The grieving widow of prison officer David Black has told how she got her last call from him just minutes before he was murdered.
He tells her he forgot to leave money for their daughter, Kyra, who was out of school and home that day.
But, at the same time, dissident terrorists prepare to start a terrifying ambush.
Speaking of the past ten years, Yvonne Black heartbrokenly said: “I had no idea that this would be my last conversation with him.”
She’s one of many loved ones featured in a new book about the impact of the terrorist trouble.
To A Dark Place, by Ken Wharton, explores the true human cost of attacks by loyalists, republicans and dissidents, amid claims that history is bloody Northern Ireland’s recent history is being “rewritten”.
In 2012, Maghaberry prison officer David, 52, lost his life to New IRA gunmen while driving to work on the M1 highway.
Yvonne said she was nearing the one-year anniversary of her father’s death in a farming accident and “mind wasn’t the best” at the time.
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Then, while working as a cancer nurse, she received a call from her son, Kyle. He said there had been an incident involving a correctional officer.
“I quickly went back to the office to get a cell phone that had a direct number for the prison,” Yvonne said. . . My heart is pounding, begging David to come pick up the phone.”
That’s when the detectives arrive to deliver devastating news. “My head was spinning, my world was falling apart,” Yvonne said. I remember saying, “This can’t happen, we’re all right!”
Yvonne continued: “The morning of the funeral, I was sitting in my room with David. I can’t stand when I’m emotional.”
She said: “The prison officers’ honor guard has been established and is waiting for us.
“But I can see a gap in their ranks. That’s where the ordinary David stood as he’d been proud to be the honor guard for a few years. My heart is broken.”
‘LOST OUR FUTURE’
She said: “How do I feel today? I feel really sad and lonely. I have lost my life partner, my best friend, my soul mate, and the person who truly cared about me. Kyle and Kyra have lost their father who loved them so much. We lost our future. All that we have planned. ”
“Having high morals, principles and standards,” she said.
“He was always fair and said that if you treat others with respect and dignity, you will get the same. It is ironic that this is not the case for those who planned and carried out his murder.”
No one has yet been convicted in connection with the shocking murder of Co Tyrone man, Mr Black.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the death of two teenagers in a bombing in the border district.
Geraldine O’Reilly, 15, and Patrick Stanley, 16, died when loyalists targeted a street in Belturbet, Co Cavan.
TEEN DEAD CHILDREN
Speaking in the book, Geraldine’s brother Anthony O’Reilly said he cannot forget the pain it has caused his family and remains “very, very sad.”
He was getting ready to let his sister Frances and her husband home when Geraldine jumped in saying she wanted some fries.
After dropping off passengers, he “drives into Butler Street, where there’s a chiller named Slovey’s.”
The bomb, stashed in the Ford Escort, exploded about three meters away – just minutes after Geraldine was out.
Anthony said: “I remember my car being lifted into the air. It must have been a few seconds, but when I arrived, I was leaning out of the open door.
“I could see huge holes in the car where steel and other things had been blown up. I could see the car in front and the car behind were both on fire.”
Anthony, bleeding and his clothes torn from the explosion, ran into the chip shop calling his sister’s name. When emergency services arrived, he was taken to a nearby pub to wait.
‘TERRIBLE SIGN UP’
He said: “A Garda approached me and asked if Geraldine was in the chiller. I replied that it was, and he just told me it was ‘bad’.
“They took me to her to identify her body because she was in a terrible condition. I could recognize her just by the clothes she was wearing – it was horrible. ”
He said his sister was the youngest of eight children and another victim, Patrick, was the youngest of seven.
Anthony said: “Nobody has ever claimed the bomb and Gardai’s interest in it is, in my opinion, very low.” The local man said: “I am often asked if I will forgive? I can’t forgive, no, not because they took those baby lives. My feelings have never changed. I’m still very, very sad.
“And what my poor mother and father went through, I will never be able to forget their anguish.”
The author also spoke with Ruth Forrest, the sister of David Harkness, who died in the IRA Teebane attack 30 years ago this month.
David, 24, is an athlete who has just returned from his new life in Australia to help his family take care of his ailing mother.
He took a job with Karl Construction – the company that does work for the security forces – “to make a living until he gets back to Australia”. Ruth said David had told her “he was considering not going to work on Friday, January 17”.
She added: “Just after 5pm that evening, I could hear the siren in the distance and I opened the front door. I had an immediate hunch that something terrible had happened.
“After that, I contacted my three other sisters, who had the same gut instincts as me.”
Ruth said: “At exactly 9pm, my sister Heather called.
“Her exact words were ‘Ruth, it’s over, David is dead. ”
She said her brother was “a beautiful, quiet, stress-free soul who doesn’t deserve to be seen as so selfish and careless”. Eight men died in that roadside bomb attack on a construction worker’s truck – however, no one has yet been convicted of the incident.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult journey for a lot of people,” she added.
To A Dark Place author Ken Wharton, who was a soldier in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, said there was still work to be done around the “sometimes fragile” peace.
“I’ve told stories of people brave enough to tell me,” he said, adding that there was still “mutual suspicion on both sides”.
“One can only hope that the writer of the future history of the Troubles can present a more optimistic picture,” Mr. Wharton said. Victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson, of the Fermanagh Southeast Foundation, said the book serves as a reminder that those who glorify terrorism honor the deaths of innocent people.
“The daily glorification of violence and revisionism in our history is what hurts innocent victims and survivors most,” he said.
“This is a cancer that is pandemic across our society, it must be meaningfully addressed and eliminated.”
To A Dark Place, by Ken Wharton, to be published tomorrow by The History Press.
https://www.thesun.ie/news/8189499/widow-last-call-murder-david-black-yvonne/ The grieving widow of prison officer David Black received his final call minutes before he was killed.