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Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe foresaw his own death!
Damning memo: Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, the most senior casualty of
the Afghan war
The most senior soldier to be killed in Afghanistan foreshadowed his own death in a damning memo about the shortage of helicopters.
Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe told his superiors that many more British troops would die because they were being forced to make trips by road.
Less than a month later on the 1st of July 2009, he was blown up by a roadside bomb!!
The leaked memo dramatically undermines Gordon Brown's naive claims that helicopter shortages have not caused the deaths of troops fighting the Taliban.
It amounts to a devastating condemnation from beyond the grave of Labour's stewardship of the war in Afghanistan.
Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, 39, commander of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, died with Trooper Joshua Hammond when their convoy set off an improvised explosive device (IED) during a patrol north of the town of Lashkar Gah.
On June 5, he had chillingly predicted the circumstances of his own death in his weekly report to the Ministry of Defence.
Headed 'Battle Group Weekly Update', it reads: 'I have tried to avoid griping about helicopters - we all know we don't have enough, but we obviously cannot carry out our usual army operations without people moving around, so this month we have conducted a great deal of administrative movement by road. This increases the IED threat and our exposure to it.'
Victim of a Taliban booby-trap bomb: Thorneloe with his children Hannah and Sophie :
Colonel Thorneloe goes on to spell out in graphic terms how he had 'virtually no' helicopters of the type which would allow him to move troops by air rather than road. He added: 'The current level of SH (support helicopter) support is therefore unsustainable.'
In a damning assessment of Nato operations, he concluded by saying that the system used to manage helicopter movements in Afghanistan 'is very clearly not fit for purpose'.
Another leaked report by a senior officer in Afghanistan, written on July 10, proves that the problems still persisted.
It reads: 'Aviation has been erratic throughout this week. This has forced us to conduct more road moves than I would like. I understand the strains in the fly programme but any improvement would greatly assist.'
The officer added that he had received just half the helicopters he had requested for operations that week. And he also complained about the 'attrition of Vikings' - armoured vehicles overused because of the helicopter shortage.
Yet just two weeks later, on July 22 the Prime Minister insisted that soldiers had not died because of MoD penny pinching.
He told Parliament: 'In the operations we are having at the moment it is completely wrong to say that the loss of lives has been caused by the absence of helicopters.'
The memos were leaked by a disgusted MoD official to Tory MP Adam Holloway, a former Grenadier Guards officer who regularly visits Afghanistan.
In an email, the official referred to the second memo, telling the MP: 'As you can see, situation: no change, despite Rupert Thorneloe's death. Still no aviation, still unnecessary administrative road moves which are killing people.
'Still claims by the Government that the military have got enough helicopters and all the tools they need. Lies.'
Mr Holloway told the Mail: 'What a heart-wrenching irony it is that Lieutenant Colonel Thorneloe wrote those words. It must have been terrible for him as the commander of 800 men to know that their lives were being put in danger because the Government, in whose name he had taken them to war, would not spend the money to make it safer for them to move across country.'
He added that defence chiefs 'should be ashamed - hopefully now they will at last do the right thing and get our troops off the roads and into the air where they are safer.'
Mr Holloway has written a devastating critique of the handling of the war in a pamphlet shortly to be published by the Centre for Policy Studies think tank.
It reveals that despite clear evidence that a shortage of helicopters is killing British troops, defence chiefs are still refusing offers to supply more.
Prediction: Lt-Col Thorneloe told his superiors many more British troops would die because they were being forced to make trips by road.
Only last month, the Ministry of Defence turned down another offer of helicopters which could double Afghanistan flying hours for British troops fighting the Taliban. The Mail has independently confirmed that former RAF pilots offered to supply 25 helicopters within three months to back up the Chinook fleet which is stretched to breaking point.
The deal would have cost the MoD just £7million a month - a relative drop in the ocean - but the offer was rejected because the RAF did not want to share a role with private contractors.
Lieutenant Colonel Thorneloe and his widow Sally had two daughters, Hannah, four, and two-year-old Sophie. At his funeral the mourners included the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, who knew him well.
In a statement yesterday, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said: 'My thoughts remain with the family and friends of Lt-Col Rupert Thorneloe, who was a courageous soldier and a fine man. Our brave forces deserve the very best equipment and we remain determined to provide it.
