Widow seeks damages relating to claims against British general Frank Kitson

Woman’s legal actions in London concern her husband’s killing in Belfast in 1973

Mary Heenan walked up to the steps of the ministry of defence in London, just yards from the Cenotaph, clutching a walking-stick and a few sheets of paper that mark the passing of 40 years.

The papers served notice of a claim for aggravated and exemplary damages against the ministry, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Gen Sir Frank Kitson CBD, KCB MC over the death of her husband, Eugene.

Known to his friends as "Paddy", Mr Heenan was killed in February, 1973, when the minibus carrying him and 14 other men to a building site in east Belfast was attacked by loyalist paramilitaries.

Later, a British army soldier, Albert “Ginger” Baker, was jailed for life for killing Heenan and three other men, but he subsequently claimed to have had links to British intelligence.


Brushed under carpet

“It is wonderful that this is all happening. I never dreamed that I would see it. It was just brushed under the carpet and that was the end,”

Mrs Heenan

(88) told

The Irish Times


“Nobody cared. We were just left there, we knew nothing,” said the Andersontown woman, who was left to rear five children, including the youngest, who was seriously disabled.

In the days since the legal action was revealed, Mrs Heenan has been “overwhelmed” by messages of support from friends and neighbours: “It has been wonderful. So many other families have taken hope from this,” she said.

Mr Kitson, who is a year younger than Mrs Heenan, now lives in retirement in Devon, but he has already rejected her claim, saying he was not in Northern Ireland at the time and had not run agents inside loyalist gangs free to murder.

News of the case has prompted renewed demands from Conservatives and the military for legal protections for soldiers from subsequent claims, though it is unclear how legislation now could give protection against allegations in the past.

"That tells us everything," said Mark Thompson of the campaign group Relatives for Justice. "It is a clear case of them feeling that this is getting very close to them . . . It's a clear indication of nervousness, an edginess of where this might lead to. Quite clearly, if they are making moves like that they have something to cover."

Kitson’s age

Questioned about Mr Kitson’s age, Mrs Heenan accepted that he “is an old man” but she quickly pointed out: “He is a year younger than me. I see it as a release, I think it is wonderful that it has come to a head at last.”

She quickly deferred to her eldest son, Eugene who declared: “He can’t walk away as if nothing happened.”

During his trial for the murder of four Catholics, the British authorities claimed Albert “Ginger” Baker was a deserter: “He wasn’t a deserter, he was an agent, he was a fall guy and he was left out in the cold,” said Mr Heenan.

“It was London who gave the go-ahead for stuff like, saying ‘Just don’t be telling us, just carry on with it’. It wasn’t just in Ireland it was used. They were well versed in it.”

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is News Editor of the The Irish Times