The murder of Seamus Ludlow

01 September 1998

Recently the centre was contacted by relatives of Seamus Ludlow, a 47 year old forestry worker from near Dundalk who was found murdered in May 1976 just across the border in the Irish Republic. At the time the family was informed by the Gardai, the police in the Republic, that Seamus had been shot dead by the IRA on suspicion of being an informer. It has recently emerged that he was in fact the victim of a loyalist murder gang, some of whose members were also members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, a locally recruited regiment of the British Army. It is now known that the Gardai in the South and the RUC in the North were aware of loyalist involvement in the murder but covered up this fact since one of those under suspicion was an 'intelligence asset', working for the security forces as an informer. The family of Seamus Ludlow are now demanding a full public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death. With the permission of the relatives who contacted us we are posting excerpts of their correspondence and other articles related to the case.


Correspondence from relatives of Seamus Ludlow

I am writing to the Pat Finucane Centre regarding the murder by UDR personnel of Seamus Ludlow in the Irish Republic 22 years ago, in the hope that the Centre will be prepared to examine his case and help expose the grave injustice that was done to the victim and his family. We are calling for public inquiries - north and south - into all aspects of the murder and the subsequent cover-up.

Already, we have received great support from Monsignor Raymond Murray and from Jane Winter of British Irish Rights Watch and we hope that the Pat Finucane Centre will add its respected voice to our family-run campaign for justice. We believe there has been a major scandal on both sides of the border, involving both police forces, the British Army and perhaps political figures, who conspired to blacken the name of the innocent victim: effectively making him the guilty person, while his UDR killers had the protection of the law.

There are many human rights aspects to this case which we feel will be of interest to the Pat Finucane Centre. The rights of Seamus Ludlow and his family were trampled upon while his UDR killers went free. We are determined that Seamus Ludlow's precious life and his despicable murder should be treated seriously by those who have shamefully failed in their duty to uphold the law fairly and impartially for 22 years. We call upon The Pat Finucane Centre to put pressure on the British and Irish authorities - particularly the Irish Taoiseach Mr Bertie Ahern, TD; the Garda Commissioner; the Irish Minister for Justice; the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Dr.Marjorie Mowlam, MP; and the RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan, so that this matter is properly dealt with and the culprits and those who subsequently aided their evasion of justice are called to account for their actions.

Seamus Ludlow, a 47-year-old Catholic resident of the Irish Republic, is one of the forgotten victims of the Irish troubles of the last thirty years. He was shot three times, after an evening out drinking in Dundalk, on the night of the 1st./2nd May 1976. His body was found on the evening of Sunday, 2nd. May, 1976, thrown high onto a grassy bank down a lane only a short distance from his home in County Louth. Seamus was a bachelor who lived with his aged mother, Mrs Annie Ludlow, his sister Nan, her husband John Sharkey and their 10 children, at his family home at Thistle Cross, Mountpleasant, Dundalk, County Louth - only a short distance south of the Irish border.

He was a forestry worker. He was in no way involved in the political situation in the nearby Six Counties: indeed, he was known to support the then governing Fine Gael party in the 26 Counties. He was in many ways a very unlikely victim of the northern troubles, so you can imagine the deep shock his murder caused to our family in May 1976. Seamus' aged mother, the widowed Mrs Annie Ludlow, was bedridden at the time of the murder, and she went to her death never quite knowing the true nature of her son's death. The family did not have the heart to tell her that Seamus was murdered, so instead they told her that he was the victim of a traffic accident.

He was an innocent man, a victim of killers who were only concerned that he was a Catholic, or perhaps they thought that he was some other person they intended to kill. His mistake, however, was to fatally encounter those who would murder him while he was on his way home from the pub. He was last seen alive standing near a garage outside Dundalk, perhaps waiting for a lift home.

He was possibly a random victim of loyalist murder gangs operating in the 26 Counties and his death has been the focus of a major cross-border conspiracy, involving the Irish Garda, the RUC and the British Army, to conceal the identity of his killers. This was done by the spreading of false claims that Seamus Ludlow was an informer for the British Army and that he was shot by the IRA. These lies have recently been exposed and the true identity of his killers confirmed to us, but we fear that they and those who protected them for 22 years will never be brought to justice.