'We know the value of helicopters on operations, and that commanders could do more with more. That is why we have increased the numbers and types, improved engines and almost doubled flying hours. To counter the roadside bomb threat we have also been improving unmanned air surveillance.'
October 29, 2009 - Mother's anger at Help for Heroes 'snub'
Beth Hoyle said she was turned away from tills at Asda because a checkout operator objected to her Help for Heroes charity band - telling her she was 'supporting the war'.
Mrs Hoyle said a supervisor at the store in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, backed the worker.
Asda, which sells the Help for Heroes wristbands in some of its stores, last night said it was taking the complaint very seriously.
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Human Rights ! ! !
The murder of Philip Lawrence was an event that took place on 8 December 1995. Philip Ambrose Lawrence QGM, a headmaster at a London secondary school, was stabbed to death outside the gates of his school by Italian Learco Chindamo, when he went to the aid of a pupil who was being attacked by a gang.
Philip Lawrence (pictured right) and his wife Frances had three daughters and a son.
The man who knifed head teacher Philip Lawrence to death, Learco Chindamo, has been allowed to stay in the UK after winning an appeal against deportation to Italy, where he came from, because of human rights!!
Learco Chindamo, 26, is serving a 'life sentence' for killing Philip Lawrence outside his London school in 1995.
Chindamo's lawyers argued that deporting him to Italy, where he was born, would breach his human rights.
In August 2007, an Asylum and Immigration Tribunal ruled that Learco Chindamo could not be deported to his home country of Italy on completion of his prison sentence, as doing so would allegedly breach his human rights!!!
Although the Home Office argued that Learco Chindamo presented a "present and serious threat" to society, the human rights tribunal disagreed; they also argued that Learco Chindamo had a right to a "family life" under the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998, the decision was severely criticised by Frances Lawrence, widow of the murdered headteacher Philip Lawrence.
Conservative leader David Cameron argued that the case highlighted the need for a fundamental review of human rights legislation in the United Kingdom, including the abolition of the Human Rights Act 1998 and its replacement with a "British Bill of Rights".
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "We believe that foreign prisoners who have committed serious crimes should face automatic deportation from the UK, to their country of origin at the end of their sentence."
It was the second time the UK government had tried to remove Learco Chindamo and send him back to Italy, where he came from.
Mr Lawrence's widow Frances, said she was "totally depressed" by the ruling and Alan Gordon, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said it was a "ludicrous decision" to allow Chindamo to stay.
Mr Gordon of the PFEW said: "The fact that he may be back on the
streets of the UK as early as 2010 is in itself disgusting. Life should mean life.
"What about the human rights of Philip Lawrence, robbed of his life by a
thoughtless knife attack or the human rights of Mr Lawrence's wife and children,
deprived of a loving husband and father."
Frances Lawrence said: "I am totally depressed that the Human Rights Act has failed to encompass the rights of my family." "The notion of human rights falls into disrepute if it's seen that the rights of a convicted murderer somehow are put above the rights of a grieving family whose husband and father have been murdered."
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis added: "It is a stark demonstration of the clumsy incompetence of this Government's human rights legislation that we are unable to send a proven killer back to his own country, especially when that country is in the EU."
Chindamo, who was jailed for life in 1996, was released after just 14 years and then a little later mugged someone in North London. He was not born in the UK, so surely he should be deported, but, that can't happen, because of human rights!
Human Rights ! ! !
Human Rights ! ! !
29th of November 2004 - Damien Hanson was being 'supervised' by probation officers, when he killed 49 year old John Monckton during a burglary at the family home in Chelsea, West London.
Damien Hanson, pictured on the right, carried out the murder three months after being let out of jail half way through a 12-year sentence for attempted murder, as this was his human right!!
The Old Bailey was told Hanson had been released from jail for attempted murder and robbery, three months before the attack at the Moncktons' home.
The jury heard that John Monckton fought for his life. He was a "proud and devoted father" who would have stretched every sinew to protect his wife and daughter, 9 year old Isobel.
John Monckton, his wife Homeyra and two daughters are pictured on the right.
He died from multiple stab wounds to his heart and lungs. His daughter Isobel described the horrifying scene from the top of the stairs in a video played to the jury. Homeyra Monckton cried "help Issie" and the schoolgirl ran downstairs where she saw "blood all over the floor" and on the walls.
