Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

26 March 1998 Edition

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Murdered teenager's mother refutes British lies

By Mick Naughton.

As Scots Guards Mark Wright and James Fisher, convicted of killing North Belfast teenager Peter McBride, appear in a Belfast court this week, the campaign to have the pair released gathers momentum.

But An Phoblacht can reveal that questions are being raised about the attitude of senior commanders in charge of the British Army in Belfast's New Lodge at the time.

The commanding officer of the Scots Guards was Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, who later became involved in an illegal operation to hire mercenaries for service in Papua New Guinnea.

Spicer appeared in court in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinnea on Saturday 22 March last year and was charged with possession of a Russian made Makarov pistol, 40 rounds of ammunition and $400,000.

Spicer was bailed into the custody of the British High Commissioner.

The company Spicer was involved with was Sandline which hired 70 mercenaries and had $36m at its disposal to oust separatist guerrillas from a mine belonging to Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) on the island of Bougainville off the coast of Papua. An Phoblacht has learned that Spicer had served in the North with the SAS.

And speaking to An Phoblacht, Mrs Jean McBride, the dead man's mother says that Martin Bell MP, who has added his weight to the campaign to have the pair freed, knew Spicer when he served with the British Army in Bosnia. Bell described Spicer as having a ``gung-ho type of attitude''.

Mrs McBride believes her sons killers were ``hyped up'' as they went on patrol and were intent on avenging the death of a member of their regiment shot dead by the IRA in the area less than two weeks previously. Scots Guard Damian Shackleton was killed in Duncairn Avenue in the New Lodge area.The regiment's six months tour of duty in the North was due to end days after the McBride shooting.

Last weekend the killers were segregated within Maghaberry because, according to an NIO statement, they were threatened by other inmates. Some reports said these were friends of Peter McBride. In dismissing these claims Jean McBride said the move is a prelude to their transfer to Scotland and early release.

As one figure after another from the British military and political establishment joins the queue to have these murderers freed the McBride family has reacted with shock and anger, especially at the campaign in British newspapers which have deliberately distorted the facts of the killing.

On Saturday 21 February `The Scotsman' in its `Saturday Essay' column by Trevor Royle called for Fisher and Wright's early release. The writer failed to mention that a Lance Sergeant from the Irish Guards, Mark Swift, body-searched the youth and allowed him to go on; before Fisher and Wright exchanged words with Mr McBride and before they shot him.

Swift was not called to give evidence at the trial.

On 7 March the Daily Mail printed an article by Ludovic Kennedy with misleading information. An editorial supported Kennedy's article.

Former Comander in Chief of the British Army of the Rhine, Sir Michael Gow told Kennedy that if he was in Fisher and Wright's place he would have done as they did, while Major David Walter of the Scots Guards Association stated, ``the regiment would be pleased to have them back. They are still serving soldiers''.

Kennedy said in the Mail that McBride was a republican sympathiser, had not been searched by the British foot patrol and was carrying an improvised grenade, a claim made by the two killers but which was discounted at their trial.

Jean McBride candidly pointed out that as her son was a petty criminal he would not have been seen as a ``republican sympathiser''.

``He was just a young lad, never politically motivated in any way and was hardly dressed for launching an attack. Three witnesses gave evidence in court of seeing him searched thoroughly before heading on down the street. When he died the only thing found beside him was a packet of cheese and onion crisps, and a bap.''

She criticised Kennedy's use of quotes attributed to her. Kennedy wrote, ``Peter McBride's mother has been heard to mutter as she lay flowers on his grave `Oh Peter, Peter, why didn't you stop?'''

``I have never spoken to the man in my life and have no idea where he got the quotes. I have never spoken these words,'' Jean McBride said.

Kennedy also published Mrs McBride's address in the `Daily Mail'.

The Pat Finucane Centre, which specialises in human rights abuses, have described the Scots Guards campaign and their supporters as being of a ``deeply racist'' nature.

They point to the fact that the involvement of MPs, former British Army Generals and the weight of the British establishment press have reinforced the idea that an Irish civilian's life is worth less than others.

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