Andersonstown News | 10 September 2000
Along with the murders of Terry McDaid in 1988 and solicitor Pat Finucane the following year, the gunning to death of Gerard Slane featured prominently in the trial of British Army double agent Brian Nelson. The UDA intelligence officer gathered information on the 27-year-old Clonard man before his murder, and told his British Army handlers that the father of three was to be targeted by loyalist gunmen.
Three weeks before his death the British Army and RUC raided the Slane's Waterville Street home. According to Gerard's wife, Teresa, they left within minutes. With ever-increasing evidence of collusion between loyalists and the British Army/RUC after a number of murders in the area, the raid was immediately viewed with suspicion by Gerard and Teresa. Then in the early hours of September 23 1988 the UDA struck.
"About 15 minutes before the attack I heard a noise out the front and got up out of bed to have a look and see what it was,"
"John had just bought a new car and there was a British Army foot patrol at the front of the house radioing through his new registration, the way they always did. So I came back to bed and told Gerard what I'd saw and we went back to sleep. That was about four in the morning.
"The next thing I remember is waking up with this commotion going on, with Gerard running up the stairs shouting: "Teresa it's the Orangemen. Then they opened fire on him"
Teresa still finds it difficult to talk about what happened to Gerard, but she believes that he must have heard the glass breaking down stairs that night and went down to see what was happening. Half way down the stairs he met four armed UDA men coming up the stairs shouting. When he turned to run, he was cut down.
"Five of them came that night. One of them sat on the bonnet of the car with a rifle, while the other four sledgehammered their way into the house and came up the stairs. After Gerard shouted at me, all I heard were these popping noises and I saw flashes and then I heard a thud.
"I got up and rushed down the stairs to see if Gerard had been shot, but when I got onto the landing they turned the light off down stairs, and when I turned it on, Gerard was lying there and I knew he was dead. His hand was raised, then it just went limp and fell.
"I ran outside screaming, cutting my feet on the glass in the hall from where they had smashed their way in and the first thing I saw was the sledgehammer they had used to break their way into the house."
Although the ambulance arrived in a matter of minutes, it took RUC officers a full 30 minutes to make their way from the short distance that was Springfield Road barracks to Waterville Street. Neighbours gathered in groups in the street while on the stairs the couple's three young children Sean Paul (8), Catriona (4) and Gerard (18 months) sat huddled, holding their father's hand as he lay dead.
"It's a scene that will live with me for the rest of my life,"
"There are times I go to bed at night and that scene is the last thing I see before I go to sleep. What really hurts is that the three children saw everything. It's something that you would never want to go through again, it's just so painful.
"Sean Paul was eight and was the eldest child and he had woken up with a nightmare that night and we brought him in to our bed beside us. Catriona was already in with us and for some reason young Gerard had also woken up that night in his cot and we brought him in with us also. So they saw everything, they saw their father being murdered.
"If Sean Paul had have been in his own room then he would be dead also because the bullets went right through the wall and struck his bunkbed and if he'd been lying there he'd be dead too.
"Brian Nelson told his handlers the day and time Gerard was to be murdered and they never did anything about it. The Army foot patrol which I saw the morning he was murdered could not have been that far away but we don't know what happened to them, and I'm sure they must have saw the killers driving in and driving out again. But I also believe that the raid on the house three weeks before Gerard was murdered was the RUC checking out the lay-out of the house."
Arrested for his part in Gerard Slane's murder, army agent Nelson never got to tell his story in court. The then Attorney General, Patrick Mayhew, intervened on the grounds of national security, with Nelson receiving a lesser sentence to keep the lid on the sordid and murky tale of collusion between the British Army/RUC and loyalist paramilitaries. Mayhew was soon to become the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
"People tell you that it gets easier as it goes on, but I find it gets harder. My three kids grew up without a father and he wasn't there for First Communions and Confirmations which are so important for children as well as families. Sean Paul has a son of his own now, and we were at his Christening on Sunday. So Gerard has missed all that, and I know that he would have been proud to see his own grandson. But it's been very hard and you just try to get by day by day.
"I think the worst part has been the kids growing up without their father and not knowing what it would have been like to have had him around them and to be there for them."
Last week Pat Finucane's family met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street, the latest step in the family's campaign to unearth the truth about Pat's murder.
"I think one day the British government is going to be embarrassed over Gerard's death and Pat Finucane's death and all the others that they were involved in. I've no doubt that that is going to happen.
"Geraldine Finucane and the Finucane family have been doing great work unearthing the evidence they have in Pat's case, but all these cases are intertwined and when the facts finally come out about Pat, then the can of worms will finally be opened and we will find out the truth about Gerard and just who was responsible for his murder.
"The British Army and the RUC have a lot to answer for, but it doesn't stop there. When the truth is finally told this could go all the way to the top. And that's the British government.