The Guardian and Observer’s Berlin correspondent, Kate Connolly, reports on the campaign for justice by the family of Heidi Hazell, the 26-year-old German wife of a British army sergeant, murdered by the Provisional IRA outside her married quarters in Unna-Massen, a Dortmund suburb, on 7 September 1989. From the Guardian report
The following day the IRA claimed responsibility for what was its first and only murder in West Germany of a British soldier’s wife.
In a statement the organisation said she had been mistaken for a soldier. “An IRA active service unit carried out last night’s shooting,” it read. “The outcome of last night’s attack reinforces a warning we gave [in 1988] for civilians to stay well clear of British military personnel.”
According to the report
[Melanie Anan, Heidi Hazell’s niece] is due to address Stormont on Monday, European Day for Victims of Terrorism, after which she and her husband Joe are due to meet investigators from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
The family have called on the PSNI to question the convicted bomber Donna Maguire, 57. She was involved in the IRA’s active terrorist unit operating in Germany at that time. They would also like the police to interview all the other suspected members of the cell, including Paul Hughes, Sean Hick, Roísín McAliskey and Gerard Harte. Dessie Grew, who assembled the group and was responsible for their logistics, was killed by the SAS in 1990.
The Anans have contacted Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin, once the political arm of the IRA, who in an email sent his condolences but said he had no information related to Hazell’s killing. He referred to the September 1989 statement in which “the IRA acknowledges that it carried out the attack in which Mrs Hazell, a non-combatant, was killed” and said that in 2002 “as an important contribution to the peace process, it offered its ‘sincere apologies and condolences’ to the families of all of those non-combatants who were killed or injured by it”.
While wishing the family well in their “endeavours”, Adams said that under the terms of the peace process they would have no success in their attempts at legal redress in Northern Ireland.
Anan has responded with scorn, saying: “If he would like to consider Heidi as a ‘non-combatant’, and the person who killed her as a ‘soldier’, then according to the Geneva Convention, the soldier has committed a war crime. And Northern Ireland is obliged to put those responsible before a court.”
Some further details from the Guardian report
One plausible reason as to why the Hazell case stalled in 1989 was the lack of trust between British military intelligence and their West German equivalent when Europe was still in the grip of the Cold War. The fear was prevalent amongst British authorities that any information they gave to the West Germans could end up in the hands of the East Germans who, via the Stasi, had close links with some elements of the IRA.
As they leafed through the case files they received last week, finding information that gives them a far more detailed insight into the case than they have ever had, Melanie and Joe Anan repeatedly stumbled across details that make them sit up. Such as ballistics experts proving that the AK-47 rifle that killed British army major Michael Dillon Lee in Dortmund in June 1990 and which before that was used in the attempted murder of an unarmed guard in Langenhagen in May that year, was the same weapon that killed Hazell.
“We did not know this before. Such pieces of information are vital in piecing together who did this,” Melanie said. They have also seen pictures of the autopsy for the first time, showing Hazell’s body “riddled with massive holes, like a Swiss cheese”, said Joe.
There are some seemingly mundane details, such as discovering that the getaway car was not as they had been told, a black Capri – information given to the police by a dog walker who disappeared and is suspected of having been an IRA plant – but a VW Golf. “Over the years, every time I’ve seen a black Capri it’s sent shudders down my spine,” Melanie said. “We are now seeing this whole case anew”.
They are satisfied that German investigators had been piecing together a convincing case. “They were doing a really good job of creating a timeline, but it looks like they were repeatedly blocked from accessing vital pieces of evidence or pursuing certain suspects that might have helped them take the case to court,” she added.