Quoting from the Barron Report into the murder of Seamus Ludlow. Published 3 November 2005:
INFORMATION RECEIVED FROM RUC
1. INFORMATION RECEIVED FROM THE RUC
2. FORENSIC INVESTIGATION
3. FURTHER INQUIRIES
INFORMATION RECEIVED FROM THE RUC:
On 30 January 1979, a letter was sent from the RUC Chief Constable’s office toC/Superintendent Michael Fitzgerald, Security and Intelligence (C3), Garda Headquarters, Dublin. It was headed, ‘Murder of Seamus Ludlow at Ravensdale, Co. Louth on 2 May 1976’ and read as follows:
"It has been learned from a source believed to be reliable that theundermentioned members of the Red Hand Commandos (RHC) were involved in the murder of Seamus Ludlow at Ravensdale, Co. Louth on 2 May 1976:
Paul HOSKING, 23 years… Glasgow and formerly of… Comber, Co.Down.
William Richard LONG, 32 years… Comber, Co. Down, at present serving life imprisonment for the murder of David Spratt, 48 Dickson Park, Ballygowan, Co. Down at Comber on 2 June 1976.
Samuel CARROLL, 27 years… Bangor, Co. Down, at present serving a 4-year prison sentence for firearms offences.16
James Reid FITZSIMMONS, 38 years… Killyleagh, Co. Down.
Our headquarters Regional Crime Squad have been informed."
On 5 February, this information was conveyed by letter from Garda Headquarters toChief Superintendent R.Cotterell, the Divisional Officer at Drogheda. On 15 February 1979, Superintendent John Courtney and Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan travelled to RUC Headquarters in Belfast and met with the head of CID, Chief Superintendent William Mooney. Courtney was at that time Border Superintendent, based at Dundalk Station. He had been promoted in September 1978. Prior to this appointment, he had been a Detective Inspector with the Murder Investigation Unit, Technical Bureau; in which capacity he had assisted Detective Superintendent Dan Murphy with the original 1976 investigation.
In the course of the meeting they were introduced to two RUC Special Branch officerswho said they had information regarding the Ludlow murder. In his report of the meeting (dated 15 February but clearly written 2 or 3 days later, as it refers to further information received on 17 February) D/Supt Courtney gave an account of what they were told.
It must be emphasised that Supt Courtney’s report was based on his own recollectionof what was said to him by the RUC officers at their meeting: it was not a verbatim transcript of the information given to the RUC by their informant. It is reproduced here solely for the purpose of assessing what information was available to Gardaí in 1979. He wrote:
"On the 15 th February 1979 I had a discussion with [two named SpecialBranch officers]. This meeting took place at Belfast. Both these men related the following. A contact told them that No. (1) Hosking, was involved in a murder in Dundalk some time ago. Hosking and the other three travelled to Dundalk in Fitzsimmons’ car. All the persons mentioned were at the time members of the North Down Volunteers, and they went to Dundalk to shoot some ‘Provo’ at random. They had a snub-nosed Smith and Wesson revolver…
After going to Dundalk they drove around to see if they could see some‘Provo’. They saw a middle aged man ‘thumbing’ a lift. They took him into the car. They travelled along the road. They ordered this man to get out of the car; he objected because he hadn’t reached his destination. Carroll then shot him: the informant thinks the shooting took place in the car; he is not sure. They got rid of the body and returned home…
Hosking knew he was going on a mission that night, but didn’t know where itwas. He asked the others if he could go with them. They allowed him to go, but Carroll wasn’t too happy about him afterwards; he did not trust him…
Number (2) William Long is in prison for his involvement in the murder of aMr Spratt 2/6/1976. He admitted his involvement in this murder. He has not been interviewed for the murder of Mr Ludlow.17
Number (3) Samuel Carroll did the actual shooting. The weapon used isbelieved to be in the Bangor area…
Carroll who is in prison for possession of firearms is regarded as a highlydangerous criminal who has committed a number of murders. He would not admit his involvement in any of them. He is regarded as a man who will kill just for the sake of killing.
Number (4) James Reid Fitzsimmons, his car was used in the commission ofthe murder. Inquiries are being made to establish the present location of his car. It may contain bloodstains or other evidence.
Fitzsimmons is a Corporal in the UDR and is held in high esteem. Followingthe murder he had a suspected heart attack, but it is thought it was not a heart attack only sheer worry over what they had done to Ludlow. He has not been interviewed for the murder of Mr Ludlow."
