In a rare interview the brothers and sisters of Adrian Carroll have told how they continue to “remember him every day” despite the passing of four decades, by Connla Young (for the Irish News)
The family of an innocent Catholic man murdered by a member of the UDR in a sectarian attack almost 40 years ago has described him as a “beautiful and inspirational son”.
The 24-year-old was shot dead in an alleyway off Abbey Street as he made his way home from work in Armagh city on November 8 1983.
The murder was later claimed by the Protestant Action Force - a cover name for the UVF.
In the aftermath of the killing several members of the UDR were arrested and questioned.
In 1986 four members of the regiment were convicted of murder.
They were part of a British army patrol in the area at the time Mr Carroll was shot and later became known as the ‘UDR Four’.
The convictions of three were overturned in 1992.
A fourth man, Neil Latimer, served 14 years behind bars and continues to insist he is innocent.
His supporters recently held a protest outside PSNI headquarters in east Belfast.
Three previous attempts to have his conviction overturned on appeal have failed.
Despite Latimer’s claims, members of the Carroll family say they have no doubt he was involved in the murder of their brother.
They say some aspects of recent media coverage of his campaign have been both “hurtful and upsetting”.
Mr Carroll, the tenth child born into a family of 15, was killed just 11 months after his brother Roddy (21) was shot dead by the RUC.
He and fellow INLA member Seamus Grew (30), who were both unarmed, were killed in what some believe was a ‘shoot to kill’ operation at Mullacreevie Park, Armagh, in December 1982.
Speaking on behalf of her family, Brenda Carroll, who was aged 16 when her older brother was shot, believes he was the victim of collusion.
She tells how her older sibling, who was recently married, had overcome adversity to build a life in the cathedral city with his new bride.
She also reveals how her brother, who was not involved in politics, had a serious hearing and speech impairment that resulted in him attending a specialist boarding school in Jordanstown, near Belfast, from the age of 5 to 16.
After he returned to Armagh he attended a training centre and qualified as a painter and decorator.
In the months before he was killed he was working in the Mall area of Armagh, which at the time was considered a ‘no-go’ district for Catholics.
Brenda said while working there her brother was regularly stopped and questioned by the UDR.
She claimed that before he was shot members of a patrol had stopped him and asked ‘how long do you think you will be here?’
She has little doubt about what was implied in the question.
“It was a veiled threat, the next day he was killed,” she said.
Brenda believes her brother’s decision to work in the Mall, is partly why he was targeted.
She also believes there was an element of “collective punishment” in the attack.
“He was singled out because he was a member of the Carroll family, a Catholic, a nationalist and he worked on the Mall,” she said.
Brenda said that while attending boarding school Mr Carroll, who she described as being “quiet” and having a “good nature”, made friends with people from all backgrounds.
“He grew up with Catholics and Protestants and found people as he met them.”
She said her brother was detached from the Troubles.
“He had recently got married and they had set up their first home,” she said.
“He loved life and he was living his best life.
“He probably felt that what was going on around him had nothing to do with him.
“He really felt he had nothing to fear.”
Brenda revealed how she and a friend came across the murder scene, while making their way home from school.
She explained that when she asked an RUC man what had happened and gave her name she was he told to go home.
She said she knew by his reaction something was wrong.
“I was standing there, I knew in my heart Adrian was in the ambulance,” she said.
The murder of Mr Carroll had a crushing impact on his family.
“It was only 11 months after Roddy was killed,” she said.
“It was devastating.
“It was devastating because it was Adrian.
“Because he didn’t grow up in the family home and he had a hearing impairment and never for a moment perceived himself to be in danger.”
Despite the passing of almost 40 years Brenda only recently told her own grown up children that she had witnessed the aftermath of her brother’s murder.
She said that her mother Teresa also suffered “unimaginable grief”.
“She kept going out and facing the world, keeping her head held high,” she said.
In 1994 the grieving mother was also targeted by the UVF when a bomb was thrown through the window of her home but failed to explode.
Brenda said she and her siblings were distraught by recent media coverage generated by Mr Carroll’s killer.
They believe recent reporting was “disproportionately focussed on our family history, which bears no relevance to the sectarian murder of Adrian”.
“Such framing has in the past been used by those who seek to distract and distort from, including on occasion justify, the appalling sectarian murder of Adrian,” the family said.
“This is unfair, unwarranted and unjust.”
The family also said that another brother, Tommy, a former Sinn Féin councillor who was in jail at the time, was refused compassionate leave to attend his brother’s funeral.
Telling how they still miss him despite the passage of time, Brenda added: “Adrian was truly a beautiful and inspirational son, brother, and husband, who was very much loved and is sorely missed.”
“We remember him every day and he is never too far from our thoughts.”
Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, who has worked closely with the Carroll family, said: “Adrian wasn’t a member of any republican organisation or political party and those who murdered him knew that full well.”