01 June 2016

Two plaques serve as reminders
of anniversaries of killings in June

The plaque at Lichfield City Station remembering the murder of teenager Robert Davies (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

As we continue to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising, the Battle of Jutland, the Battle of the Somme, and other events in 1916, there is one anniversary that I am reminded of today, 1 June, and another that I am reminded falls next Tuesday, 7 June.

I find myself using Lichfield City Station countless times through the year. Regularly, as I go to catch a train or arrive at Lichfield, my eye is caught by a poppy wreath hanging on a monument at the bottom of the steps in memory of a teenage soldier who was shot dead in the station in 1990.

Private WR Davies was killed here 26 years ago on 1 June 1990. Robert Davies was 19 when he shot dead that day by the IRA, in a cowardly attack, at the station. He was waiting for a train to take him back home to see his parents in Pontarddulais, near Swansea, after completing his first 12 weeks of training.

Private Davies was shot at close range with a handgun when two masked men walked up to him and two other young recruits, Private Neil Evans (19) from Llanelli and Private Robert Parkin (20) from Cheltenham. They were in civilian clothes as they waited to catch a train home for their first weekend leave since starting basic training at nearby Whittington Barracks. The gunmen the ran off along the railway track and made their getaway in a waiting car.

The inscription reads:

This plaque has been presented
by the City of Lichfield
Royal British Legion,
and is dedicated to the memory of
Private WR Davies,
Royal Regiment of Wales,
who was fatally wounded at
this station on the
1st June 1990.
Lest we forget.
Donated by the West Midlands Co-operative Society

Robert Davies was off-duty and had never fired a shot. He was based at Whittington Barracks, outside Lichfield, and had been in the army for just 12 weeks. He was only 19 when he was shot dead by the IRA on Friday 1 June 1990, waiting for a train to take back home to a weekend with his parents in Wales.

Five years ago, a new walkway behind the station in Lichfield was named Robert Davies Walk. His parents Des and Helen Davies were present, and his father said: “There is now a little part of Wales in the heart of England.”

Robert Davies has no children or grandchildren – he is remembered by his sister and his parents, still grieving a young man murdered by terrorists who had the gall to take life, to murder, to create grief, all in the name of Ireland, and in the name of all who live on this island.

Although the IRA claimed responsibility, no-one has ever been arrested for the murder of Robert Davies. Police wanted to question two suspected IRA members, Pearse McAuley and Nessan Quinlivan. They were arrested in October 1990, but they shot their way out of Brixton Prison before their trial on other charges and escaped in 1991.

Des and Helen Davies have never been able to see their son’s killers brought to justice. Today, Robert Davies would be 45. But he was murdered on this day 26 years ago, 1 June 1990. Lest we forget.

The plaque at Adare Garda Station, Co Limerick, remembering Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, who was attacked and killed on 7 June 1996 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Another plaque that should come to mind for many this month is one I saw last Saturday during a short visit to Adare, Co Limerick. This plaque outside the Garda Station in Adare remembers Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, who was shot dead in Adare 20 years ago on 7 June 1996.

Jerry McCabe was shot dead by members of the Provisional IRA during an attempted robbery of a post office van. He was 52, and the father of five children.

Jerry McCabe and Detective Garda Ben O’Sullivan were attacked early in the morning by men wearing balaclavas who fired 15 rounds with an AK-47. Three rounds hit Jerry McCabe and killed him; Ben O'Sullivan was hit 11 times and was seriously injured. Bullet casings found at the scene were unique to the IRA at the time.

Up to 40,000 people lined the streets of Limerick for the funeral of Jerry McCabe.

Gerry Adams claimed later the robbery and the attack were “not authorised by the [IRA] Army Council,” but Sinn Féin later lobbied for the early release of Jerry McCabe’s killers under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Jerry McCabe’s widow Anne has never received a proper answer since she challenged Gerry Adams to explain why Sinn Fein had called for the release of the men convicted of killing her husband.

Pearse McAuley, who was convicted for the killing, had escaped from Brixton Prison in London on 7 July 1991 with Nessan Quinlivan. At the time, they were awaiting trial on charges relating to a suspected plot to assassinate Sir Charles Tidbury (1926-2003), chairman of the Whitbread brewery, and police wanted to question them about the attempted murder of Sir Peter Terry, the former governor of Gibraltar, who was shot at his home in Cannock Chase, near Lichfield, two months after the murder of Robert Davies.

McAuley and Quinlivan fled to Ireland, where they were granted bail while contesting their extradition to Britain. In 1999, McAuley was convicted with three others for the killing of Jerry McCabe, and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

He was released in 2009, having spent 10½ years in prison. On Christmas Eve 2014, McAuley was arrested after stabbing his estranged wife Pauline Tully multiple times in front of their two children in Co Cavan. He was found guilty and on 2 December 2015 he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The plaque at Adare Garda Station reads:

In memory of
Det Jerry McCabe
who gave his life in the service of his country
at Adare, Co Limerick
on June 7th 1996,
For the peace and love my fellowman
For the justice of my fellowman
For the peace and understanding of my fellowman
For the peace and love of my fellowman

Today, Jerry McCabe would be 72. But he was shot dead 20 years ago, on 7 June 1996. Lest we forget.

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