On the 1st May 1976, Seamus
Ludlow returned from work at 1.15p.m. It was a lovely sunny day on a
Saturday afternoon. Seamus was employed by Mr. Danny Philips, Timber
Merchant, in Ravensdale, Co. Louth. His brother-in-law, Tommy Fox,
also worked there as a tree feller. Both men got on very well with
each other and enjoyed a bit of 'craic'.
Seamus cleaned himself up and headed for
Dundalk at about 3.00p.m. which was his customary routine on a
Saturday afternoon, where he would enjoy a few pints and play a few
games of darts and rings with his friends, frequenting two or three
pubs in the town.
It was known he drank in the Lisdoo Arms
Pub. Leaving at about 11.30p.m. to hitch a lift home to his home at
Thistle Cross, Mountpleasant, he was spotted by a number of people
hitching a lift between the Lisdoo Arms (photographed here) and
Smith's Garage on the Newry Road. Sometime between 11.40p.m. and
12.30a.m. a strange car with strange men stopped and gave him a
lift. The journey to his home would have taken 8-10 minutes,
depending on the traffic, Seamus never returned home.
On Sunday morning, 2nd May 1976, his
sister Nan Sharkey, whom Seamus lived with along with his mother,
was getting her children ready to attend Mass at 8.00a.m. in the
local Convent when she noticed Seamus had not returned home from
Dundalk from the previous day. She became quite agitated and upset
as this was not what Seamus would have ever done. On returning from
Mass at about 9.00a.m. she contacted his two brothers in Dundalk to
see if he had stayed with them. His two sisters were also contacted
to see if he had stayed with them, but they also had not seen him.
At about 11.30a.m. the Gardai were informed that Seamus was missing.
A large search party was organised by family, friends and Gardai to
look for him.
At about 3.00p.m. two people from
Northern Ireland were out walking down the bog road which leads to
the back entrance to Ballymascanlon House Hotel and one mile from
Seamus Ludlow's home. They turned left down a lane off the bog road
about 25 ft. down the lane on the right hand side the two people
notice a group of cattle in the field standing close to the ditch.
The cattle were quite agitated and they were looking at something
lying on the ditch in the field. One of the two people climbed up on
the ditch from the laneside of the field. They noticed a body of a
man lying prone on the ditch on the field side.
The two people made their way to a nearby
house to phone the Gardai. The Gardai arrived within 10 minutes and,
on inspection, of the man's body noticed a lot of blood and what
seemed to be gunshot wounds or stab wounds. Immediately the area was
sealed off and a murder inquiry began. Members of the Ludlow family
were informed of the discovery of a body. Kevin Ludlow, the deceased
brother, Tommy Fox and John Sharkey, both brothers-in-law of the
deceased, went to the murder scene. Positive identification was made
by Mr. Kevin Ludlow of his brother at this time, approximately
4.15p.m. News had spread fast of the gruesome discovery and a large
crowd of neighbours had gathered close to the scene at about
6.00p.m. Dr. John Harbison, the newly appointed State Pathologist,
arrived to examine the body and the murder scene. At about 7.30p.m.
the body of Seamus Ludlow was removed to the Louth County Hospital
for a more thorough examination by Dr. Harbison. The murder scene
was sealed off and the murder squad took over the case. An incident
room was set up in the Garda Station in Dundalk. The murder Squad
was lead by Detective Chief Superintendent Dan Murphy (now deceased)
and his team of 30 Detectives comprising Detectives from Dublin and
The murder investigation got into full
swing with over 2,000 people questioned. 1,700 homes were visited
and 1,000 cars stopped at vehicle checkpoints over the coming four
weeks. The Gardai concentrated their investigation on the
Provisional I.R.A. In the area where Seamus Ludlow lived there were
up to 40/50 top I.R.A. men domicile.