Clutching her toy rabbit, she described how she saw her father lying on the floor with his eyes closed. "I knew my Daddy was hurt... in the heart... cos there was blood there, and then I started to cry," she said.
Homeyra Monckton was attacked as she made for the stairs in a vain attempt to reach a panic button in a bedroom. She lost four litres of blood and needed life saving surgery. Homeyra was stabbed with such force, that the stabbing broke her ribs and damaged her spine, but despite her injuries she was able to instruct Isobel to call for help as the attackers fled. She is now, not able to walk at all without the aid of a walking stick.
Richard Horwell, prosecuting, said that having overpowered the Moncktons at the front door, the two men ran off with a pair of earrings, two rings, a watch and a purse. "The cost - one life taken and very nearly a second," he told the jury. "They left behind John Monckton, dead or effectively dead, and Mrs Monckton with multiple stab wounds to her back. She would have died but for the emergency medical care."
He said Mr Monckton always made a point of being home by 7.30pm so that he could see his daughter before she went to bed. Mrs Monckton, who was in the basement kitchen, reacted first to a ring at the doorbell and spoke to the caller through an intercom. "The caller said he had a parcel for John Monckton" said Mr Horwell."
Mr Monckton said he was not expecting a parcel and was cautious at the front door. He peered through a spy hole and when he opened the door he left a security chain attached. On seeing the killers dressed in a Royal Mail Parcelforce jacket, he removed the chain. "But the moment he had done so, he must have realised the terrible mistake because he tried to close the door again," Mr Horwell said. "His wife joined in to add her strength to what was an unequal contest."
Hanson and his equally 'brave' accomplice, Elliott White, pushed their way in. "They were so close to their prey that they were not going to be defeated. Mr and Mrs Monckton were shouting 'No, No, No' but White and Hanson burst into their home."
Mrs Monckton has described the night, to an Old Bailey Jury, when the two
robbers stabbed her husband to death and "destroyed" their lives.
She had to stop for almost a minute to compose herself and wipe tears from her eyes with a tissue, as she recalled the moment when two raiders burst into their home. Mrs Monckton, 46, told the Old Bailey of the "sheer panic" she felt as the men forced open their front door. She thought she was going to die after being stabbed in the back.
"They destroyed our lives," Mrs Monckton, who now walks with a stick as a result of the attack, told the court.
Hanson, armed with a knife and a firearm, stopped Mrs Monckton climbing the stairs to activate a panic alarm. He struck her and stabbed her in the back before demanding her jewellery. She shouted to her husband: "I am bleeding, I am bleeding."
Hanson then joined White, who was grappling with Mr Monckton by the front door. "This proud and devoted father would have stretched every sinew in his body to protect his wife and daughter," Mr Horwell said. The two attackers left Mr Monckton slumped, dying, by the sitting room door.
Once they had gone, the terrified daughter Isobel emerged to follow instructions from her barely-conscious mother. "What confronted that girl is almost impossible to imagine," Mr Horwell said. "But she is a brave girl and at her mother's request she dialled 999, closed the front door and put on the chain."
Human rights - don't human rights apply to everyone - including the people being killed?? Don't the 'ordinary' law-abiding people of England have a human right to live a safe and happy life?!? Surely, the community has a right to be protected from dangerous criminals, doesn't it??
Death Penalty in the UK ? Most people in the UK would prefer the death penalty in the UK to be brought back again, and even though we're supposed to be in a democratically elected society, the bill to bring back death penalties in the UK keeps being turned down!!! How can that be happening in a democratic society??
We know the arguments for death penalties, whether by hanging, lethal injection, etc, are very strong, especially when the crime is so obviously pre-meditated, for example, like this one!!! If a couple of vile low-life scum like the two described above, are knocking on a door, as mentioned above, for the killers of John Monckton, equipped with a knife and a gun, they're not exactly popping round to have a cup of tea, are they??
It's time to get real with these scum. Re-introducing the death penalty in the UK is an excellent solution to get rid of murderers, and if you asked the parents of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, who were killed in Soham by the low-life Ian Huntley, perhaps their first response would be to exterminate his life.
