More than 3,500 people lost their lives as a result of the conflict in Ireland between 14 July 1969 and 31 December 2001.
Among them was Eugene “Paddy” (Patrick) Heenan, who was killed when a hand grenade was thrown into vehicle carrying him and 14 others to a building site in Gilnahirk , East Belfast.
He was 47 years old and a father of five, living in Inishmore Crescent, Andersonstown, Belfast. On the day of his death, 1 February 1973, he was working as a foreman joiner at a Catholic school.. His death occurred at the height of what became known as “The Troubles”.
According to witnesses the killers had lain in wait for the bus which had travelled the same route every day for more than a year.
A former soldier Albert “Ginger” Baker was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for killing Patrick Heenan and three other people. Baker was a member of the outlawed Ulster Defence Association (a loyalist paramilitary group) at the time of the attack. He later claimed to have links to British intelligence. It transpired that he had been trained by US Special Forces and a was a member of the SAS’s 22nd Battalion.
The family have long tried to find the truth about Patrick’s death.
In 2005, they made a formal complaint to the Police Ombudsman. His son Eugene said that the Royal Ulster Constabulary were too slow to respond to the incident and provide first aid. The grenade caused a gash to an artery in his father’s leg and he died subsequently from the wound.
More than 40 years after the incident, in 2015, Patrick’s widow, Mary, revealed that she intended to sue one of the arm’s most senior officers – Sir Frank Kitson – over her husband’s death. Her legal advisors told The Guardian newspaper that they would serve papers on Sir Kitson, a now-retired army general, and the Ministry of Defence accusing them of complicity in the attack by loyalist paramilitaries. The 88 year old widow and her son Eugene Heenan, told Belfast Live they had launched the landmark civil case because they were “looking for justice”.
it was the first time a retired senior soldier had been personally sued in connection with the Troubles.
The Ministry of Defence said there was no evidence to support the allegations.
What happened to the family’s quest for the truth is not known. I’ve not found any further articles about their legal case.