What was covered up in 1976 may be suppressed once more, so we are calling for the Pat Finucane Centre's support for our family's demand for public inquiries, on both sides of the border, into all aspects of Seamus Ludlow's murder and the subsequent investigations and cover-up.

In a major revelation recently, the Belfast journalist Ed Moloney, writing in the Sunday Tribune, 8 March 1998, reported that the killers, who came from the mainly loyalist Comber and Killyleagh areas of north County Down, were members of the loyalist murder gang the Red Hand Commando (RHC) and that three of them were also serving members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). One of these men was actually a captain in that regiment. Their names are known by us. One of those involved, who claims to have been a witness rather than a participant in the murder, states that he and the three RHC/UDR men were on a drinking spree. This explanation for their presence in Dundalk may be true, but then again it seems strange that such men had intimate knowledge of the local cross-border road network so far from their north Down base. They, or some of them, may have been involved in shadowy activity for the British Army - which could have taken them to the border on previous occasions.

Following his death Seamus Ludlow was smeared, called an informer, effectively made the guilty party in his own murder, so that the guilty men could go free, perhaps to kill again. Was this done to protect the image of the controversial UDR or was it done, as Ed Moloney of the Sunday Tribune believes, to protect one of the killers who was also an important intelligence asset for RUC Special Branch or another branch of the British security service. In any event, these men went free, protected by obscurity from the justice they deserved. We can surely ask whether the life of an entirely innocent man, Seamus Ludlow, is secondary to the safety of his killer who may have been an intelligence asset within the murder gang? The answer appears to be yes.

It is outrageous that no arrests were ever made until February 1998, when four loyalists were taken into custody, fully eleven years after one of them, Paul Hosking, a 19 year old from Comber, County Down, at the time of the murder, was first questioned by the RUC Special Branch. In 1987, according to Hosking, he was told by the RUC "Forget it. Its political". Hosking sensed that the RUC officer "seemed to know the full story" (see Sunday Tribune, 8 March, 1998).

As indicated above, Hosking has claimed that he and three others whom he knew to be armed and members of the UDR and RHC came south on a drinking spree. They picked up Seamus Ludlow, who had been drinking all evening and was quite drunk, at Smith's garage on the N1 road just north of Dundalk. They took him past his house, at Thistlecross, Mountpleasant, turned right down the Bog Road towards the Ballymascanlan Hotel and the Carlingford Road. Hosking asked to be let out to relieve himself. It was while he was relieving himself down a lane that Hosking claims to have heard shots being fired. On turning around he found the front seat passenger of the yellow two-door Datsun Sporty firing into the body of the abducted man. They then dragged the dead body of Seamus Ludlow from the back of the car and flung it up onto a grassy bank down the lane.

Hosking's recent admissions conflict with the lies and innuendo which branded our deceased relative Seamus Ludlow as an informer murdered by the IRA. These lies, with not a shred of supporting evidence, were spread by the gardai in Dundalk, and the gardai murder squad in Dublin, and they have been cited by British writers in various books written about the SAS. Thus the victim of loyalist terrorists, who may have been working as assassins for the British Army in the border area, became a pawn in the ongoing propaganda war against republicans.

All four loyalists have been released without charge, though papers are to be submitted to the Director for Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. The Ludlow family circle has no knowledge of any attempt by the RUC to refute these disgraceful slanders during the previous 22 years. The actions of the gardai themselves have been particularly hurtful. They were hostile to the family. They never really considered any other theories. They never seriously looked at the plausible theory that Seamus Ludlow was the victim of British Army or loyalist killers intent on killing someone else - a case of mistaken identity. They never questioned a group of eight SAS members who attempted to cross the border at nearby Omeath a few days after the murder. It appeared that the gardai were intent on accusing either the IRA or members of the family, though no persons from the locality were ever arrested for the offence. Family members were told by gardai that the killing was a "family affair", a claim so insulting to the grieving relatives to be utterly beneath contempt.

