The officer – then a member of the mobile support unit in west Belfast – was on duty at Woodbourne RUC Station while the funeral of IRA man Kevin Brady was taking place in nearby Andersonstown. Brady had been shot and killed by Michael Stone at an IRA funeral in Milltown cemetery three days earlier.
Speaking candidly to the News Letter, the ex-RUC constable revealed how he listened in horror as radio transmissions reported the mourners’ abduction of two men from their car close to Casement Park GAA ground.
As the drama unfolded in a running commentary from an Army helicopter over the scene, the Woodbourne-based officers immediately prepared to crew their vehicles. Within minutes, it had become clear that the two, as yet unknown, men were in mortal danger.
However, the ex-officer claimed they were ordered not to leave the station by senior commanders.
“When we tried to crew up we were told: ‘You’re going nowhere,’” he said.
Risking dismissal for disobeying direct orders, the rebellious officers raced along the Andersonstown Road in two Land Rovers, along with a Land Rover of military escort.
The former member of the specialist mobile support unit — known as The Blues — said the “duty to protect life” came before their orders as tensions reached boiling point at Woodbourne.
On the way to Casement Park, they encountered a black taxi making off from the scene and arrested two men later convicted of the soldiers’ murders.
The ex-RUC constable (pictured above kneeling over one of those arrested) said: “Coming down in the truck (Land Rover), I looked out the side porthole and said ‘stop the truck, there’s [Alex] Murphy in the back of a black taxi.’
“We pulled it over, and I mean literally banged it over to the side of the road. The black taxi itself was the one that had the corporals in it and was taken away by Murphy and [Harry] Maguire.”
Harry Maguire and Alex Murphy were jailed for life for the murder of the two corporals. They were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
The former officer, who does not wished to be named, said he felt angry, even now, as he recalled how the dramatic police response began with the overheard radio transmissions.
“We had been listening on the radio [at Woodbourne] and could hear them saying ‘they’ve taken them out of the car, and now they’re stripping them, and they’re now going into Casement Park’.
“The next thing we heard was that they’d been thrown over the wall and it was at that point we turned round to our sergeant but he said: ‘Guys, I can’t go anywhere yet.’”
As the constables from The Blues ignored orders and raced out to their Land Rovers, they encountered a more senior officer on the stairs of the station who ordered them back, according to the constable.
“He said to us: ‘You’re going nowhere.’ Those were his exact words.”
The initially hesitant sergeant was to follow his men out of the station when he realised they weren’t for turning back.
Commenting on the encounter with the black taxi, the constable said: “It was ourselves who got them at the time otherwise they were gone. We then drove that taxi back to Springfield Parade for SOCO (Scene of Crime Officer).”
The former officer, who gave evidence at the trial of Murphy and Maguire, said he faced no penalty for his disobedience but felt the truth of what he called “police indecision” on the day of the murders was suppressed.
“There are things about what happened that absolutely haunt me to this day. But at the time we (The Blues) got all the images from the heli-teli and literally hunted them down. We ended up identifying about 30 of those involved in the murders over the period of about a month. That gave us some satisfaction at least,” he said.
“We are still angry about what happened. There’s so much guilt on our minds too. If we had gone when we wanted to go at first ... we would have been there in minutes. We probably wasted about eight or nine minutes in all waiting on permission.”
Dramatic images of The Blues officers arresting Murphy and Maguire on the Andersonstown Road were captured by a photographer from the Today newspaper and appeared in the national press the following day.
An even more sickening video of the murders;