Army widow: I was shocked by Martin McGuinness’ funeral

Private James Alfred Lee, from Yorkshire, was killed by an IRA landmine in Crossmaglen on July 16, 1972. His widow Susan Rimmer has told her story to the News Letter.
Private James Alfred Lee, from Yorkshire, was killed by an IRA landmine in Crossmaglen on July 16, 1972. His widow Susan Rimmer has told her story to the News Letter.

A woman whose husband was murdered in south Armagh said she was shocked to see how many people attended Martin McGuinness’s funeral seemingly “thinking how wonderful he was”.

Susan Rimmer’s husband, Jim Lee from Otley in Yorkshire, was a private in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment when he was killed in Crossmaglen on July 16, 1972.

War widow pensions campaign: Susan Rimmer meets Tom Arthur MSP (Scottish Parliamentary Liaison Officer to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice) as part of a SEFF trip to Edinburgh in March.

War widow pensions campaign: Susan Rimmer meets Tom Arthur MSP (Scottish Parliamentary Liaison Officer to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice) as part of a SEFF trip to Edinburgh in March.

The IRA targeted his armoured car with a 150lb land mine which also killed Lance Corporal Terence Graham from Middlesborough.

Susan’s fondest memory of Jim was “just waiting for him to come home for the weekend” to their married quarters in Catterick, Yorkshire.

She added: “He was pretty quiet. He used to come home and I would forget to put the immersion heater on because I couldn’t get the fire going, and I couldn’t cook - I was rubbish. I was only 19. But he never lost his temper, he just used to help me.”

The couple only lived together for three of their nine months of marriage.

Susan was counting down the 13 days left until Jim was due home when the knock came to the door.

“It was two police ladies and I knew - they didn’t have to tell me - I knew. And I was six months’ pregnant with my daughter. It was hell on earth really. My world just collapsed. I was just 19.”

She added: “You can’t say a funeral is nice, but the army did him proud, they gave him the full works.”

However she was “less impressed” with the recent funeral of Martin McGuinness.

“I was surprised how many people were there. To be honest when I saw it on telly, and I saw all the crowds, I turned the telly off. The shock of seeing so many people, thinking how wonderful he was; for me, I can’t forgive people like that.

“He might have done good later on [in his life] but in my mind...I will never forgive him.”

Susan hopes that violence does not erupt again.

“There are some lovely people in Ireland and I just hope that he [Jim] didn’t die in vain, because I lost a lot and my daughter lost her dad.”

The couple’s daughter Donna Marie was not yet born at the time of the murder, but Susan only saw the true impact of their loss on her on New Year’s Eve last year.

“It was the first time I saw her really break down in tears because she did not know her dad. I never knew she felt like that and she is 44. She doesn’t know how to feel because she has no memories of him.”

Susan is also a leading campaigner for the reinstatement of war widows pensions. Some 300 such widows have been denied their late husbands’ pensions because they remarried before 2005.

Earlier this month she was part of a delegation organised by victims’ group, the South East Fermanagh Foundation, to the Scottish Parliament to lobby MSPs for their support.

“We don’t know how long it is going to take but they said they would back our case,” she added.

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