Garry Newlove, 47, was beaten to death by thugs outside his Warrington house on the 12th of August 2007. (He was just asking the 3 pieces of scum to stop vandalising his wifes car!) . Swaggering killers Adam Swellings, 19, Stephen Sorton, 17, and Jordan Cunliffe, 16, showed no remorse when sentenced at Chester Crown Court. Swellings will serve a minimum 17 years, Sorton at least 15 and Cunliffe at least 12. But widow Helen Newlove, 45, called for the ultimate punishment. She said: "For many, the death penalty is murder by another name - a chilling relic from an uncivilised past. "Yes, the thought of bringing it back may be unpalatable. But the horrifying events of the past week have strengthened my conviction that the hangman is the answer. "It's not about revenge. It's about a just society imposing a fitting punishment for those who have committed a uniquely horrifying crime."
Helen's opinion was mirrored by Richard Taylor, dad of ten-year-old schoolboy Damilola - stabbed to death by Danny and Ricky Preddie in Peckham, South London, in 2000. The lawless savages, then 18 and 19, were convicted of manslaughter in 2006 and jailed for eight years. But ex-civil servant Richard Taylor, 59, said: "Is it right that the killers of our beautiful son will be released next year after only serving three years in prison? Of course it isn't!! "The death penalty has to be brought back because it is the only deterrent available. It won't bring my son back, but how many would commit these awful murders if they knew the gallows or a lethal injection was waiting? Few, I suspect."
Mark Dixie, 37, received a life term for stabbing to death 18-year-old Sally Anne Bowman - and having sex with her corpse!! Her mum Linda Bowman, 45, said: "Men like Dixie are like a dog. "Once they draw blood they should be put down. I wish this was America and we had the lethal injection."
Strangler Wright, 49, killed five women working as hookers in Ipswich. Kerry
Nicol, 38, whose 19-year-old daughter Tania was his first victim, said of his
life sentence: "In no way has justice been done. These crimes deserve the
ultimate punishment. The public must insist this Government look at returning
the death penalty for cases such as this."
Monster Mark Dixie, Suffolk strangler Steve Wright and the teenage killers of hero dad Garry Newlove have sickened the UK in recent weeks as details emerged of their vile crimes. All received jail sentences. But, as the demand grew for the return of capital punishment in the UK, "Do we really want it back?" Should Britain bring back the death penalty?
The mood of Britain was summed up by dad-of-four Brian Steede, who said in Brighton, Sussex: "Why should taxpayers pay for the likes of Wright and Dixie to live in prison? "They took away their victims' human rights and gave up theirs when they committed their hideous crimes. Bring back hanging, I say."
The mother of little James Bulger, killed by ten-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables in 1993, also backed the return of the rope. Denise Fergus, 38, claimed the rash of recent cases prove the point. She said: "Beasts like them don't deserve to breathe the same air as decent people - they should hang.
"The law must be brought up to date to take account of DNA tests. In cases with no scientific doubt, there's no chance of hanging a wrong man." The mum of Moors murder victim Keith Bennett said all serial killers should receive the death penalty. Heartbroken Winnie Johnson, 74, lost her 12-year-old in 1964 when evil Ian Brady and Myra Hindley lured him to his death on Saddleworth Moor, Greater Manchester. Winnie said: "Monsters like Brady and now this sick Steve Wright creature do not deserve life, or our pity. "We should stop thinking about what's best for people who murder our women and children!!!!"
The sister of Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain, ALSO said the death penalty should return. Muriel Jakubait, 86, said killers like Wright and Dixie should be "strung up and killed" rather than spend an easy life in prison. She said: "It would set an example. Serial killers don't deserve to live."
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said he stood by his views that Britain should bring back the death penalty for serial killers.
He faced a storm of controversy in 2003 for suggesting its return. But he said: "I would bring back capital punishment for serial murderers. This is not a crime of passion - it's premeditated and cold-blooded."
Former Home Office Minister Anne Widdecombe also wants a return of the death penalty in the UK. She said: "I believe it acts as a deterrent. It should be available in cases of premeditated murder."
Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright and Sally Anne Bowman's killer Mark Dixie were jailed - but should such monsters forfeit their lives? How about killers like Ian Huntley, Mark Dixie, Peter Sutcliffe and Adam Swellings? What about these low-lifes like the Soham killer of 2 10 year old girls, Ian Huntley, Megan and Lin Russell's killer Michael Stone, Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe and Adam Swellings, one of doting dad Garry Newlove's three killers? Should they get life - or death?
The metropolitan liberal ruling elite dares to sneer at people like you and me, who are demanding the restoration of the death penalty.
