseppe Conlon and the Bomb Factory’’ which contained an interview by Patrick Maguire and the BBC’s Gavin Elser

Quashing of the Maguire verdicts

On 12 July 1990, the Home Secretary David Waddington published the Interim Report on the Maguire Case: The Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the convictions arising out of the bomb attacks in Guildford and Woolwich in 1974,which criticised the trial judge Mr Justice Donaldson and unearthed improprieties in the handling of scientific evidence and declared the convictions unsound recommending referral back to the Court of Appeal.

The report “strongly criticise[d] the decision by the prosecution at the Guildford trial not to disclose to the defence a statement supporting Mr Conlon’s alibi.”

The convictions of the Maguire Seven were quashed in 1991.

Aftermath

Neither the bombings nor the wrongful imprisonment resulted in convictions. The bombings were most likely the work of the Balcombe Street Siege gang, who claimed responsibility. They were already serving life sentences, but were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Three British police officers—Thomas Style, John Donaldson, and Vernon Attwell—were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, but each was found not guilty.

On 9 February 2005, Tony Blair, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, issued an apology to the families of the 11 people imprisoned for the bombings in Guildford and Woolwich, and those related to them who were still alive. He said, in part,:

“I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and injustice… they deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated.”

In 1993, Paul Hill married Courtney Kennedy, a daughter of assassinated American senator Robert F. Kennedy and a niece of assassinated president John F. Kennedy. They had a daughter in 1999, but legally separated in 2006.

Hill had a televised meeting with the brother of murdered soldier Brian Shaw, who continued to accuse him.

 He traveled to Colombia to attend the trial of the Colombia Three.

Gerry Conlon’s autobiography Proved Innocent was adapted into the Oscar and Bafta award-nominated 1993 drama In the Name of the Father, starring Daniel Day-LewisEmma Thompson, and Pete Postlethwaite. The film depicts Conlon’s attempt to rebuild his shattered relationship with his father, but is partly fictional – for example, Conlon never shared a cell with his father. He is reported to have settled with the government for a final payment of compensation in the region of £500,000.

His mother Sarah Conlon, who had spent 16 years campaigning to have the names of her husband and son cleared and helped secure the apology, died on 20 July 2008. Conlon has given support to Tommy Sheridan in relation to the charges brought against him. Conlon had been working to have the conviction of the Craigavon Two overturned prior to his death in June 2014.

Paddy Armstrong had problems with drinking and gambling. He eventually married and moved to Dublin.

Carole Richardson married and had a daughter soon after her release. She has since kept out of the public eye. Although it wasn’t reported at the time of Conlon’s death there are two reputable citations that record that Carole Richardson died in 2012.

The autobiography of the youngest member of the Maguire Seven, Patrick Maguire, My Father’s Watch: The Story of a Child Prisoner in 70s Britain was released in May 2008. It tells his story before, during, and after his imprisonment, and details its impact on his life and those of his family.

Gerry Conlon later joined a campaign to free the “Craigavon Two” – Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton – convicted of the murder of a police officer in Northern Ireland. Conlon died at home in Belfast on 21 June 2014. His family issued a statement:  “He brought life, love, intelligence, wit and strength to our family through its darkest hours. He helped us to survive what we were not meant to survive.

We recognise that what he achieved by fighting for justice for us had a far, far greater importance – it forced the world’s closed eyes to be opened to injustice; it forced unimaginable wickedness to be acknowledged; we believe it changed the course of history”.

In terms of a legal aftermath, Sir John Donaldson went on to an illustrious judicial career and became Master of the Rolls, Head of the Appeal Court. The appeal case itself for R v Maguire 1981, is now the leading case for disclosure to the defence.

See : Guildford Pub Bombings – Not Forgotten