Daughter of shot RUC man hears of kindness at scene

The scene of the murder of RUC constables Harry Beckett and Gary Meyer, which happened on June 30 1990. They were shot beside the building in yellow, at the junction of Castle and Queen Street, where there were security gates. Pic by Ben Lowry
The scene of the murder of RUC constables Harry Beckett and Gary Meyer, which happened on June 30 1990. They were shot beside the building in yellow, at the junction of Castle and Queen Street, where there were security gates. Pic by Ben Lowry
  • Kathryn Beckett thought her father and colleague were left to die in street
  • Witness recalls woman from Falls holding the head of the officer who had been shot but not yet died
  • IRA murder of RUC officers in central Belfast sparked widespread revulsion

The daughter of a policeman murdered in central Belfast 25 years ago has said that she is comforted to learn that local people tried to tend to him and a colleague after they were shot.

Kathryn Beckett’s father Harry Beckett, 47, and another RUC constable Gary Meyer, 35, were attacked from behind by two IRA gunmen who ran up on them on June 30 1990.

RUC constables Harry Beckett, left, and Gary Meyer, who were murdered on June 30 1990.

RUC constables Harry Beckett, left, and Gary Meyer, who were murdered on June 30 1990.

The News Letter reported this week on the anniversary of the deaths, which sparked widespread revulsion at the time.

We have also spoken to a witness who worked near the scene of the killing, at the junction of Queen Street and Castle Street, who has told us of how they heard the shots, and thought it was a car backfiring, and arrived on the scene seconds later.

The witness, who does not want to be identified, did not see the attackers but saw one of the officers on the ground and the other slumping to the ground down security railings that were then there. This would have been Mr Meyer (although the witness did not know which officer was which), who died at 3pm that day, three hours after the attack.

The witness said that a woman, who was from the Falls area and often in the area, held on her lap the head of the officer who was alive, and tried to stem his wound.

It is nice now to know there were people who came to their aid

Kathryn Beckett

“I remember her saying: ‘this is someone’s son’.”

The witness said that other men and women, who were also from nearby, stopped out of concern. People were not walking on past the scene, despite the fact that it was a part of the city centre that marks the edge of republican west Belfast.

“People were looking around as if to say, where’s the ambulance? Where is medical help? That is all I can remember. I ran in and got a towel, which the woman put to the back of his head.”

Ms Beckett was in touch with the News Letter after our story on Tuesday, the anniversary, to give us further details on the attack. We told her of the witness’s recollection. She said: “This is new and comforting information.

Kathryn Beckett, daughter of Harry Beckett

Kathryn Beckett, daughter of Harry Beckett

“It is nice now to know there were people who came to their aid and in the case of Gary hold his hand to the end.

“I had thought that they had been left to die in the street, that no-one stopped.

“People were reluctant to give evidence, but perhaps that is because they were afraid and Belfast is very territorial.”

In this week’s story, we recounted a description by an inquest witness telling of “a short man with dark eyes ... holding on to the shoulder of the constable while putting a gun to the back of his head”.

This appears to have been the man who shot Mr Meyer, who died at 3pm that day.

However, while the two attackers approached both victims simultaneously from behind, Mr Beckett seems to have become aware of the impending attack and got into a struggle with his murderer.

The gunman who had just shot Mr Meyer then helped the taller attacker to force Mr Beckett to his knees, during a wrestle in which he sustained cuts and bruises. He was then shot through the chin and died instantly.

Ms Beckett recently learned from the BBC the distressing information that the guns used in the murders had been brought in for ballistics firing and then returned in full working order to an IRA arms dump watched by Special Branch.

The killings caused shock at the time because the two officers were known as beat policemen, and Belfast city centre was vibrant and seen to be increasingly safe.

Bishop Cahal Daly said the two RUC men were known and liked in the Castle Street area, and their murders were a “depraved and wicked deed”.

The News Letter reported on July 4 1990 that police were hunting “a psychopathic IRA killer who specialises in close-up murders”.

Ms Beckett’s mother Isobel died six months after, leaving Kathryn as an orphan at the age of 17. “She basically lost all interest and gave up living. Mum lived for Dad and he lived for her.”

No-one has ever been convicted of the murders.