RUC officers speak of Milltown murders chaos for first time

Two police officers who risked their lives to arrest Michael Stone during his attack on a triple IRA funeral have spoken publicly for the first time about the chaos at Milltown.

The former RUC men are among a number of people contributing to a new documentary which examines the events that threatened to spiral into unprecedented violence 30 years ago.

RUC officers arrest loyalist Michael Stone after his gun and grenade attack on Milltown cemetery in March 1988

RUC officers arrest loyalist Michael Stone after his gun and grenade attack on Milltown cemetery in March 1988

In The Funeral Murders – being shown on BBC2 today at 9pm – film maker Vanessa Engle also speaks with relatives of the three men killed by Stone, and one of the undertakers whose family firm was caught up in both the Milltown attack and the brutal murder of two Army corporals at a subsequent IRA funeral three days later.

The tragic chain of events was sparked when the SAS shot dead three IRA members on March 6 1988 in Gibraltar as they prepared for a bomb attack on the British overseas territory.

At their joint funeral in Belfast 10 days later, loyalist gunman Stone began lobbing grenades and firing pistols at mourners killing three people – Kevin Brady, Thomas McErlean and John Murray – and injuring many more.

As the funeral of one Milltown victim, IRA member Kevin Brady, took place on March 19, two soldiers in plain clothes inexplicably drove into the path of the cortege.

The film is in its own terms a document of historic importance

Suspecting another loyalist attack, the crowd surrounded the car of corporals Derek Wood and David Howes. Having disarmed and stripped the two corporals to their underwear, the mourners continued a frenzied attack before handing the pair over to be shot dead by the IRA.

Another contributor to the documentary is Anna McErlean, the widow of Milltown victim Thomas, who was 19 and pregnant when her husband who murdered.

An anonymous Catholic woman also tells how she was so moved by the television footage of the corporals’ horrific murders that she gave her newborn son the middle names Derek and David.

Ms Engle said: “The film is in its own terms a document of historic importance, given that the conflict in Northern Ireland witnessed some of the most cataclysmic events to have taken place in the UK since the Second World War.”

Two Army corporals stray into the IRA funeral of Kevin Brady in Andersonstown in March 1988. Picture: Pacemaker

Two Army corporals stray into the IRA funeral of Kevin Brady in Andersonstown in March 1988. Picture: Pacemaker