Murder In The 26 Counties
In May 1978 a man returning from a pub in the South of Ireland was abducted and killed. Within two years one of the killers had confessed and named the others involved, yet no one was questioned or charged by the Garda. A coverup lasting 40 years could now be coming to an end as the case is now being re-examined. This is the case of Séamus Ludlow….
Séamus Ludlow's family became concerned when he had not returned home. Phone calls had been made to relatives to see had he stayed over but all to no avail. His father and brother were out searching for him when they came across a checkpoint at Ballymascanlan. They were told there was a body up the road. The Gardaí identified it as that of Seamus.
"Almost immediately the Guards were putting it about that the IRA was responsible for Seamus's death and that Seamus was an informer", said Jimmy Fox. "I was 16 at the time and I remember the Guards questioning me and that was clearly what they were saying. That's what they told the family and it caused a terrible rift. The family was divided about 50/50. The Gardaí even went as far as to try and implicate family members in the killing. This was particularly true of the Special Branch.
"Interestingly this approach dovetailed with what the Brits were saying. Around that time the British army lifted a relative of mine and told him the exact same story", Fox said.
Putting things in the context of the times, he outlined how a group of heavily armed SAS men in civilian clothes were detained in nearby Omeath four days after the killing. They were armed with shotguns and other weapons not associated with the British army. There had been other killings along the border and there was a strong suspicion of British involvement.
Fox sees his uncle's murder as yet another example of the 26 County state colluding with British state sponsored killings of it's own citizens. "There is evidence that Gardaí knew the identity of the killers by 1978. The investigation wound down after just a few weeks", he said.
"They held that information for 20 years and continued to slander my uncle. The family believe that this was done in order to hide the true identity of the killers, two of whom were members of the British Army. " Fox said.
Fox believes the conspiracy involved someone high up in the Government and certainly the Garda Special Branch actively colluding in a cover up. "It's the only way it could have happened. One of the killers actually confessed in 1978 and that was covered up also."
Deputy Ó Murchú with members of the Ludlow family and solicitor Gavin Booth
The family of Seamus Ludlow has information that the man who killed him is the same man who murdered Sinn Féin Vice President Maire Drumm, another case of suspected collusion.
It was a reporter that eventually told the family what happened. "The inquest was another cover up with no one from the family being informed it was on", says Fox. The bullets used to murder Seámus Ludlow were apparently sent across the border and "lost".
The Barron inquiry into Ludlow's murder, while not resulting in a full public inquiry, has put the situation in the public domain. A fresh inquest demanded by the family has led to certain Gardaí revealing that they knew the identity of the killers all along and that there was something wrong with the investigation. "They say that there was interference from much higher up", Fox said.
"I think the state's attitude has been sickening in relation to the protection of its own citizens. My uncle is one of at least 50 people murdered in this state with suspected British involvement. Not one person has been held accountable for any of this", he said.
Jimmy Fox says that the family are not naive enough to think that there will be prosecutions at this stage. "We just want the truth to come out and the best way to achieve that is through a full public inquiry. We want to know who took the decision to cover this up, how far up the ladder it went and why was the decision taken to protect the killers. My mother has a right to know what happened to her Brother."
This week it was announced that an independent cross border investigation into the killing would be conducted by that former Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher.
Speaking at the announcement, local Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú said: "This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by the Ludlow family and their representatives going back many years.
"The family have been clear about what they wanted from the outset - they wanted the truth about what happened to Séamus to be brought out into the public domain.
"They want to know as much as possible not only about Seamus’s death, at the hands of a Loyalist gang which included members of the British Army, but also why the Garda investigation into the killing fell far short of what they were entitled to expect.
"I hope that all those connected with the investigations will cooperate with this inquiry in every way possible.
"Every and all resources should be given to this inquiry so there will be no further impediments to the Ludlow’s family’s four-decade long quest for the truth."