What planet do these fools live on? The ultimate deterrent of the rope or lethal injection would make some of these scum pause for thought.
When someone commits crimes as heinous as those of Steve Wright or Mark Dixie, what's wrong with revenge? Poll after poll shows the UK majority wants the death penalty. But every time it is debated, politicians ignore the wishes of their constituents and vote against it!!
There are two questions to ask. Would the death penalty stop some murders? Yes. And is it a fair penalty for the very worst crimes? Yes again. Back in the 1960s, just one murder was massive news. Now murder is so common it barely makes a paragraph in the newspapers!!
Anyone who thinks crime is under control lives in cloud cuckoo land. Hanging as a capital punishment was abolished in 1965 and now murders are up more than 400 per cent. A large majority of girls have to grow up half-expecting to be abducted and murdered. People who say the lethal injection (for that is what it probably would be) is uncivilised should stand in the Soham churchyard and remember Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman!!
Harold Shipman was jailed for 15 murders. Family GP Harold Shipman is jailed for life for murdering 15 patients, but officials fear he could have caused another 150 deaths.
We can completely understand why Linda Bowman wants the monster who murdered her beautiful daughter to be put down like a rabid dog. Garry Newlove's family feels the same and so do relatives of the Suffolk Strangler's victims.
Who can blame any of the above for feeling that bringing the death penalty in the UK back would be a good idea? In their shoes we would feel the same. Those left behind are the ones serving a life sentence, while the twisted killers receive all the attention and all too often serve barely half their sentences.
If anyone has committed an awful crime, such as any of the crimes on this page, then they should suffer, BUT not to just spend a few years in a cosy prison with all the luxuries - what sort of deterrent is that??
Life should mean LIFE - and in tough conditions. Killers and rapists are given far too many privileges and are even treated like minor celebrities in jail. That has to stop right now.
Craig Sweeney abducted a 3 year old girl and sexually assaulted the child, at his hearing, Sweeney admitted kidnap, three charges of sexual assault and dangerous driving. But the court also heard how Sweeney had already been convicted of an indecent assault on a child in 2003 and had carried out his attack on the three-year-old during his early release from a three-year sentence for the crime. After serving half of his sentence, he was released from prison and living in a flat in Newport where he then went on to sexually abuse the three-year-old.
Janice Longman, 35, from Hartlepool, said: "The young these days are not scared of prison. They know they will have access to computers, PlayStations, gyms and whatever. "If the death penalty was introduced maybe they'd think twice about kicking people to death."
What do YOU think?
Nothing will happen until our rulers are subject to the same risks as the rest of us. Remove the barriers and security around Downing Street and parliament, then force ministers to travel by public transport and then we might see some action!!!
Also, isn't it amazing, that when it comes to soccer hooligans or potential hooligans, the government seem to know who they are, take away their passports, forbid them from travel etc. But when it comes to rapists, murderers etc. they know who they are but don't do enough to protect us. Why the difference?
Why is it, that the Police usually give more help to the aggressors, than the innocents???
Police officers drove past the Simmons family home at least 11 times and made a 30-minute visit to the home of Dorothy Simmons, the matriarch of the family. In contrast, the police log of the 33 telephone calls that Ms Pilkington made about death threats, children lighting fires on her property and her son being attacked show that she received as few as eight visits, sometimes days after the event.
A record that Ms Pilkington kept of incidents involving the gang, some as young as 10 and who boasted of being above the law, showed that she had given up calling the police in the months before her death.
An inquest jury found on Monday that police and council failings led Ms Pilkington, 38, to kill herself and her severely disabled daughter, Francesca, 18, in 2007. They and her son, Anthony, had been terrorised by the gang for years.
The single mother became so depressed with the repeated failure of the police to respond to her pleas that she doused her car in petrol and set it alight.
Some of the Simmons children, described locally as "street rats", were named for the first time yesterday and accused of having played a leading role in harassment of the Pilkingtons.
Neighbours of the Simmons family have launched a petition to try to get Steve Simmons, his wife Suzanne and their four children evicted from their home in Barwell, Leicestershire.
Hazel Smith, 47, the local Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator, said: "I am going to do my absolute damnedest to have that family removed. I am beyond livid about what has happened. It is a disgrace and not much short of a national shame. The people in power should have been listening to Fiona. What she did was beyond desperation."
