Heartbreak ‘never goes away’

Avril Robson talks to Laura McMullan
Avril Robson talks to Laura McMullan

When Constable Drew Beacom was gunned down by the IRA on the same Co Tyrone street that he lived on, the first person to come to his side was his devoted wife, Jean.

He was murdered as he and a police colleague, Ernest Smith, drove their unmarked car along Main Street, Fivemiletown on December 12, 1993.

Less than an hour before seeing him die on duty, Jean had spoken to him as she arrived home from visiting her first grandchild, and he had assured her he would be home shortly.

Recalling that bleak December night when her stepfather was murdered, Avril’s eyes fill with emotion.

“It was absolutely devastating. We lived on the Main Street, and it happened right outside our front door.

“I had already left that evening to go down to Omagh to celebrate the birth of my first niece, Louise. Drew had left the car up for me, and his last words to me that night were, ‘Don’t you over do it tonight’, because we had a really busy day on the Sunday in the Top Note. I said no bother, and that I wouldn’t be too late.”

But Drew was murdered on patrol in his home town, and his wife rushed to his side after hearing the sound of gunfire pierce the night air. The couple’s youngest child, Andrew, was just 10 years old.

“It was a terrible, terrible thing for her, for anyone, to have to witness,” says Avril of the pain his death caused her mother.

“It left a massive hole in all our lives, and it never goes away. But my mum did a great job, and she kept us all together even though she would have struggled on a daily basis with her grief I actually don’t know how she did it.

“She is a true inspiration to me.”