Ulster witness to attend funeral of murdered soldier

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The Ulster woman who saw the murdered soldier Stephen Restorick's last smile, and herself narrowly escaped death in the IRA killing in Co Armagh, is to fly to England for his funeral.

Lorraine McElroy, 35, was wounded by the same bullet which killed the young lance bombardier. Yesterday, she said there is now a deep bond which ties her to his grieving family.

Meanwhile, a delegation of US Congressmen visiting Northern Ireland last night repeated President Clinton's disgust at the shooting. One of its members, Congressman James Walsh, said: "We condemn the recent IRA violence, most notably the killing of the young soldier."

Mrs McElroy said she had been invited to next week's funeral by the soldier's mother, Rita Restorick, during an emotional telephone conversation.

The Catholic mother-of-two said: "People ask me if I'm nervous, as a Catholic, of going to a British soldier's funeral.

"But I'm not going to a British soldier's funeral. I'm going the funeral of a young man who died in front of me."

She said the soldier's mother had asked her because she was a last link to her son.

Mrs McElroy, who was with her husband,had stopped her car at a checkpoint close to their home in the village of Bessbrook on Wednesday night when the soldier was shot in the back by the IRA sniper.

"The image of him smiling at me will stay with me to the day I die," she said.

Last night, as the leaders of the main parties, including Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, met the US delegation near Antrim, there were calls for Washington to make sure the American-made "supergun" believed to have been used in Mr Restorick's shooting, was not brought into Northern Ireland again.