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Quoting from the Barron Report into the murder of Seamus Ludlow. Published 3 November 2005:
The Garda investigation team received no reliable piece of intelligence information as to who might have been responsible for Seamus Ludlow’s death. The investigation report stated:
"Many theories have been put forward suggesting various reasons why the deceased was murdered. Likewise, the same theories have been put forward as to how, why and at what time the deceased was picked up, presumably near the Newry Bridge on the main Dundalk / Newry road.
Those put forward as being responsible include the PIRA, Protestant extremist groups, the SAS, members of the deceased’s family, neighbours of the deceased, and that the deceased was a victim of mistaken identity… With all the theories available, there is nothing tangible in any of them which bears up to any scrutiny, with the result that one is left in the final analysis with the deceased having last been seen alive in the vicinity of Newry Bridge about 12.30 a.m. on 2-5-76… and then vanish until found dead at about 3 p.m. on the same day, without any apparent reason. In other words, the whole episode appears, at this stage, to be a complete and unresolved mystery."15
The investigation team quickly established that there was no conceivable motivation – financial, personal or otherwise – for any of Seamus Ludlow’s relatives, neighbours or friends to have been involved in his death. He was not on bad terms with anyone; he had little or no money; and his will bequeathed the house at Thistle Cross to his sister, with whose family he lived.
Suspicion that members of the SAS might have been involved in the murder arose from a separate incident that occurred on the night of 5 May 1976. At 10.40 p.m. a car containing two armed SAS soldiers was stopped at a Garda checkpoint at Cornamucklagh, Omeath, Co. Louth. It was travelling south at the time. The two men were detained and taken to Dundalk Garda Station for further questioning.
At 2.15 a.m. on the same night, two more cars containing a total of six SAS soldiers were stopped at the same checkpoint – again, travelling south. These men were also armed. All six were taken to Dundalk and questioned. The cars involved in the incidents were technically examined, as were the firearms belonging to the soldiers.
In the course of interviewing the soldiers, they were questioned about the murder of Seamus Ludlow. Nothing emerged which might have connected them his death. There was no evidence that they had been in the area on the night of 2 May 1976, and none of the weapons with which they were found at Omeath were of .38 calibre. The investigation report concluded:
"There is no evidence to connect them with this crime."
An article in the Sunday World of 16 May 1976 speculated that the deceased was killed as a result of mistaken identity. The correspondent, who was based in Dundalk, wrote:
"… I learned from inquiries that the popular sawmill worker, who had no involvement in politics, was the ‘double’ of a top Provisional IRA man who is on the wanted list of both the SAS and the outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force.
The Provisional to whom the dead man bore such a remarkable resemblance served for nine years in the British Army before joining the IRA. He is reckoned to be the Provo’s top marksman."
The article continued:
"Local people to whom I have spoken say that the sleeves of the murdered man’s coat were ripped out. This could be relevant to the mistaken identity theory, for the Provo marksman they may have thought they had ‘lifted’ is tattooed on both arms."
As we have seen, the coat sleeves were not in fact ripped out, but the deceased’s coat and jacket were removed from his body after he was killed. The Garda investigation team identified a man whom they thought most likely to have been the ‘Provo’ referred to in the article – an IRA member and former British Army soldier who had tattoos on both arms. This man was interviewed by D/Gardaí T. Dunne and T. Hynes, who concluded that it would be difficult to mistake the deceased for him.
Efforts were made by Gardaí to get the names of potential suspects for the shooting from the RUC. The investigation report stated:
"Many enquiries have been made through the channels of the RUC in an effort to illicit from them who they thought might be in a position to help us in our enquiries, but whereas we have received the usual co-operation, it must be appreciated that they have neither the time nor the manpower to concern themselves too fully with the problems prevailing on our side, when they are so fully taken up with events up North. Nevertheless, contact is being maintained, and I feel that if anything of a tangible nature should arise, results will be made known to us."
The importance of maintaining such contact was also emphasised by the Garda Commissioner, Edmund Garvey. In a handwritten note for the Commissioner C3 dated 4 June 1976, he acknowledged receipt of the investigation report and stated:
"Keep in touch with the RUC. Something useful may be forthcoming in time." Shortly after Seamus Ludlow’s murder, the Provisional IRA made a statement denying any involvement in his death. At the time the investigation report was written, no information had been received to contradict this.
However, on 1 October 1976 an intelligence report cited an unknown source as stating that Ludlow was murdered by a named Provisional IRA officer from Belfast, who was at that time awaiting trial on firearms charges. It was said that Ludlow was shot because he was believed to be working for British Intelligence.
However incredible this sounded, it required following up: on 14 October a letter was sent to RUC Special Branch, outlining the information received and asking for their views. On 19 October, the RUC replied as follows:
"A low grade source has reported that [Seamus Ludlow] was murdered by the PIRA as they suspected him of passing information to Security Forces in the South. Ludlow’s brother is also believed to be a member of the PIRA."
It is worth stressing (a) that the source was low-grade; and (b) that the RUC information accused Ludlow of giving information to the security forces in the State – not to the British security forces, as the Garda informant had alleged. The information received from the RUC was passed from C3 to the Chief Superintendent in Drogheda, and then to detectives in Dundalk, with a request for observations. On 31 December 1976, a report by D/Sgt Owen Corrigan, Dundalk stated:
"Subject has three brothers and none of them is a member of the PIRA." The report promised further enquiries "of a delicate nature" into whether any of the extended family members were IRA sympathisers, and concluded:
"This matter will continue to receive attention by all concerned."
The last reference to this information in the Garda files was a letter from the office of the Assistant Commissioner, C3 to the Chief Superintendent, Drogheda asking for a report on the result of D/Sgt Corrigan’s further enquiries. There is no response to this on file, which may indicate that the allegations were not regarded as credible.
In any event, the views of senior Gardaí as to who was responsible for Seamus Ludlow’s murder were changed irrevocably in 1979, when information of far greater credibility was received from the RUC. This information, which placed the blame for his death on loyalist subversives, is the subject of the next chapter.
13 Statement of D/Garda M. Niland, 18 May 1976.
14 A former member of the Fingerprint Section has told the Inquiry that fingerprints were also found on
two chip bags, but there is no mention of this in the available Garda documentation. See below p.68.
15 Investigation Report, 21 May 1976.
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Relatives for Justice http://www.relativesforjustice.com/
Pat Finucane Centre http://www.www.patfinucanecentre.org
British Irish Rights Watch http://www.birw.org/
Irish Council for Civil Liberties http://www.iccl.ie/
Celtic League http://www.manxman.co.im/cleague/index.html
Justice for the Forgotten at http://www.dublinmonaghanbombings.org/
The Barron Report on the May 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings can be downloaded in pdf format from http://www.irlgov.ie/oireachtas/Committees-29th-D%E1il/jcjedwr-debates/InterimDubMon.pdf
Barron Report: on the Dublin Bombings of 1972 and 1973, can be downloaded in pdf form from: http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/committees29thdail/jcjedwr/Dublin_Barron_Rep031204.pdf
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