“it looks like they were repeatedly blocked from accessing vital pieces of evidence or pursuing certain suspects…”

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.

[Do those suspects have ‘letters of comfort’, too? – Ed]  Well, it’s not true.  Just ask Gerry McGeough.  And, as the report notes

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.

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  • Jack Stone

    Even if, hypothetically, we classified Heidi as a ‘non-combatant’, and the person who killed her as a ‘soldier’ then the attack on the British army sergeant’s home would have been a legitimate target and thus Heidi’s death could not be considered deliberate (she was not the intended target) nor indiscriminate (the attack itself was a focused attack on a person the ‘soldier’ believed was a ‘combatant’). Its a tragedy, certainly, but not a war crime. Hypothetically.

  • Jack

    Read the article.

    It was a balmy autumnal evening when a man in British army fatigues approached Hazell’s British-registered dark blue Saab as she was parking it. Within seconds, he had pumped 14 bullets from a kalashnikov through the car door and window, 12 of which went straight into her upper torso.

  • Jack Stone

    Not quite sure that changes the facts. British army sergeant’s girlfriend’s British car could easily have been linked to said British army sergeant. Again, if we are classifying groups as presented. Is there any evidence that the ‘Non-Combatant’ was deliberately targeted? If there is evidence to the contrary then I will gladly change my view but based on the evidence presented, clearly she was in a car which was clearly connected to a ‘combatant’ and if we are playing ‘War on Terror’ rules and again hypothetically stipulating the legitimacy of both the shooter and the potential targeted as ‘combatants then no, not a war crime. But that is only the case if you stipulate that the IRA were lawful combatants under international law.

  • That was certainly the Provisional IRA’s line…

    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.”

  • Jack Stone

    Now, if they planned, stalked, and deliberately executed the girlfriend of a soldier in order to instill pain or anguish in the British army sergeant then that is a war crime. Even if we stipulate beforehand that Heidi is a ‘non-combatant’ and the shooter and the British army sergeant as ‘combatants’. I just do not see any evidence of that.

  • Turgon

    “Not quite sure that changes the facts.”

    Well the “facts” as stated by you initially were that the IRA attacked the soldiers house. This has been shown rather inconveniently (for you) to have been a lie by the initial article.

    Rather the IRA attacked a car. It is most likely that they chose a British registered car in an area where there were many British army people and simply decided to gun down the occupants of one of the cars.

    If you remember they did this sort of thing at other times. Once they managed to murder two Australians since, speaking English and having a British registered car, they might have been British soldiers. Had they been “Brits” I am sure many republicans would not have been remotely annoyed. The victims being Australians was somewhat more problematic for the republican movement.

    What this episodes does of course do is demonstrate the loathsome nature of the so called peace process. Under international law we are obliged to pursue murderers yet in the UK this has been abandoned for victims of loyalist and republican terrorists. The architects and apologists of this travesty of justice should be pariahs but instead many of them are lauded the world over as peacemakers.

  • Glenn Clare

    Some background on Donna Maguire and Gerard Harte.

    It is inconceivable that Sinn Fein/IRA don’t have information in relation to these murders, and when they do not come forward with it this is surly a case of republican collusion. Is this a war crime.

    https://au.news.yahoo.com/sunday-night/blogs/a/7886607/collateral-damage/

  • Jack

    I wouldn’t spend too much time and effort on this relatively minor, in the wider story, point of law. You’re not in possession of the full details and neither is anyone else.

    It was only raised by the family in response to Adams’ reported claim that, “under the terms of the peace process they would have no success in their attempts at legal redress in Northern Ireland.”
    Which, as I’ve mentioned, isn’t necessarily true. Is it?

  • tmitch57

    The IRA’s justification for targeting British soldiers in the first place was that they were illegally occupying Irish soil. Yet the attack took place on the soil of a third country that was not party to the dispute. Under that country’s laws it is simply murder. What it is under the law of land warfare is irrelevant.

  • Glenn Clare

    In the video I posted Adams claims that the IRA are off the stage. Meaning that he and they should not be investigated. Yet at every opportunity they demand that the security forces be investigated and are they not equally off the stage.

  • chrisjones2

    No its not true at all but then Gerry was never in the IRA either ….unless of course Tony did a deal to specifically protect the murderers in this case too …but of course that could never have happened

  • Reader

    Gerry Adams: …and said that in 2002 “as an important contribution to the peace
    process, it [the IRA] offered its ‘sincere apologies and condolences’ to the
    families of all of those non-combatants who were killed or injured by it”.

    Untrue. The apology was only for non-combatants accidentally harmed. It does not cover those killed deliberately – e.g. Kingsmill, Enniskillen.

  • Jack Stone

    Well thats a bit like saying The US cannot attack ISIS in Libya because it is only justified in attacking them in Iraq and Syria. Or that the Allies couldn’t have attacked the Nazis in Germany because the reason they attacked Germany was because Nazi Germany was invading other countries. (Mind you, that is only if you agree to the legitimacy of both the shooter and the British Army as legal combatants and greatly ignore the IRA’s loose definition of “legitimate target”.)

  • Practically_Family

    The Belfast Agreement is an armistice treaty between the British government and militant Irish republicans. Nothing will be allowed to interfere with it.

    Unless people (for which read non-NI residents) start dying again, the status quo isn’t going to shift much.

    The hypocrisy involved in maintaining it is almost beyond belief, but nobody much beyond these shores gives a toss.

  • hugh mccloy

    If fire fighters fight fires and crime fighters fight crime, what do freedom fighters fight ?

  • tmitch57

    Third countries are not obligated–and shouldn’t–to tolerate the extra-territorial quarrels of foreigners. Germany today and in the 1980s, unlike Libya, has a functioning state. Under international law if a government cannot fulfill certain responsibilities it can be legally ignored, which was the case in countries that were occupied by the Axis powers in WWII.