'Strong response' to documentary on IRA murders

A TELEVISION programme about the IRA killing of two tourists in Holland in 1990 has provoked a strong response in Australia following its screening last Sunday.

London-based Australian lawyers Stephen Melrose, 24, and Nicholas Spanos, 28, were gunned down in the Dutch border town of Roermond after being mistaken for off-duty British soldiers.

Channel 7 producers had travelled to Northern Ireland via Holland last month, along with the family of one of the victims, to make a documentary about the Melrose family's difficulty in coming to terms with the murder.

One of the show's producers, who accompanied the still-grieving family, said the documentary "rated very well" with around 1.5 million viewers on the night.

Mick O'Donnell said: "There was a strong response from the audience in letters and calls – you can see a mix of comments on the website.

"Others have contacted us offering more information, so this is a subject we're likely to revisit."

Stephen Melrose's parents Roy and Beverley Melrose made the trip along with their two daughters in the hope of finding "closure".

One of their daughters, Helen Jackson, told the News Letter: "My dad is almost 80 years of age and felt he had to make the trip this year or he might never be able to do it."

Ms Jackson said meeting IRA victims in Northern Ireland was "a source of great comfort" but added: "It's so frustrating to realise that so many others, as well as my family, have never seen anyone face justice for murder."

The gang responsible for the Roermond murders were armed with a Kalashnikov rifle – and a handgun used in a string of terrorist attacks in both Northern Ireland and mainland Europe.

At one point during the trip the TV crew approached a suspected IRA member who was tried and acquitted of the murders, along with three others, in 1991.

The confrontation took place last month when the documentary makers approached Donna Maguire as she sat in her car in Newry.

Writing on the TV company's website, producer Ross Coulthart said: "When I finally tap on Donna Maguire's car window and ask her to offer some sympathy to the Australian family of Stephen Melrose, there is a microsecond before Donna realises that her past has caught up with her.

"Her face initially has a friendly greeting, and she then flashes recognition and turns her head away from our camera.

"Twenty years on, is it shame? We hope so."

One typical comment of support emailed to the Channel 7 website after the screening read: "It has taken an Australian TV company to ask the hard questions and to confront the suspects. Well done Ross and crew."