The headline above will be seen in some circles as an exercise in extremism, but having read the recently dispatched letter from the North’s prosecution service to the family of Seamus Ludlow (see below) explaining why the case will not be re-opened, it is very difficult to find other words to describe what has happened.
Seamus Ludlow, a single, middle-aged forestry worker, was abducted by a gang of Loyalists on the main Dundalk to Belfast road in May 1976, shot dead and his body dumped in a ditch near his home, not far from where he was kidnapped.
The leader of the gang, the man who actually fired the killing shots into Ludlow’s body, was a prominent member of the loyalist Red Hand Commando called Samuel Black Caroll, who went by the nickname ‘Mambo’.
Caroll, who has been in hiding for several decades in the English midlands, has been linked with British intelligence. He has denied any involvement in the night’s bloody events and likewise any association with British intelligence.
Nonetheless the allegations have persisted. The family believe that ‘Mambo’s’ other life helps explain why the Gardai attempted to place blame for Seamus Ludlow’s death on the local IRA and why they refused to follow other leads in the case.
The Gardai, they believe, were protecting allies in British intelligence, either the RUC Special Branch or MI5, and the alliance was blessed by successive Irish governments.
There were three other men in the car with ‘Mambo’ that night who witnessed Seamus Ludlow’s murder. Two of them are willing to give evidence in any criminal proceedings against ‘Mambo’ and the other occupant of the car.
One of the two willing witnesses, a man called Paul Hosking, actually went public about the killing in 1998, when he was interviewed by myself, then the Northern editor of The Sunday Tribune (see below). He gave a very detailed, eye-witness account of what happened that night, an account he gave to RUC detectives long before he went public in the Tribune.
Until Hosking’s interview with The Sunday Tribune, rumours and wild speculation had linked Seamus Ludlow’s death to both the British SAS or the Provisional IRA. Paul Hosking’s testimony, which he repeated at a meeting with members of the Ludlow family, settled the matter: the carload of Loyalists had abducted Seamus Ludlow and ‘Mambo’ Carroll, a suspected British agent, had pulled the trigger.
The four, or at least ‘Mambo’, had initiated the journey in a search for a well known Dundalk IRA man but having failed to locate their target, decided to end the night with a kill and settled on Seamus Ludlow, a vulnerable and easy target.
In October last year, lawyers for the Ludlow family wrote to the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) with a number of queries. The major question posed by the family was why the suspects in the shooting were not prosecuted.
The PPS’ reply is reproduced in full below, but for convenience sake I will list the salient points:
- Papers detailing the reasons why the prosecution was never mounted have been lost;
- The individual who made the decision left the PPS in September 2013 (the PPS does not say whether he/she is still alive and if so whether efforts were made to trace the individual);
- Of the four men, called A,B,C & D in the PPS letter, C and D (presumably one of these two is Paul Hosking) implicated A and B (presumably ‘Mambo’ Carroll is one of them) in Seamus Ludlow’s killing;
- But C and D’s accounts are, according to the PPS, ‘hearsay accounts’, making them useless in court;
- There were some inconsistencies in the evidence of C and D, e.g C could not remember D being present;
- The PPS refuses to re-open the case and re-examine the possibility of prosecuting A and B (one of whom is the alleged British agent ‘Mambo’ Carroll);
- A family request for a meeting with PPS is turned down;
- The PPS refuses to hand over evidential material to the family;
- The PPS refuse to respond to a request to confirm that ‘Mambo’ Carroll was a British agent.
A number of the points made by the PPS scream out for a response. The first is that Paul Hosking is alleged by the PPS to have been a hearsay witness and of no value to a prosecutor.
This is the definition of hearsay evidence given by one respected legal source:
…..hearsay is evidence of a statement that was made other than by a witness while testifying at the hearing in question and that is offered to prove the truth of the matter stated. For example, Witness A in a murder trial claimed on the stand: “Witness B (the “declarant”) told me that the defendant killed the victim.”
