Hyde Park bombing's objective was the 'cold-blooded killing' of British soldiers

11 December 2019, 09:54 | Updated: 11 December 2019, 13:42

The devastating aftermath of the bombing
The devastating aftermath of the bombing. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The objective of the 1982 Hyde Park bombing was the "cold-blooded killing" of British soldiers, London's High Court heard on Wednesday.

Relatives of the four Royal Household Cavalrymen killed more than 37 years ago are bringing a civil action against convicted IRA member John Downey.

The four victims, who were making their way to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, died after a car bomb exploded in Hyde Park.

Lord Brennan QC told the hearing that justice should "properly be done" for the bereaved families as there was "clear" evidence of Downey's involvement in the attack.

"Thirty-seven years after, if justice can properly be done, as it can be in this case, then let it be done," he said.

"Its (the bombing's) objective was cold-blooded killing, with vicious brutality and maximum harm.

"The claimant's case is that these devastating consequences were intended, including the murder of these four soldiers."

John Downey is facing a civil action in the High Court
John Downey is facing a civil action in the High Court. Picture: PA
Remains of the IRA car where the bomb was stored
Remains of the IRA car where the bomb was stored. Picture: PA

Downey has always denied involvement in the attack, which left dead Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36, Lieutenant Dennis Daly, 23, Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, and Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, 19.

He was previously charged with their murders, however in 2014 his prosecution at the Old Bailey controversially collapsed because he was given a guarantee he would not face a criminal trial.

Following the collapse, family members launched legal action against the suspect.

The first stage of the three-day case will be heard in London, starting at 10:30am on Wednesday.

Today's hearing - which is a civil trial, not a criminal trial - will establish whether Downey is liable for the bombing.

If he is ruled to be responsible, the court will then proceed to a second stage of the case that will consider the amount of damages to be awarded to the relatives.

A judge at a preliminary hearing was told Downey had no intention of taking part in the trial.

Downey is facing a civil action over the 1982 Hyde Park bombing
Downey is facing a civil action over the 1982 Hyde Park bombing. Picture: PA

The 67-year-old from Creeslough, County Donegal, is currently in prison in Northern Ireland.

He is facing criminal charges for a car bomb attack which killed Ulster Defence Regiment members Alfred Johnston and James Eames in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, in 1972.

Family members of the Hyde Park bombing victims were granted public funding to pursue their case after previously being refused legal aid five times.

The criminal case against Downey was dropped amid controversial circumstances after it came to light he had received a written assurance from former prime minister Tony Blair's government that he was no longer wanted.

The letter was issued under the terms of the controversial On The Runs Scheme.

Trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney ruled that Downey's arrest at Gatwick Airport, as he passed through the UK on the way to a holiday, represented an abuse of process and he put a stay on any future prosecution.

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