‘Only God will judge her killers’

IRA murder victim Jillian Johnston
IRA murder victim Jillian Johnston

The mother of a young Protestant woman murdered during a frenzied IRA gun attack said her family believes the killers will only ever face justice before God.

Jillian Johnston from Fermanagh was shot more than 20 times from close range with an automatic rifle but her brutal slaying in March 1988 was largely forgotten, carried out the day after Michael Stone’s attack on Milltown cemetery and just two days before the shocking murder of two army corporals in Andersonstown.

The 21-year-old chemist’s shop assistant was riddled with bullets as she sat in a car outside her family home near Belleek along with her fiancé who was seriously injured.

Neither had any connection with the security forces.

Although the IRA claimed the attack was a case of mistaken identity, many believed it was one of a many against border Protestants motivated by sectarian hatred.

Mrs Annabella Johnston recalls it took place the month before her daughter’s 22 birthday.

“It was on the March 18, 1988 that she went to the café with her fiancé, they came home about 10.15pm and pulled up into the yard in the car. I was on my own at the time by husband having gone out to visit neighbours. I heard awful automatic gunfire, it seemed to go on and on I was terrified, I can remember the sound to this day.

“I rang my sister-in-law who lived nearby and she came. Just as she opened the door I heard Jillian’s fiancé calling out and lamenting, I ran out and the minute I saw Jillian I knew she was dead. I lifted up her head and it fell down again.

“That Friday night will be with me for ever. The postmortem revealed that at least 27 bullets had been found in her body.

“A few months later, two friends who had worked at our farm were shot leaving Belleek police station. No-one has ever been charged with any of these murders.”

Mrs Johnston added: “Jillian’s brothers and sisters have all moved on with their lives and have families of their own, but he memory of Jillian’s brutal murder will be with them always and is still talked about as if it was yesterday.

“Thirty years on we feel as a family that no-one will ever be brought to justice for the murder of Jillian, however, it is our Christian belief that those responsible for this cowardly act will have to answer to God on their final Judgement Day.”