There is no way in the world that Paul Hoskings could be classified as a ‘hearsay’ witness. He was in the car when Seamus Ludlow was lured into it, he was in the car when it was driven to a nearly lane, and he was in the car when ‘Mambo’ shot him and when Seamus Ludlow’s body was hauled out of the car and thrown over a hedgerow.
Paul Hosking was an eyewitness, not a hearsay witness; I suspect the same goes for the other witness who is willing to give evidence. As for C not remembering that D was present, my reaction is ‘so what’! The passage of time can do that to the memory. The key point is whether C and D’s accounts coincide, a crucial issue that the PPS does not discuss. If they do, that must mean they were both present at the time, notwithstanding D forgetting that C was also there. Otherwise how could they independently concoct the same story?
As for the lost papers, one would have thought by this stage that so endemic – cynics might say conveniently endemic – has this carelessness been in Northern Ireland’s police stations and legal offices during the Troubles and their aftermath, that there should by now be systems in place to ensure this does not and cannot happen. Like secure filing cabinets. With a lock and key.
As for the missing PPS bureaucrat, is it beyond the powers of his successors to reach for a phone directory, or to contact some of his/her old mates to discover their current whereabouts? Apparently it is.
Below are reproduced the PPS letter, and my original Sunday Tribune article of March 1998:
Sunday Tribune, March 15th, 1998
By Ed Moloney
The RUC Special Branch has been accused of having covered up, for at least the last eleven years, evidence showing that members of the North’s security forces were part of a Loyalist gang which crossed the Border and killed a Dundalk, Co Louth man, the Sunday Tribune has learned.Seamus Ludlow, a 47 year old forestry worker, was found shot dead in an isolated laneway two miles north of Dundalk in May, 1976 and his killing became one of the unsolved mysteries of the Troubles.
However the story of how the authorities concealed the politically sensitive circumstances of his death has now come to light thanks to the man who gave RUC Special Branch officers a full account of the killing over a decade ago.
Paul Hosking (41), from Newtownards, Co Down started the day of Seamus Ludlow’s death drinking with UDR soldiers who were also members of the Loyalist Red Hand Commandos and ended it witnessing the casual and opportunistic murder of the Dundalk man. He was later threatened with death by the Red Hand Commandos if he spoke to the authorities.
Two weeks ago he and the three former Red Hand Commando members were arrested and questioned about the killing by RUC detectives. One was arrested in England. They were released without being charged but a report on each was sent to the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions who will decide whether to take action against the men.
In interviews with the Sunday Tribune, Hosking both protests his innocence and expresses anger at being arrested after having told the Special Branch everything he saw on the day of the Ludlow murder. He has named the Special Branch officer who met him to discuss the details of the killing to detectives in Castlereagh interrogation centre and made a written statement alleging that he gave the Branch a full account of the part played by the killers.
Hosking’s 1987 statement to the RUC Special Branch technically amounted to an admission that he had withheld evidence during the ten years following the killing yet the Special Branch apparently chose not to take any action against him nor the three men he had named as responsible for the killing.At the end of his encounter with the Special Branch, Hosking asked what happened next. “(The officer) said ‘Forget it. Its political’ “, he recalls.
Paul Hosking, then a 19 year old factory worker, invariably spent Saturdays getting drunk in his local, the First and Last pub in Comber. On Saturday May 1st, 1976 he headed down as usual only to find a virtually empty bar. Most of Comber had headed for Glasgow to watch Rangers play in the Scottish cup final but Hoskings was broke and couldn’t go.
So he found himself alone in the bar with a couple of friends and three men who had started coming to the pub three or months before. One was a Captain in the UDR, another who Hosking was told was also an officer in the regiment and a third man from Bangor whose nickname was ‘Mambo’. Hosking was never clear whether ‘Mambo’ was also a UDR man.
Hosking remembers that the UDR men were armed. “They had a big bulge under the arm”, he remembers. (The Sunday Tribune has been furnished with the men’s names but has decided for legal reasons not to publish them.)
