Airey Neave murder: INLA killers ‘will be pursued’

Margaret Thatcher picturerd at a press conference at the Dunadry Hotel in Co Antrim with her friend and colleague Airey Neave  in June 1978. Pacemaker Press
Margaret Thatcher picturerd at a press conference at the Dunadry Hotel in Co Antrim with her friend and colleague Airey Neave in June 1978. Pacemaker Press
Share this article

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has welcomed an assurance from the Home Secretary that fresh efforts will be made to bring the INLA killers of war hero Airey Neave to justice.

Margaret Thatcher’s spokesman on Northern Ireland was killed by an under car booby trap bomb at the Palace of Westminster in March 1979 – just weeks before a Conservative election victory that would have resulted in him being appointed NI Secretary.

In a letter to the constituency MP of Airey Neave’s son, Sajid Javid said there was “new work” being done on the case.

The Home Secretary told Chelsea and Fulham MP Greg Hands: ‘I have reviewed the case and can confirm that extensive searches have been carried out, including by the Metropolitan Police, into the circumstances of the murder,” The Telegraph reported.

Mr Javid went on to say: “I do not want to raise hopes of progress, but following my review of the case new work has been commenced by the police and the investigation is open.

‘Should any potential leads come to light they will be scrutinised by the police to see if those responsible can be brought to justice.”

During World War Two, Airey Neave became the first Allied prisoner to escape from the notorious Colditz castle.

Once asked is he would be prepared to talk to the IRA, the former army intelligence officer replied: “Yes, I’d say ‘come out with your hands up.’”

Mr Javid has now written to DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, saying the government will “do all they can” to prosecute the killers.

Recent media reports suggest a man suspected of involvement in the murder is running a business on the Spanish island of Majorca.

Mr Donaldson said: “I had raised this with the Home Secretary Sajid Javid and he has come back to me with a letter.

“He says the decision on whether to pursue the extradition of a suspect is a matter for the police, and that obviously the Home Office doesn’t comment on whether there is a current extradition request because they don’t want to alert anyone, but he has assured me that the Home Office and the police will do all they can to bring to justice those responsible for Airey Neave’s murder.”

Mr Donaldson added: “I am encouraged by the response from the Home Secretary and I will continue to pursue this matter in Parliament as I believe it essential that police, both in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, are given the resources that they need to actively pursue terrorist suspects who have been responsible for atrocities during the Troubles, including the murder of Airey Neave as a Member of Parliament and Opposition spokesman on Northern Ireland.”

• At a memorial service in the weeks after Airey Neave’s death, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said: “On an afternoon in early spring, the gentlest of men, who utterly abhorred and was sickened by violence, became its victim.

“What sort of man was this war-time soldier, whom the Germans could not contain and who had such a quietly powerful influence on the politics of peace?

“He was, I think, the most unassuming man I have ever met, and I had known him for 30 years. Despite the heavy responsibilities he carried, I never once heard him raise his voice.

“As a soldier he was a most unlikely-looking hero and would have shuddered to have that word applied to him; yet hero he was.”