Tribal trophies of the SAS

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Reports that close-up images of the bodies of eight IRA Volunteers postered the wall of a British Army training camp, and the tooth of one of the victims extracted as a ghoulish souvenir, have been described as “disgusting”.

The brother of one of the victims said the grotesque acts “mocked and desecrated” the dead and caused hurt to their families.

The IRA Volunteers of the East Tyrone Brigade were ambushed and killed at Loughgall in May 1987. A passing civilian was also killed in the deadliest of the shoot-to-kill massacres perpetrated by the SAS.

An article in the London Times by journalist and former British soldier Anthony Loyd revealed the headhunter-style souvenirs of the ‘elite’ regiment. A well-known war correspondent, he was stationed in the north of Ireland while a serving British soldier.

Writing about Prince Harry’s recent claim that he ‘got 25 kills’ while fighting in Afghanistan, Loyd recalled how as an infantry platoon commander in the late 1980s he attended a British army training camp in preparation for being sent to the north.

He said a wall at the camp “was decked with close-up colour photographs of the eight members of the IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade killed in an SAS ambush at Loughgall a few months earlier during an attack on a police station”.

“They had all been shot in the head, multiple times, at close range.The wounds were hideous,” he said.

He also wrote that the photos were reproduced in a training video.

“The same images of mutilation were replayed to us at the start of training videos to the soundtrack of Another One Bites the Dust,” he said.

“It was army kill-count crassness at its worst.”

Mairéad Kelly’s brother Patrick was one of the eight IRA Volunteers. She continues to campaign with other relatives for an inquest into her brother’s killing, and described the revelations as “disgusting”.

“I find it hurtful that someone needs to degrade these men and their families further,” she told the Irish News.

“I can’t get into the psyche of someone who would do that. Killing someone is one thing but mocking them and desecrating them is something different.

“I know that has happened in different areas with different people but it does not make it right.”

It was previously revealed that a former RUC member had boasted to other members of the British Crown Forces on social media how he and colleagues held “parties” in a van where several of the IRA men killed at Loughgall died.

It is also believed one of Patrick Kelly’s teeth was “torn out” and kept as a ‘trophy’ by British soldiers. Ms Kelly said a pathology report seen by relatives revealed that a tooth had been removed from her brother’s mouth.

Ms Kelly believes the tooth was pulled out by British soldiers, and branded the practice of taking ‘trophies’ from victims of violence as “horrific”.

“When you think about it, it is quiet horrific, but it’s something down through history that happens,” she said.

“Because you hear of way, way back in tribal wars... where they might have taken the heads of people that they had killed and kept them. It’s like that, it’s quiet grotesque, so its not something that wouldn’t be unheard of.”

Ms Kelly said her family is troubled by the thought that a body part belonging to their loved one could have been taken.

“The thing that bothers us the most is the fact somebody is actually sitting somewhere with that and does this get taken out and displayed?” she said.

“I could talk about it and be detached from it but when you think about it, it’s actually really bad.”

Independent councillor Barry Monteith said: “British crown forces have a long history of denigrating the memory of victims of their war crimes in countries, like Ireland, they have no right to be in. Disgusting behaviour but not surprising.”

He said the de-humanisation “is part of the anti-Irishness rife throughout the British establishment”.

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