Hosking had got to know the men over the preceding weeks and had occasionally drank with them and discussed life in the UDR. The three were also rumoured to be Loyalists, linked to the Red Hand Commando, an offshoot of the UVF. But in Comber as in other Protestant areas that would not raise an eyebrow; overlapping membership of Loyalist paramilitaries and the UDR was common enough. That Saturday the deserted pub drove them together for company.
The UDR Captain suggested that they move on, to see if there was any action elsewhere. They drove in the second UDR man’s car, a two door yellow Datsun, Hosking in the rear passenger side seat, the UDR Captain beside him and ‘Mambo’ in the front passenger seat. They were to keep that formation for the rest of that fateful day.
They tried a pub in Killyleagh first on the shores of Strangford lough but that too was quiet. Then the UDR Captain had an idea. Hosking recalls: “—- —- mentioned that there were supposed to be IRA checks along the Border. It was information obviously from the UDR that they were doing something on the Border. He said do you fancy going down to spy on them? I said great, it was like an adventure.”
It was the first time Hosking had ever been near or across the Border and he was looking forward to a Southern pint of Guinness. He had no idea where they were driving but remembers they did go through a British Army permanent checkpoint at which the driver showed his UDR pass.
“I remember him laughing and saying it was so good to have a UDR pass”, recalls Hosking. They were waved through, headed for Omeath and made for a pub.
Hosking’s memory is that the four of them spent about an hour in the bar. He sat away from the others watching television highlights of that day’s English FA Cup Final between Southampton and Manchester Utd. The three Red Hand Commandos were on the other side of the bar talking amongst themselves.
Some time after closing time the four left the bar. Hosking was quite drunk by that time. He reckons he had consumed about 13 or 14 pints over the whole day. “That used to be my Saturday thing”, he said.
Instead of heading North, the UDR driver steered his vehicle southwards towards Dundalk and the fateful encounter with Seamus Ludlow.
Now married with two children and living in Newtownards not far from his native Comber, Hosking takes up the story: “I saw a sign saying Dundalk, that’s how I knew we’d been there. I remember this guy walking along, he was thumbing actually.We stopped and your man got in. He was drunk. He got in between us in the back. I remember giving him a hand in.”
Seamus Ludlow had spent the evening drinking at various bars. He had just left the Lisdoo Arms and was looking for a lift to his home at Thistlecross about two miles northwards.
“The next thing I can remember”, Hosking continues, “he wasn’t long in the car really, I remember the house and the road in that direction and I remember the guy saying I live over here. I don’t know who it was said he needed to use the toilet. I was bursting anyway, the pints were going through me.
“We went on down anyway and I remember him reversing up a wee lane. ‘Mambo’ got out and pulled the seat back and I got out, I went over to the hedge near the front of the car. I was standing having a pee and the next I heard was banging. I swung round and there was this guy ‘Mambo’ sort of half in the car and he was shooting in the car.
“All I remember then is your man ‘Mambo’ pulling him out and —- was pushing him out. The guy fell on the floor so they got out and picked him up and threw him on to a hedge, I think it was. Then your man shouted get in. I was standing there shocked, I was horrified. My first thought was that they were going to do the same to me because I had seen what they had done. I was horrified. I got in the back and the whole way back I just stared out of the window.”
The inquest was told that his body was found the next day by tourists from the North in a lonely lane about a mile from Seamus Ludlow’s home. It was lying on a hedge. He’d been shot with three bullets all fired at close range and from his front, left. The fatal wound was to his heart. The State Pathologist John Harbinson speculated that Seamus Ludlow had been shot elsehere because his shoes were remarkably clean for being in a muddy lane.
By all accounts Seamus Ludlow was a shy, inoffensive man. At 47 he was a confirmed bachelor who, like so many other Irish family situations, lived with his eighty year old mother. If his death was to be covered up by the authorities he was in many ways an ideal candidate. He had no wife or children to grieve him or cause a fuss and he was poor. He chopped wood in the Ravensdale forest for a living.
Seamus Ludlow’s family have however campaigned for the truth about his death but to no avail. Appeals to the Gardai to re-open the case have fallen on deaf ears while theories have abounded, including one that SAS men were responsible. Despite Garda claims to the contrary the IRA denied any responsibility very shortly after the killing.
