The families of three RUC men brutally murdered by the IRA exactly 40 years ago today have said they will always honour their loved ones’ sacrifice.
The three men were Hugh Henry Martin, a 58-year-old married man with seven children; Samuel Derek Davison, a 24-year-old married man; and Kenneth Lynch who had just turned 22 at the time of his death.
Their killers had lain in wait and, as the police officer’s car passed by on the winding roads around the village of Ardboe near Lough Neagh at around 2.30 in the afternoon, they opened fire with Armalite rifles.
The patrol car crashed and, as the three IRA men emerged from their hiding place, a further 20 shots were fired into the vehicle. The officers’ bodies were discovered by a passing motorist.
The IRA’s East Tyrone brigade said it had carried out the attack.
According to the book ‘Lost Lives’, a 22-year-old man was given a life sentence for the murders of the three policemen in 1979 and a number of others were convicted with lesser sentences.
The families of the three men, however, believe there are “unconvicted terrorists” who have escaped justice.
The families are to attend a service of remembrance in Cookstown police station later today to mark the 40th anniversary since the murders.
In a joint-statement issued to co-incide with today’s anniversary, the Martin, Lynch and Davison families paid tribute the “special men” whose lives were taken away by the IRA.
“Our loved ones were servants of the Crown and of the community, the whole community,” they wrote. “Their murders were needless and all that was achieved was the removal of three special men who were cherished by their families.”
The statement continues: “We have waited for forty long years for the IRA terrorists involved in the triple murder to face justice, but to date, this has not happened. We have concerns over the conduct of the PSNI, the Stormont and Westminster governments, and also over the way in which the Dublin government has hindered progress through a lack of willingness to expedite the pursuit of the remaining unconvicted terrorists.”
The three families continued: “These men stood against terrorism and they did not do this for their own selfish gain. They knew the risks associated with their role as policemen, but still had conviction to perform their role. They cared about the community and wanted the best for the whole country.
“Unlike the terrorists who ambushed them, and whose identity was concealed, our loved-ones were known as members of the RUC, and they died as heroes to us. Their sacrifice became our sacrifice, and we will continue to remember and to honour their legacy.”
A life snatched away – brother tells of lost years
The brother of one of three RUC men gunned down in the brutal IRA attack has spoken of how his brother’s life was snatched away.
Hazlett Lynch is the brother of Kenneth Norman Lynch, who was aged just 22 when he was killed by the IRA.
Mr Lynch said his family has “missed out” on a lifetime shared with Kenneth.
He said: “There were four of us in the family and he was the youngest brother of three. He was the heaviest and the tallest of the three of us - he was a big, strapping young man. He was the life and soul of the party and he loved fun.”
Mr Lynch joked: “He didn’t always get everything right – he was a great Man United supporter.
“When I was a student in Leeds he used to come over and visit - fair play to him because when he was only about 18 or 19 he would make his own way over to Manchester to watch his favourite team. I remember one time in particular he was to come back to our flat and - it was a wee bit like going down the Falls Road with a union jack - he walked down through the middle of Leeds with a Man United scarf on him.”
Mr Lynch continued: “His birthday was only two weeks before he was murdered. He had only just turned 22 - the 16th of May was his birthday.
“He had his whole life ahead of him, of course.
“We are 40 years down the road now and had he lived he more than likely would have been married, he would have had his own children and he more than likely would have had his grandchildren around him by now in all likelihood.”
Mr Lynch spoke of how so many in his family had, tragically, never gotten to know Kenneth.
“That’s something that we as a family have missed out on.
“My granddaughter will never know him. My children never knew him. In fact, my wife is the only in-law who did know him. Margaret and Ken were very close friends. None of his nephews and nieces ever knew him, none of his great-nieces and nephews ever knew him either.”
He added: “I know from the kind of man that he was, he loved children and he loved fun, and he would have loved them.”