All family members were questioned
vigorously by the Special Branch about the murder. In fact, the
Special Branch became very hostile towards family members and showed
no sign of sympathy or compassion towards the family. Family
members, at the time, could not believe the behaviour of the Special
Branch (but there was a method in the behaviour as time was to
On Wednesday the 5th May 1976, Seamus
Ludlow was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Ravensdale, Co. Louth. An
estimated 2,500 people attended the removal and burial. The largest
funeral seen in Ravensdale in living memory.
About four weeks after the murder,
abruptly and suddenly, the investigation came to a halt. No reason
was ever given to the family by the Gardai or the Special Branch as
to why this happened, in fact, relations between the family and the
Gardai deteriorated. Individual Gardai who were on good terms with
the family, stopped talking to the family members to the amazement
and surprise of the family members.
The Gardai or Special Branch never came
back to the family to explain how far their investigation had got -
this was very strange indeed.
Some old family members approached the
Gardai soon after the investigation ended and they were told a
variety of reasons as to why Seamus Ludlow was murdered, but nothing
concrete. The Gardai were pointing the finger firmly at the
Provisional I.R.A. and over the coming years Kevin Ludlow, who
called to the Gardai Station in Dundalk on a yearly basis to see if
any new information had come to light on the murder, was repeatedly
told by a Special Branch Detective whom, he (Kevin) was friendly
with, that it was the I.R.A. and, in fact, named names to Kevin,
saying "We will 'f......' get them for this sometime".
The family now know that this was part of
the propaganda machine orchestrated by the Gardai to divide the
family and to dishonour Seamus's good name, which they did for 22
years and are still trying to do.
The inquest into the murder of Seamus
Ludlow was held on Thursday 19th August 1976 in Dundalk. The Corner
that day was Dr. Scully. No member of the family were ever told that
the inquest was to be held.
Kevin Ludlow received a phone call that
morning at 10.15a.m. that the inquest was to be held at 11.00a.m.
Kevin was working on the Warrenpoint Road in Newry Co. Down when he
received the phone call. It would have taken Kevin one and a half
hours to get home and dressed to attend the inquest. He phoned his
wife in Dundalk asking her to try and get the inquest put back, but
she was told it was first on the list. Sergeant Jim Gannon said he
spoke for the family which was not true. Again, this was further
proof of the behaviour of the Gardai at that time.
The Coroner's Report showed that Seamus
Ludlow was shot three times in the lung, liver and the fatal shot to
the heart. He also had a bullet wound to his left hand where he had
put up his hand to stop a bullet. Seamus had been shot at point
blank range, possibly 2 ft., and he was in a seated position when he
was shot. Seamus's clothing and shoes were clean, given that the
lane where the murder took place was wet and mucky, indicating that
he was shot elsewhere, possibly, in the back of a car.
For 20 years the murder remained a
mystery. The Gardai repeatedly told Kevin Ludlow "no new evidence"
had come to light on the murder and the only organisation they were
looking at was Provisional I.R.A.
Then in October 1995 an investigative
journalist who worked in Northern Ireland approached members of the
family, saying he had new information about the "Ludlow Murder".
(The same journalist came to see Mrs. Sharkey about 1985 but she did
not entertain him). A meeting was set up between him and the family.
He told the family that Loyalist paramilitaries from Northern
Ireland (and not Republicans) murdered Seamus Ludlow and that the
Gardai knew this all along.
A series of meetings was held between the
journalist and the family over the coming months. Jimmy Sharkey, a
nephew of Seamus Ludlow, asked the journalist where he got this
information. He said he had a source (a retired Detective), whom he
trusted for 12 years and his source told him that the men who
murdered Seamus Ludlow were from Dundonald, east of Belfast in North
Down and were known to the Gardai all along. With this information
the family held a Press Conference in the Boswells Hotel in Dublin
on 2nd May 1996, the 20th Anniversary of the murder. They called on
the then Gardai Commissioner, Mr. Patrick Culligan, to reopen the
murder case, which he did.
