The distraught wife of the police officer who was gunned down in a dissident republican ambush in Co Armagh said today that the killers have taken away her life as well.
Fighting back tears in the living room of her Banbridge home this morning, Kate Carroll told the Belfast Telegraph that she and husband Stephen – the first ever PSNI officer to be murdered by terrorists – had been planning to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary next year.
And she hit out at the callous killers who shot the 48-year-old constable in cold blood, saying: "A good husband has been taken away from me, and my life has been destroyed..
"And what for? A piece of land that my husband is only going to get six feet of. These people have just taken my life as well."
Mrs Carroll was being comforted by her sister Marie at her home in a pleasant housing development near the centre of the Co Down town.
As she spoke, a steady stream of phone calls came in, with friends and relatives commiserating on the shocking death of her long-serving police officer husband at Lismore Manor in Craigavon.
Mrs Carroll, who was given the devastating news just after 11pm yesterday, said Constable Carroll’s stepson Shane, who is in his thirties, was both distraught and angry at his father's sudden and violent death.
Constable Carroll was gunned down at around 9.45pm as he responded to a call for help from a frightened woman who said her house was being attacked. He was shot as he was getting out of the police car. The Continuity IRA today claimed responsibility for the attack. There is believed to be cross-over and co-operation between the Continuity IRA and the larger Real IRA, which bombed Omagh in 1998 killing 29 people and injuring hundreds more.
Mrs Carroll said her husband had been on the night shift and she would have been expecting him home shortly after the time of the murder, which comes just days after the Real IRA murdered two soldiers outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim.
It is understood that Constable Carroll was due to retire from the force next year.
He had been studying part-time through the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust for a degree in sport science in the hope of becoming a personal trainer when he retired from the force under the severance scheme.
In an interview in a Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust newsletter in 2007 Constable Carroll spoke of his future hopes for a new career outside the force.
“Once I complete my degree I hope to become a personal trainer when I retire in 2010. Having got the bug for studying I might even contemplate doing a Master’s degree. I want to encourage other people within the police service who are also retiring under the severance scheme to avail of the opportunities for training with Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust,” he said at the time.
Before studying for his degree he undertook a HNC in sports science at Belfast Institute.
This is the first murder of a police officer in Northern Ireland since 1998. Constable Frank O'Reilly was killed by a loyalist blast bomb during disturbances linked to the Drumcree dispute in 1998.
The last police officers murdered by republicans, RUC constables Roland John Graham and David Andrew Johnston, were shot dead by the IRA in Lurgan in June 1997.
Constable Carroll was the first PSNI officer to have been murdered by paramilitaries since the force was formed in 2001.
Dissident republicans tried to kill two PSNI officers in shootings in Derry and Dungannon in November 2007.
They have also been linked to a booby trap bomb which exploded under a police officer's car in Spamount, County Tyrone in May, 2008.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown today condemned the murder and insisted there would be no return to “the old days.