IRA murder 40 years on: ‘We will have to wait until the next life before we see justice’

The brother of a shopkeeper killed by the IRA has said that after exactly 40 years and no convictions, he can only expect justice in the life to come.

Richie Latimer
Richie Latimer

William Richard ‘Richie’ Latimer, a UDR member, was shot in the back on June 7, 1980, by a masked gunman who had entered his hardware shop in Newtownbutler in south-east Fermanagh, a few miles from the Irish border.

To mark precisely four decades yesterday since his killing, his brother George has spoken to the News Letter about the still-unresolved crime.

It is part of an occasional series which appears in the News Letter focussing on some of the thousands of lesser-known fatalities of the Troubles.

Richie was 39 when he died. Born on February 6, 1942, in the border region, he was one of six children.

He began working at a local shop – JWH Johnston’s Hardware – at age 14, as well as farming.

He later bought the hardware section the business and ran it himself.

He married Bonnie (nee Gould), and they had two children; Gordon and Jill.

Richie had joined the ‘B Specials’, then later joined the UDR (along with two other brothers).

On the day he was killed, the murderer fled along with a second gunman who was waiting outside the shop, and the Latimer family believe they sought refuge across the border.

There was outcry following Richie’s murder, with demonstrations held in the local community.

George Latimer, now 81 and living in the Lisnaskea area, told the News Letter he believes the pair who killed him were “outsiders”, but had been fed information by someone in the local community.

Asked if he will ever see justice, George said: “Not at this stage, no I don’t think so.”

But when it comes to the next life, he said: “Yeah, that day comes. They’ll not get away that day. There will be no escape then.”

The South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) said the killing was part of a “concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing waged by The Provisional IRA against the Protestant population” in the borderlands.

On the subject of the current focus upon alleged wrongdoing by state forces, George said: “I don’t think there was that much wrongdoing. There was a few bad apples in the barrel, alright, a few incidents that shouldn’t have taken place, but mostly it was fair-minded people in the forces.”

By contrast there was hardly “a town or a village in the county didn’t have a bomb or something or other, a shooting, a murder” carried out by paramilitaries.

The Latimer family have been members of the anti-terror group the SEFF for over 20 years, and its’ director of services Kenny Donaldson said: “The family are well respected within SEFF but also across the wider community. They are a family who have endured much at the hands of terrorism but they have continued to live their lives in keeping with God’s will.

“The Latimer family have real steel, they are proud of their own culture and identity but also believe in fairness and they have a quiet determination which is typical of the borderland spirit.”

A keen badminton player, Richie was also a member of Wattlebridge Accordion Band and the local Orange Lodge 391.

Had he lived he would have seen four grandchildren and a great grandchild.

He is remembered by his widow, son Gordon, daughter Jill, his siblings George, Violet and Doreen and the wider family circle.

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