Bullets aimed at the heart of a community: Ian MacKinnon visits Greysteel, the village where Catholics and Protestants had enjoyed a peace now shattered by the men of violence

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THEY died within minutes of each other, the hopes and dreams for the rest of the lives they had planned together snuffed out in a hail of bullets as they enjoyed a drink on Hallowe'en eve in the quiet Londonderry village of Greysteel.

Karen Thompson, 19, the youngest of the seven victims, was sitting with her boyfriend, Steven Mullan, 20, when loyalist gunmen opened fire in the lounge of the Rising Sun bar, killing seven.

Detectives investigating the slaughter are examining evidence from one witness who said Miss Thompson had been gunned down by the two masked gunmen after she rebuked them. Before the firing started they are alleged to have shouted 'Trick or treat' which she told them was 'not funny'.

Yesterday, as numbness percolated the small community of Greysteel overlooking the shores of Lough Foyle, thoughts were on the loss of the couple who were planning to get engaged at Christmas.

Both were Catholics, like the vast majority of the village's 2,000 inhabitants, but Miss Thompson's upbringing could almost have been a metaphor for the drinkers from both sides of the divide who packed the bar on Saturday night.

She went to Limavady grammar school, which tutored children from both communities. Her mother, Olive, was Catholic, her father, Anthony, was Protestant.

Her prospective fiance, Mr Mullan, who died from his wounds on the way to hospital in Londonderry, was a joiner and the eldest in a family of two sons and three daughters.

Two off-duty nurses emerged as heroines of the bar massacre. Jackie O'Doherty, who celebrates her 31st birthday today, and Katrina Moore picked their way through the carnage in a desperate bid to help the victims. One was Mrs O'Doherty's mother, Moira Duddy, 59, who died in the lounge. Another was Mrs Moore's father-in-law, Jimmy Moore. The nurses kept giving whatever help they could to those still living, ripping up bar towels to use as bandages in an effort to stop the flow of blood from gunshot wounds.

One witness said: 'It was Jackie and Katrina who kept some people alive until the ambulances arrived. It was amazing to watch them at work, quite unbelievable. Jackie was giving out instructions and everybody responded as best they could.

'Jackie probably knew her mother was injured or dead but she kept on walking around talking to people, calming them down, seeing to their injuries and moving from one body to another.

'When I walked through the door there were three bodies lying curled up in the foetal position, but I think one of the women was still living.'

He added: 'There were cartridges and spent bullet cases all over the floor. There was this smell of fresh blood.'

Mrs Duddy did not go out any other night of the week, but looked forward to dancing on Saturday with a vengeance. This weekend was no exception, except that it ended when a bullet smashed through a plaster wall in the pub and killed her as she sat beside her husband, John.

Chris Duddy, 25, one of Mrs Duddy's family of five sons and one daughter, said his mother, 'just a good Christian woman', had been concerned for his safety as he lives and works in Co Armagh, which has seen its own share of violence over the years.

Nearby, another Eglinton family was trying to cope with the grief brought by the terrorists' bullets. John Burns, 54, a Protestant who left the Ulster Defence Regiment several years ago, also died in hospital as a result of the mayhem. His wife, Nellie, was last night critical but stable in hospital.

The couple's three children, two sons, aged 16 and 19, and Gillian, 14, were devastated by the events. 'They went there every Saturday night for the music,' Gillian said. 'The people who did this must have thought it was Catholics in the bar. But my mum and dad were there. It's disgusting that they should do this to their own kind. The fact is they probably didn't care who it was. You feel ashamed to be Protestant.'

A few miles outside Eglinton lived another of the dead - Joe McDermott, 60, was single and a reclusive figure, known to locals as he walked for miles around the area.

'He could often be seen walking the five or six miles to Eglinton from his house to buy milk for his cats,' said a police source. 'His cats were his only companions. He lived a very, very lonely life.'

The others who died were all from the tight-knit Greysteel community. John Moyne, 50, had three teenage children and was a supervisor at the nearby Dupont chemical factory. John's wife, Lily, said in a statement: 'My husband and I had only entered the Rising Sun a few moments when the gunmen appeared. My husband realised what was happening and threw me to the ground to protect me. Had it not been for his quick reaction I too would have been killed.'

The oldest to die was Mr Moore, 81, who was discovered by his son, who owns the Rising Sun, lying dead beside the cigarette machine with one wound to the head and three to his body.

'I heard the bangs and thought it was fireworks,' Mr Moore's son, also Jimmy, said. 'The first I saw was my father lying there dead. Then the next was the 19-year-old girl. That finished it. I know my own father's dead, but I do not want any retaliation. Catholics and Protestants get on well here and I hope it can stay like that.'

(Photographs omitted)

Comments