Brothers’ ‘emotional’ meeting with RUC man they saw ‘killed’ as children in 1979 by IRA sniper

Two Belfast brothers have had an emotional meeting with an RUC officer they saw shot twice in the head as children and had assumed to be dead.

Sunday, 26th September 2021, 7:41 pm
Updated Sunday, 26th September 2021, 8:45 pm
Steve (right) and David Hardy (left) recently met Jim Craig, centre, a former RUC officer they had witnessed being shot twice in the head in Belfast when they were children. Until recently they had always assumed he had died.

And astonishingly, former Sergeant Jim Craig, now 72, explained to the News Letter that he was saved by the fact that his hair was too long.

Steve Hardy was brought up in the Village area in south Belfast and moved to England in 1982. At the time of the shooting, August 1979, he was five and his brother David was seven. 

The IRA had taken the occupants of a house in Benburb Street hostage and reported a burglary at a house opposite. An RUC Land Rover arrived and a police officer got out and knocked on the door. An IRA gunman in the house opposite then opened fire.

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James Craig at his RUC passing out ceremony with his parents in 1969.

“I saw the policeman on the ground bleeding,” Steve said. “My mum came running out screaming and grabbed us both into the house.

“We always assumed that he had died and that is how it stayed for 40-odd years.”

But more recently he was researching the date and discovered the officer survived. 

“So we managed to make contact and arranged to meet, which we did a few weeks ago in Belfast. I had always assumed that was the first dead body I had seen but thankfully it wasn’t and he was ok.”

Jim told the News Letter his recollection of the day.

“As I rapped the door I thought an electric shock went through my body. I thought they had wired the knocker to the mains. At the same time I felt this thump on the head as though I had been hit with an axe.”

He fell to the ground, drifting in and out of consciousness. “I was temporarily paralysed and blinded, both of which came back in time.”

The first bullet hit the top of his head, travelling to the front of his head, the second on the right temple, but neither penetrated the skull.

He had several skin grafts and had to learn to walk again, but later went back to work, on restricted duties.

Today he still suffers from numbness in parts of his body, as well as post traumatic stress disorder, diabetes and partial deafness. Despite several arrests, nobody was ever charged.

“I was delighted to have met Steve and Dave because they are living testimony to what happened to me that day, though I am sorry it happened in front of them. It was certainly an emotional meeting at times,” he said.

His RUC cap suffered an entry hole on the top and an exit hole at the front, just beside the badge.

It was sitting much higher than normal as his hair had not been cut in a month, confusing the sniper.

He added: “If my cap was where it should have been the bullet would have entered the back of my skull and exited at about my right eye. That is what saved my life.”

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