The Gardai have told the family not to speak to the press about recent developments and the Ludlow family have, duly, declined to make any comment saying this is the advice they have been given. However the dead man’s brother, Kevin added: “The family will be watching events with great interest”.
After the killing, the yellow Datsun sped nortwards dropping Hosking and the UDR Captain off at Killyleagh. The UDR Captain then drove Hosking home to Comber. Hosking remembers a veiled threat from ‘Mambo’ on the drive home, a remark that if he could get away with it he could kill a Protestant too.
Two days later the UDR Captain approached Hosking and warned him that unless he joined the Red Hand Commandos he would be killed because of what he had seen. He said that he had consulted the Red Hand commander, the late John McKeague about him. By now thoroughly frightened Hosking asked the UDA to intervene. Like hundreds of his contemporaries he had been a low level member of the UDA in Comber and set up barricades there during the 1974 UWC strike. That was the last he heard of the Ludlow murder until eleven years later.
He never went to the police, he says, because he was “petrified”. “If they could do that they were capable of wiping me out or my family”. Two years after the killing he went to Scotland and got married. But the marriage broke up and in 1986 he returned to Comber. He was at a family funeral when an RUC relative told him that the Special Branch wanted to see him about “something serious”.
He agreed to meet the RUC and a pub in Newtownards was chosen as the venue with his RUC relative as a witness. Hosking recalls that the Special Branch man, whose name is known to the Sunday Tribune, “seemed to know all the story”. He thinks the meeting took place in January or February 1987.
He went on:”That’s where I met the Special Branch man, he introduced himself. ——- went away to the bar to get a drink and your man said that he knew I had been there, he knew I hadn’t been involved but he wanted to know my story. I said OK and I told him the story from start to finish. At the end I said what happens now and he said ‘Forget it, its political’.
“I was relieved it had come out but sort of disillusioned that that was it, after all those years just to let it go”.
Three weeks ago Hosking came off the night shift to find scores of policemen at his home. He was arrested and held for four days. He says his first remarks to the CID were: “Why are you coming to me now? I told the Special Branch this…and you’re looking for me now”. He says he told the CID the full story of the day Seamus Ludlow was killed.
A range of questions arise from this affair, not least about why the RUC Special Branch chose to sit on Hosking’s evidence. One possible reason is that the police were acting to protect an informer amongst the three Red Hand Commandos who killed Seamus Ludlow.
If that was the case then once again the focus will be on the issue of Special Branch morality, specifically whether the authorities in the North turn a blind eye to intelligence agents being involved in serious crimes including murder. If there was an informer amongst the gang then it is also possible that the cover-up was longer than eleven years and that the RUC knew all about the murder just after it was committed, twenty two years ago. And just who was the informer? Could it have been the trigger man?
Hosking also spoke to the RUC Special Branch at a politically sensitive time. In early 1987 the Anglo-Irish Agreement was not long in existence but it had helped put the future of the UDR on the political agenda. A revelation at that time that a Loyalist paramilitary cell had been able to inflitrate the UDR to a high level – the leader of the gang was a full time Captain in the force – and had committed murder in the Republic would have given critics of the regiment valuable ammunition.
There also serious questions about how much the Gardai knew. Did the RUC fail to tell their counterparts in the Republic what they knew of a murder carried out in the Gardai’s jurisdiction or were they given all the available information? For the past twenty-two years the Gardai have told the Ludlow family that their brother and uncle was killed by the Provisional IRA, an assertion that now turns out to be as far from the truth as it is possible to be.
The two police forces were saying little about the affair this weekend, only that the investigation was still ongoing and that there had been the usual liaison between them.
Two other questions from the Ludlow murder demand answering above others. Paul Hosking looks like he could face a charge of witholding information about the murder. If the authorities deem him culpable enough to face such a charge where does this leave the RUC Special Branch?
And the other is this: just when will the Ludlow family be told the full truth about Seamus Ludlow’s death and the subsequent cover-up?