Concerning the provenance and value of this information, D/Supt Courtney wrote:
"[one of the Special Branch officers] is satisfied that this information is true…[He] has this information for the past 18 months and he gave no information or reason to me for not disclosing it before now. But he did say his informant begged him not to interview Hosking and he may have decided not to disclose the information until Hosking had left the country. Hosking left Ireland about 6 months ago.
On the 15 th February, 1979 I discussed the matter with D/Chief Supt. Wm.Mooney, Head of CID, Belfast. He informed me that he would give every co-operation in the investigation. He did suggest that Fitzsimmons should be interviewed at the same time as Hosking. C/Supt. Mooney has established through the Scottish Police (on 17/2/79) that Hosking is in Scotland and residing at the address stated.
C/Supt Mooney has stated that he will arrange for [the two Special Branchofficers] to travel to Scotland if required. These two detectives would be of assistance if we decide to interview Hosking."
Copies of D/Supt Courtney’s report were sent from C/Supt Cotterell, Drogheda to theheads of C1 (Crime Ordinary), C3 (Security and Intelligence) and C4 (Technical Bureau) on 19 February 1979. The accompanying letter stated:
"For information. Superintendent Courtney on my instructions is discussingthe matter fully with D/Superintendent [Dan] Murphy at the Technical Bureau today when further steps to be taken will be decided upon."
On 22 February, C/Supt Fitzgerald, C3 responded:
"Your correspondence on above subject has been received and noted. Reportany further developments."
On 28 February 1979, a further letter from RUC Headquarters was received by C/SuptFitzgerald. It read as follows:
"I give hereunder further details of the person[s] named in our letter of 30January 1979; as requested by Superintendent Courtney, Dundalk.
Paul Hosking: No photograph or description available.
William Richard Long: Height 6’1"; thin build; thin long face; palecomplexion; dirty fair hair; green eyes; long straight nose; sometimes wears a short beard. Copy of photograph enclosed.
Samuel Black Carroll: Height 5’8"; slim build; oval face; palecomplexion; brown hair; blue eyes. Copy of photograph enclosed.
James Reid Fitzsimmons: No photograph or description available."18
A copy of this letter, with the attached photographs, was sent from C3 to C/Supt Cotterell in Drogheda on 1 March 1979.
No further information was received concerning the search for Fitzsimmons’ car. It is not known what enquiries were made by the RUC in that regard. On 21 November 2003, the Inquiry wrote to the Northern Ireland Office seeking further information on this, but met with no response.
In his original report, made following his meeting with the RUC on 15 February 1979, D/Supt Courtney stated:
"Comparisons have been made with photographs of the bullets found and taken from Mr Ludlow’s body with the weapon used in the murder of Spratt – the forensic department in Belfast are of opinion that it is not the same weapon. However they will not be definite until they make comparison with one of the bullets found in Ludlow. I would suggest that one of the bullets found in Ludlow be taken to Belfast."
From this passage, it would appear that the comparison was made prior to the meeting on 15 February, presumably at the behest of the RUC. However, the only written record available to the Inquiry is contained in a letter from Norman Tulip of the Data Reference Centre, Belfast to Superintendent Raymond White, RUC Headquarters dated 6 March 1979. It stated:
"Enquiries from SB (RUC)… reveal an interest in connecting the murder of Ludlow to the revolver used in the murder of D Spratt at Darragh Road, Comber on 2 June 1976. Similar enquiries from Garda Technical Bureau indicate mutual interest North and South.
The murder weapon in the case of Spratt was a .38" Smith and Wesson revolver serial number 943510, submitted as exhibit 9 to NIFSL,19 who gave positive matching with bullets removed from the body of Spratt.
The murder weapon in the case of Ludlow was a .38" revolver with barrel rifled five grooves right hand twist, but no weapon was recovered at the scene or since. Comparisons [were] made by DRC with (a) bullets from the murder of Spratt, (b) bullets from the Smith and Wesson revolver used in the murder of Spratt, and (c) bullet exhibit from the murder of Ludlow. There was no difficulty in matching (a) with (b), but no match could be made between (a)/(b) with (c), and opinion is expressed that the revolver used in the murder of Spratt was not used in the murder of Ludlow.