Ross Simmons, 20, the eldest son, claimed the family had received death threats. "We have had threatening phone calls, people threatening to kill my uncle. We don't know who they are. My brother (Alex, 16) is innocent. This is terrible. This is harassment."
It emerged last night that in the past six weeks alone, at least two of the Simmons children had come to the attention of the police and Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council's community safety unit over accusations of a range of thuggish behaviour.
It is understood, however, that the children have refused to sign an acceptable behaviour contract, something the inquest heard that the family also declined to do when their children were identified as being part of the gang attacking the Pilkingtons.
The allegations of yet more antisocial behaviour by the family follow a period of relative calm after the council obtained a power of arrest over the father if the children caused trouble. The parents even made a pledge to a county court judge to ensure that their children behaved.
Both those court orders have lapsed since April. The council and police are currently investigating the reports of renewed thuggery and considering what action, if any, to take.
David Peace, a Barwell parish councillor, who was born and raised in the same road as the Simmons, moved out in 1982, said: "When I lived there it was much quieter, all local families working in the boot and shoe industry, even though it was 100 per cent social housing then.
"Now lots of outsiders get put there. It is on the fringe of town, as you know if you've been there. You might say it is a policy of out of sight, out of mind."
Carol Sainsbury, 46, a full-time carer who still lives in Bardon Road, said that despite the recent increased patrols, there continued to be problems. "The youths are still out and about," she said. "I did see some bobbies out here on Thursday and Friday night when there were about ten youths outside causing problems. I told them there was a police riot van down the road and they just thought it was hilarious".
The IRA lynch mob murders
It happened on Wednesday, March 19, 1988, when two British soldiers in plain clothes - Corporal David Wood and Corporal Derek Howes of the Royals Corps of Signals - blundered into the funeral cortege of an IRA man who had been killed in a loyalist attack on another paramilitary funeral.
Initially mistaken for loyalist terrorists and trapped in their car, they were dragged out in front of the world’s press and viciously beaten in nearby Casement Park. Minutes later they were executed as suspected SAS members.
Brutality: Catholic priest Father Alec Reid administers the last rights to Corporal David Howes, one of two British soldiers brutally beaten and murdered in Belfast in 1988.
(Pictured on the right, Father Reid spoke out about his attempts to save the two soldiers for the first time this week).
No one claimed responsibility for his death but it was likely a loyalist killing, given he was found in one of the spots where the notorious Shankhill Butchers gang [thought to have killed at least 30 people] used to dump their victims. My father had been shot dead!
After that, my mother - who’d loved across the sectarian divide - just wanted to get on with her life without interference. She didn’t want to be involved with any paramilitary or political activities.
But every week, Republicans in our area collected house-to-house for the Prisoners’ Relief Fund. Every time an IRA ‘volunteer’ was killed, they collected more money. My mother never contributed anything, and that drew the worst kind of attention to us.
In our neighbourhood, there was a group of men who terrorised people and thought they were untouchable. My mum wouldn’t let her house be used for IRA operations, and it all went from there - stone-throwing at the house and my family, following us, threatening and beating us. As a teenager, I got into trouble for hitting a girl who had threatened my mother. Through being forced to live apart. Mum asked Dad to leave the area, promising they would talk another time, somewhere more safe. The next thing she knew, my dad had been murdered!
Our mistake was to try and stand up for ourselves. I can’t in a few words describe how difficult it was, and still is. It would take an entire book.
And so to that terrible day 25 years ago… I will never forget it. It was a Saturday. I was unemployed but was out doing some work at an old people’s home. There were no buses that day and my mum was trying to get by foot to Poleglass [a district in the west of the city], where my Granda lived.
To do so she had to walk along the same route as the funeral cortege - which was heading along the Andersonstown Road to Milltown Cemetery - but in the opposite direction. Only just before she saw the procession did it dawn on her that something strange was going on. Men wearing earpieces were checking under cars for bombs.
She was walking past Casement Park [a large Gaelic games stadium on the Andersonstown Road], keeping her head down, when suddenly she heard people screaming: ‘The Brits are in, they’re going to kill us.’
Out of nowhere the car containing your son and Corporal Wood had wandered into the cortege, and within seconds had become trapped. Everyone was screaming and shouting. A crowd surged towards the car. I think their initial reaction was one of pure fear, caused by the deadly attack in Milltown Cemetery a few days earlier by the loyalist gunman Michael Stone. He had killed three mourners at the funeral of the IRA gang shot dead on Gibraltar.
