RUC should have ‘done more’ to protect three people killed in IRA bomb

Police Ombudsman’s report revives memories of victims of ‘good Samaritans’ bombing

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire found the RUC should have done more to protect the victims. Photograph: John Harrison/Harrison Photography

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire found the RUC should have done more to protect the victims. Photograph: John Harrison/Harrison Photography

 

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The Royal Ulster Constabulary did not do enough to protect three people who were killed in the so-called good Samaritan IRA booby-trap bombing in Derry 25 years ago, the Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire has reported.

Eugene Dalton, a 54- year-old widower and father of six children and Sheila Lewis, a 68-year-old widow, died in the explosion when they went to check on a neighbour living in flats at Kildrum Gardens in the Creggan estate on August 31st, 1988. Gerard Curran (57), who was with them, died seven months later.

The neighbour they were worried about had been abducted by the IRA who were attempting to kill police or British soldiers by luring them to the booby-trapped flat. The explosion was described at the time as the “good neighbours” or “good Samaritan” bombing.


In his report published today, Dr Maguire found the RUC should have done more to protect the victims. He concluded they did not “fulfil their duty to protect the public” but he rejected a suggestion this was prompted by a desire to protect an informant.

Dr Maguire reported that police were told five days before the explosion that a car abandoned in Kildrum Gardens was “convenient to a house” which had been booby-trapped and that, if necessary, the IRA planned to stage another incident to lure police to the property.

Three days before the explosion, police were aware that a document with the address of 38 Kildrum Gardens was dropped during the robbery of a local chip shop. At some time after 11am on August 31st, Mr Dalton, Mrs Lewis and Mr Curran were caught up in the booby-trap bombing.

The ombudsman said there is strong evidence police had sufficient information that they ought to have known the bomb was in the vicinity of Kildrum Gardens, even if they could not be sure which property it was in. “We found no evidence of any effort to pinpoint the exact location of the device or to warn the people who lived in and frequented the area,” he reported.

Dr Maguire said his “investigation was hampered by both the refusal of a number of retired police officers, some formerly of senior rank, to co-operate and by the loss of investigation documentation”.

Dr Maguire also found that the subsequent police investigation of the bombing was “flawed and incomplete”.

The ombudsman also reported how police placed the area “out of bounds” to their officers. Dr Maguire acknowledged the pressures police were operating under at the time.

“However, police allowed a booby trap bomb to remain in a location which presented a very real risk to life. There was an obligation on police to protect the lives of the public and I have to conclude that they failed in this regard.

“They failed to do all that could reasonably have been expected of them in the circumstances,” he said. “That being said, let there be no doubt that the responsibility for the deaths rests with those who put the bomb there – the IRA.”