The revolver used in the murder of Ludlow has however the same rifling characteristics as that used in the murder of Spratt and could be of the same type. Test-fired bullets are available from the Smith and Wesson revolver seized in the Spratt murder, and these can be made available to the Garda should they wish to formulate their own opinion. The revolver has been disposed of, destroyed by the military, and neither it nor further control samples are available."
It would appear that D/Supt Courtney’s advice that a bullet be sent to Belfast was taken. The Garda Ballistics Section files contain a letter from ‘Herbie’ [presumed to be Herbie Donnelly, Data Reference Centre, Belfast] to ‘Pat’ [D/Insp Pat Jordan, Ballistics Section] dated 28 March 1979 which read:
"Enclosed exhibit which you left after your last visit. Checked against case you suggested. No match confirmed by Victor’s staff.20 Other comparisons also negative."
On 28 November 2003, the Inquiry wrote to An Garda Síochána asking if there were any exhibits still extant in the relation to the death of Seamus Ludlow from which DNA samples might be obtained. A reply dated 8 March 2004 indicated that there were not.
On 9 April, Assistant Commissioner John Fleming, Crime Ordinary (C1) branch, wrote to C/Supt Cotterell enquiring as to the outcome of the discussion between D/Supt Courtney and C/Supt Murphy which was supposed to have taken place on 19 February. The letter ended with the instruction: "Report in early course." A photocopy of the letter also appears in the Security and Intelligence (C3) file, although it is not stamped, and there is no indication as to when it was received.
On 12 April, C/Supt Cotterell forwarded this letter to the Superintendent at Dundalk, adding "For early report in duplicate, please." No reply was received until 18 May 1979, when a handwritten response from D/Supt Courtney stated:
"I have discussed this matter with C/Supt D. Murphy, and he told me that at present he is involved in an interview – D/Sgt to D/Inspector. Immediately after the interview he will make the necessary arrangements regarding travelling to Glasgow to interview the suspect there."
Although the request for information had come from C1, this note was sent by C/Supt Cotterell to C3. It was received there on 21 May, and forwarded to C1 on 24 May.
Further notes requesting reports on any developments were sent from C1 to the Chief Superintendent, Drogheda on 5 July 1979, 10 October 1979 and 18 January 1980.
On 23 January 1980 C/Supt Cotterell raised the matter with the Superintendent in Dundalk, Supt Fahy. A response was received from the latter on 8 April, to the effect that the queries had been forwarded to D/Supt Courtney, who in July 1979 had returned from Dundalk to Garda Headquarters, where he was once more attached to the Investigation Section, Technical Bureau (C4).
In the meantime, on 12 March 1980 a further reminder was sent from C1 to Drogheda. Having drawn attention to previous unanswered letters, it concluded:
"I would thank you to state if there are any further developments to report in regard to the suspects referred to by the Superintendent, Dundalk, in his report of the 15 th February, 1979."
A response from the Divisional Office, Drogheda was received by C1 on 25 March 1980. It set out the information received from Dundalk that all minutes had been passed to D/Supt Courtney at C4, and added:
"This discreet aspect of the investigation was dealt with solely by the Superintendent and perhaps you would contact member direct."
A handwritten note to D/Supt Courtney from the Assistant Commissioner’s office, C1 dated 26 March suggests that this was done.21
This would appear to have been the last written correspondence on the subject. There is no indication of any reply from D/Supt Courtney; the suspects were not interviewed, and the Inquiry has seen no documentation to suggest that the matter was pursued any further. It seems the case lay dormant until 1996, when complaints by the Ludlow-Sharkey family prompted a re-opening of the file, and led eventually to an internal Garda inquiry into why no further progress had been made. This is the focus of the next two chapters.
16RUC records show that on 4 April 1978, Samuel Carroll had been sentenced to 4 years imprisonment for possession of a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.
17Although Long pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder Mr Spratt and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life; ballistics tests established that his own gun, a .38 revolver, was not the murder weapon.
18The letter was dated 14 February 1979: but given that D/Supt Courtney’s meeting with the RUC had not taken place by then, and the fact that the letter was not received in Dublin until 28 February, it seems likely that this was a typographical error, and that the letter was in fact some days after the meeting in Belfast.
19 Northern Ireland Forensic Science Laboratory.
20 Victor Beavis, Northern Ireland Forensic Science Laboratory.