An Armagh woman who survived a no warning loyalist bomb that killed two people is to take a civil action against the RUC/PSNI police for failing to properly investigate her son’s murder at the hands of another loyalist death squad years later.
Maria McShane was left with serious head injuries and blind in one eye after the notorious 1976 bombing of the Step Inn in the village of Keady. Maria was rushed to hospital and spent time in an induced coma as doctors removed a piece of metal shrapnel that had lodged in her head, and despite the efforts of medical staff she lost her right eye.
However, the baby she was carrying miraculously survived. But the joy Maria and her soon to be husband Matt felt at the birth of their son Gavin lasted for only 17 years until the teenager was gunned down in 1994 along with a young friend as he played a gaming machine in a taxi depot in Armagh.
No-one was ever charged with either attack. Now Mrs McShane is now to take civil action for the RUC failing to properly investigate her son’s murder.
“When I was in the hospital after the bomb I had no sight at all, I told Matt, ‘go and have a life, you can come and see the child anytime you like’. Matt held me and said ‘I’m going nowhere I’ll get a priest in here and marry you now if I have to’. We married in the September,” Mrs McShane said.
“My Gavin was born on the 25th of January 1977 with blonde curly hair and he was a miracle, he was perfect.
“I’m not just saying this because Gavin was murdered but we had such a bond it’s unreal. He was my best friend I told him everything.
“We would have a mother and son night on a Wednesday, the first film we went to see was ‘In the Name of the Father’.
“He’d already seen it and he said to me ‘now mummy there’s a big explosion at the start of this’ and he sat and held my hand. I was so proud of him”, Mrs McShane said.
On the day the teenager was murdered he had been to college in Armagh before going to play a gaming machine with friends at a local taxi depot.
So confident was the gunman -- who is alleged to have been responsible for over 30 murders as part of a murderous gang led by ‘King Rat’ Billy Wright’ -- that he didn’t wear a mask.
Now a senior member of a County Armagh church organisation, he has never been questioned about the murder. The gun used was a police personal protection handgun that was never used before or since.
Detectives destroyed the clothes the teenager was wearing and shredded files relating to his case, telling his distraught mother they’d been contaminated with asbestos.
The couple, who had two more children, learned of the death of their eldest son after being phoned by a local priest who asked if they’d a son at school in Armagh, the priest arrived at their Keady home a short time later.
“When the priest arrived I went out to meet him, I said ‘Father my Gavin is dead isn’t he’ and he just nodded, I started squealing.
“The priest started to tell us he’d been shot in the head I said, ‘did he shout mummy, did he shout daddy, did he wet himself what did he do, is his wee face recognisable’.
“Me and Matt just got down on our knees in front of a picture of our two boys and we started to say our prayers.
“Daddy identified him and I said to him ‘please don’t leave him, stay with him and give him a cuddle’.
“All I can do now is take this civil action and hope the truth will come out, I know my Gavin is watching me giving me the strength to keep on fighting on his behalf.
“My Daddy’s father was a sergeant in the police, he was the first Catholic sergeant in Keady. Daddy always believed if you did wrong then you faced justice, after all he was a policeman’s son. He died of a broken heart knowing that not to be the case”, she added.
Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson, who has been working with the family, recalled that the Stalker investigation into state killings in the 1980s showed that the Special Branch of the RUC targeted subjects, briefed officers and after a shooting, removed men, cars and guns.
“So it was little wonder that the unionist gunman who murder Gavin McShare saw himself above the law,” she said.
“85 per cent of intelligence used by loyalists came from the Security Forces, Special Branch was up to its necks in collusion and murder, and there has been virtual impunity for these state actors involved in the Britain’s dirty war”, Ms Anderson added.