We have recently become aware that within weeks of the murder taking place the Gardai suspended their initial investigation.

Particularly unjust was the manner in which they treated the family regarding the coroner's inquest in Dundalk. It was ensured that no members of the family or their legal representatives could be present to hear the evidence. A garda called to the home of the victim's brother Kevin Ludlow in Dundalk a mere three-quarters of an hour before the inquest was due to start. Kevin was away at work and could not be contacted in time. No attempt was made to inform Mrs Nan Sharkey, the married sister who lived with Seamus Ludlow and his mother at Mountpleasant.

The family had to read of the inquest like everyone else in the local paper.

It has recently emerged that a garda officer falsely misrepresented himself as the family's representative at the inquest, something he had no authority to do.

It is clear that the garda were trying to keep the family in the dark. Some eighteen months ago relatives in County Louth were approached by an investigative journalist who presented them with information which appeared to point to the involvement of loyalists in the murder - particularly that of the infamous "Jackal" who murdered many Catholics in the border area. A file was prepared and sent to the then Garda Commissioner who then ordered an internal inquiry into the case. It was found that important evidence pointing towards loyalist involvement had been suppressed. A Chief Superintendent Ted Murphy, Garda Drugs Squad, Dublin Castle, was appointed to head an inquiry into the original investigation. It appears that the RUC and the Garda had known of the killers' identities from very soon after the crime was committed but they never did anything about it.

While we welcome Chief Superintendent Murphy's ongoing inquiry and we have no reason to question his personal integrity, we are mindful that he is a guard investigating his colleagues at the whim of a Garda Commissioner who may ultimately decide to suppress his findings.

It is vital that public pressure is applied now so that grave matters in the public interest are not overlooked. If these issues are not confronted honestly and openly now then nothing will prevent the repetition of the blatant abuses which occurred in this case.

The Pat Finucane Centre may be interested in knowing that we are aware that one of the three UDR/Red Hand Commando members, who accompanied the alleged "witness" Paul Hosking and abducted and murdered Seamus, was later gaoled for a murder committed three weeks after the killing of Seamus Ludlow. Another man, the actual killer, is believed to be a prime suspect for as many as fifteen murders, of both Catholics and Protestants. This man is the alleged intelligence asset who was at the centre of the subsequent cover-up. His life and liberty were clearly of more concern to the Garda, the RUC and the British Army than the safety of his many victims. I am informed that this man has never been convicted for any of his crimes.

There are many questions which should be asked and no doubt there will be great reluctance on the part of the Garda, RUC and British Army - and the two governments - to face these questions:

  •  What were these armed members of the UDR/ RHC doing in the Irish Republic on the night of 1/2 May 1976?
  •  Were these men in the habit of operating in the Irish Republic on behalf of the British Army or MI5?
  •  Who did the alleged intelligence asset report back to? Were such agents of British forces permitted to participate in violent crime, even murder, on either side of the border?
  •  At what stage did the RUC and Garda know of the true identities of the killers and why were the lies maintained until early 1998?
  •  Who supplied the various authors with false information alleging that Seamus Ludlow was an informer ?
  •  How far up the chain of command in the Garda and RUC was the decision to abandon the search for the real killers and instead place the blame on the IRA or the family taken?
  •  What implications have the events reported in this case got for the rule of law in both parts of Ireland?

Our family is determined to get to the truth of the events surrounding this death, but we fear that the truth is not in the interest of the parties involved in this sad affair.

Junior officers in the Garda and RUC may not be prepared to take responsibility for what may have been administrative even political decisions made at higher levels. Therefore, they may attempt to avoid a full opening of the investigation, effectively ensuring that the killers and their protectors return to thesafety of the obscurity they have enjoyed since 1976.

It is to place maximum pressure on the authorities to prevent a further cover-up that we are making this appeal to The Pat Finucane Centre to support our call for full and public inquiries into this case north and south. We also request that the Pat Finucane Centre closely monitors further developments.