The call by Lowry Mathers for further investigation of his wife’s murder (which I covered on Wednesday) may or may not achieve justice for them and their son. Whilst the precedents for success are not good, his comments, after 30 years of dignified silence, seem to have struck something of a chord. It is worth noting that this story came back into the public consciousness due to the work of Londonderry Sentinel journalist Eamon Sweeney whose comments are here.
The actual events of the murder are utterly shocking (though not much more so than so many other murders of the Troubles):
As Mrs Mathers collected the census forms a masked man dashed forward, snatched the clipboard she was holding with one hand, placed a gun to her neck with his other hand and fired.
The victim cried out and ran past the householder into his home. The house owner slammed a glass pannelled door in the hallway shut in an attempt to stop the killer following.
But, the gunman kept coming, smashed through the glass door and as Joanne Mathers lay dying on the ground, took the rest of the census forms. He then made his escape whilst brandishing the murder weapon in the air as a deterrent against anyone attempting to apprehend him.
Initially the IRA (and INLA) denied their involvement; indeed it seems that Mr. Mathers did not know that the IRA had admitted the crime until his recent meeting with Mr. Sweeney.
After the Londonderry Sentinel’s article (which also appeared in the News Letter) the BBC and Belfast Telegraph have both run with the story. Several unionist politicians have now echoed Mr. Mather’s call for the murder case to be looked at again
Gregory Campbell (from the BBC):
“What we need to do is try to find and establish who the perpetrators were and ensure whatever limited form of justice all these decades later,” he said.
“This could at least help to bring some closure to the Mathers family.”
“I, therefore, call on McGuinness to come clean – not Father Chesney style – and tell the police what he and his cohorts know about the sanction, planning and murder of Joanne Mathers.”
“It is long past time he came clean about what he knows about the crimes committed by the IRA in Londonderry whilst he was in command.”
It remains to be seen if advances in forensic technology can help solve this murder case or indeed whether Martin McGuinness will feel that Sinn Fein’s comment:
“The family of Joanne Mathers are entitled to the same considerations as all others looking for answers,” will override his oath to the IRA. It is difficult to know whether there will be any closure for Mr. Mathers after all these years.