On the 16th May 1996 the family held
their first meeting with the Gardai and there was several meetings
over the next two years between them. The Gardai liaised with their
counterparts in Northern Ireland, the R.U.C. and on Tuesday 17th
February 1998, four prime suspects were arrested and taken to
Castlereagh Holding Centre in Belfast. One of the suspects was
arrested in his home in Staffordshire in England and flown to
Belfast. All four were questioned for six days. On the sixth day,
all four were released without charge and a file sent to the D.P.P.
in Northern Ireland for consideration.
On hearing the news that all four prime
suspects were released without charge, the family though
disappointed, were not disheartened. As the pressure was kept on the
Gardai and the R.U.C. to come up with some answers, both the Gardai
and the R.U.C. told the family that these four prime suspects were
the ones involved in the murder of Seamus Ludlow and they were 100%
sure of that.
The car used in the murder that night was
a two door yellow Datsun, sporty type - the gun used was a .38
On Thursday 5th March 1998, Mr. Ed
Moloney contacted Kevin Ludlow and Jimmy Sharkey. Ed Moloney is the
Northern Ireland Editor of the "Sunday Tribune" newspaper. He told
them that one of the suspects, a Mr. Paul Hosking from Newtownards,
Co. Down, wanted to tell his story to Ed Moloney and on Sunday the
8th March 1998, the "Tribune" printed the full text of
Hosking's gruesome story.
A short time after the murder was
committed in 1976, possibly 3/4 months, the Gardai had 60 - 70% of
this information. In 1979 two Senior Detectives travelled to R.U.C.
Headquarters in Belfast and received all relative information to the
murder. The information was put in the murder file and never acted
upon, but this did not stop the Gardai from telling lies to the
family. The Detective who got the information in 1979 and put it in
the file, Chief Supt. John Courtney, is now retired, and living in
On Thursday 20th August 1998, Kevin
Ludlow and Jimmy Sharkey travelled to Dublin to meet Mr. Courtney.
On hearing the name "Ludlow", Mr. Courtney became very aggressive
and hostile towards both men, using very threatening language to
them. Mr. Courtney then entered his house and would not come
This was the action of a guilty
The R.U.C. have said the file would be
submitted to the D.P.P. by the end of September 1998.
In the mid-seventies, the Northern
Ireland troubles were at their peak, especially so around the border
areas. Portadown, in Mid-Ulster was a staunchly Loyalist town.
Dundalk was seen as a staunchly Republican town. It was at this time
that the troubles had spilled over into the south. Loyalist
paramilitaries made some spectacular attacks across the border into
the Irish Republic - chief amongst these were:-
- Dublin and Monaghan bombings
- The shooting of I.R.A. Commander John
Francis Green near Castleblayney in January 1975.
- Car bomb in Castleblayney March 1976 -
one killed, Patrick Mohan.
- Murder of Mr. Christy Phelan in
Sallins in Co. Kildare in 1975 - stabbed 57 times with a
- Car bomb in Dundalk town centre in
December 1975 - two dead - Hugh Watters and Mr. Rooney.
- Murder of Seamus Ludlow 2nd May
As can be seen, Loyalist paramilitaries
were very active at this time i.e. U.V.F. and Red Hand Commandos,
also the S.A.S were operating covertly along the South Armagh, North
Louth Border and they murdered and abducted 2/3 well known
Republicans in and around the South Armagh and Dundalk area. In
fact, three days after Seamus Ludlow was murdered, on the 5/6th May
1976, eight heavily armed SAS men were arrested by the Gardai on the
southside of the border at a place called 'Flagstaff' near Omeath,
in Co. Louth.
It is also important to point out that
the Government at that time was the Coalition Government of Mr. Liam
Cosgrove TD - it ran from 1973 - 1977. This Government was very
Pro-British and was very Anti-Republican.
* This Profile was prepared by Jimmy
Sharkey, a nephew of the late Seamus Ludlow.
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