Mum tried to get away but she became stuck where she was. To her everlasting regret, she saw most of what followed. As your son’s car was surrounded, other people near my mum were fighting off the watching press. She recalls there was a photographer from the Belfast Telegraph. Some wee runt took his camera off him and shoved him about.
Mum shouted over: ‘Leave him alone, it’s Stanley Matchett from the Telegraph [a well-known figure in the local press].’ The fella was quite abusive back to her.
Then there was a single gunshot [Wood fired once into the air in an effort to
disperse the mob]. Mum tried to move off again. She didn’t know what was going
on but surely, she thought, if they were attacking the mourners, the men in the
car would have done more than fire a warning shot. She didn’t understand it.
It was to prove no hiding place. Mum was only there a short time when men from the cortege dragged in the two soldiers. The gates to the park were then closed. The horror began.
Mum wanted to go and help your son and his colleague but was afraid. She asked a man standing in the park if she could be allowed to leave, and he said no. She was told not to watch.
She walked away a little but could not help but see. When relaying it to me later that day, she was able to describe everything in detail, from their clothes to their body movements. Mum said they never fought - they were still the whole time.
Mum’s been talking about the attack again this week. She said your son was brought in first and they laid him down on the ground. He was already covered in blood.
She said she saw a big man with reddish hair being particularly cruel. He was later identified as Henry Maguire. He seemed to be the one in control. Maguire [later jailed for the soldiers’ murder but freed early under the Good Friday Agreement] kept jumping on your son’s head and kicking him.
Corporal Wood was next to be brought in, and he seemed bigger in stature. He endured the same ordeal. They never moved, cried or did anything. She wasn’t sure but even then she thought they must be military with that level of discipline.
Mum wondered why no one came to help them. In Belfast, the police are omnipresent but on that day they were nowhere to be seen. Why didn’t the Army helicopter that was directly overhead just lower itself closer to distract the attackers until help arrived? All those unanswered questions.
The attack seemed to go on for a long time but the gang then threw the soldiers over the wall before taking them to some spare ground behind a shop on Penny Lane.
Mum didn’t know what happened after that, until she saw it on TV. She left Casement Park as soon as she could, and as she was hurrying up the road, she heard the shots - she prayed for the two men as she walked quicker and quicker.
It took so long for the security forces to respond. Mum had time to walk as far as the bottom of Stewartstown Road [some two miles] before the Army and RUC Land Rovers went screaming by.
Mum got to my Grandads, and by that stage it was on the news. No one knew the truth, and there was a lot of fear in the city.
When I got home, Mum told me everything. For weeks she kept crying. She felt the most awful guilt and shame that she couldn’t help.
She’d had to bury our dad. She didn’t want someone else doing the same with their loved ones.
She talked about them over and over - how Corporal Wood fired one shot and Corporal Howes fired none. She said that in the middle of them being attacked, they chose to hold back - not to hurt anyone.
They basically sacrificed their own lives for those who killed them. During that time in the park, when they were attacked, they were the bravest soldiers England would want. We could not forget. When my youngest son was born a few years later, he was a little poorly and it seemed the right thing to do to give him the middle names ‘Derek David’ as some tribute to them.
Yes, a Catholic boy from Belfast named after your son.
I know you and your family and Corporal Wood’s family will always love them and be proud of them. I just wanted you to know how much people even over here remember them after all this time.
It never once goes away, the pain or frustration. Every time we pass the spot, we pray and now my son carries a little of them around.
We all have our theories on what they were doing there. I know you haven’t been told the full story.
People here were terrified after the previous attacks, and the Security Forces backed off so the community could self-police. Some people said the soldiers panicked as the cortege approached, and that is possible.
I think they were on some kind of intelligence mission when something happened to frighten them and they tried to leave. These men weren’t rookies. Their determination to hold on to their lives until they were shot proved their strength. We could spend forever asking questions. All I know is that as an Irish Catholic, I am so very proud of them. They taught me the meaning of true Englishmen.
They were strong, brave, honourable men who gave their lives for those who killed them. From the bottom of our hearts, we are eternally grateful for their bravery, and so very proud of them. We will never forget them.
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