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Raymond Gilmour: The lonely death of a Derry Catholic who worked for the Army, laid a wreath at Mull of Kintyre crash site and prayed for Diana

By Suzanne Breen

Published 29/10/2016

Supergrass Raymond Gilmour recently when he was living in England
Supergrass Raymond Gilmour recently when he was living in England

His eyes darted nervously around the hotel, searching for danger. The businessman in the pin-striped suit could pull a gun from his briefcase. The good-looking girl chatting on her mobile phone might be telling assassins where he's sitting.

Raymond Gilmour, IRA informer, was always waiting for a bullet in the head.

"It could come anytime, anywhere," he said.

"Republicans don't forget. The IRA ceasefire doesn't apply to people like me."

It's eight years since I met Gilmour on a crisp autumn afternoon in London. Little could he guess that his death wouldn't come dramatically from a sniper's bullet. It would be far more miserable and mundane.

Martin McGartland, who infiltrated the IRA in Belfast for RUC Special Branch, was there that day too.

Where Gilmour was nervous, McGartland - who had escaped IRA assassins twice - was cocky and defiant.

"Don't worry Ray. If the IRA come, I'll knock them to the ground and you can give them a good kicking!" he joked. "You're a ballsy wee f***er, aren't you?" retorted Gilmour, laughing."

Both men were hated by republicans.

Even in wider Irish society, the informer is seen as a despicable creature, turning against his comrades for money and self-gain. Gilmour was battling alcoholism, depression and post-traumatic stress.

Some of his family arrive with Martin McGuinness at Crumlin Road Courthouse in Belfast in 1983
Some of his family arrive with Martin McGuinness at Crumlin Road Courthouse in Belfast in 1983

His third wife, Fiona, an attractive, well-educated woman, was with him.

"I rarely leave the house. I sit on my own at home crying for hours. Until I met Marty, my wife was my only friend," he said.

Gilmour suffered flashbacks of his IRA days.

He urgently needed counselling. "I feel like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. I used to have a special MI5 number to ring. Someone would be there 24/7 to help. That's been pulled.

They tell me in security terms I'm now low-risk - which is bollocks. Was Dennis Donaldson low-risk?" he said.

At his 1983 trial, Gilmour gave evidence against 31 Derry men and women. "Everybody thinks I got a huge payment. I received £600 a week for three years - that was it. They got me on the cheap," he said.

Supergrass Raymond Gilmour in 1984
Supergrass Raymond Gilmour in 1984

"When I was working for Special Branch, they promised I'd be looked after for life. They said I was a real policeman, with a number in police headquarters, and I believed that. I survive on £80 disability a week."

Gilmour and McGartland were both recruited aged 17. Yet they were very different men.

In a hip brown leather jacket, white shirt, jeans and sneakers, Gilmour looked handsome and distinguished - though a few years later, the drink took its toll on his appearance.

He was reserved and softly-spoken.

McGartland was rough-and-ready, working-class Belfast through and through. "I'm surprised you're looking so well, Ray," he joked.

"Hearing about your health problems, I'd expected you to come hobbling in with walking sticks and a commode, and here you are looking like a movie star."

Graffiti in the Bogside area of Derry
Graffiti in the Bogside area of Derry

Gilmour was born in the Creggan, the youngest of 11. His father was "an armchair IRA supporter".

He was much closer to his mother. He was 12 when a cousin was shot dead on Bloody Sunday. It had little impact on him.

"I'd stand up in front of our old black-and-white TV when the BBC played God Save the Queen at the end of the night, and my father would say to me, 'Sit down or we'll get a brick through the window'," he recalled.

The former IRA and INLA man in his uniform
The former IRA and INLA man in his uniform

He became involved in petty crime. In 1978, he was convicted of robbery.

In jail, he was beaten by IRA prisoners. "It pushed me towards Special Branch," he said.

Under his handler's instigation, he joined the INLA, before moving to the Provos. He earned £200 a week with bonuses for arrests or weapons found. "I'd blow the money on drink, horses, and wild, wild women. I never saved a penny. Money was for spending. Every day could have been my last," he said.

Eventually, the IRA became suspicious.

He was now married and had two children with Lorraine, who knew nothing of his secret life. Gilmour suggested a holiday to the Butlins' camp at Mosney.

After leaving Derry, he pulled into a lay-by and told her that he was working for the British.

"I said she had two choices: to come with me to safety, or to go home. She burst into tears. Eventually, she said she'd come with me but I saw the hatred in her eyes."

More than 100 people were arrested in Derry after Gilmour fled. "Detectives brought me to accuse them one by one in their cells," he recalled. "I knew these guys. I liked them, it was just their antics I hated. I can still see their faces - the shock, the anger, the defiance."

The Gilmours were taken to a ski chalet in Cyprus's Troodos Mountains. Raymond downed tranquilisers and a bottle of vodka.

His stomach was pumped. They were moved to a beach hotel but Lorraine made a reverse-charge call home giving the name of the hotel.

An IRA-PLO team then tried to kill him. He remembered hearing his minders saying: "He's not one of ours. He's just another criminal who touted to save his hide and earn a few quid."

After the Gilmours were moved to England, Lorraine decided to go home.

"I gave the kids their Easter eggs and then the police drove them to Newcastle airport. I remember them looking out the rear window at me as the car disappeared into the distance," he said.

Years later, the police brought him documents to sign from Lorraine asking for their marriage to be annulled and the children's names changed.

"I agreed. The kids were told I was dead. I've no contact with them. Raymond is 27 now and Denise is 26. They're always in my thoughts," he told me.

Gilmour's father was abducted by the IRA in an attempt to pressurise him to retract his evidence.

Gilmour said: "I was never going to do that. I didn't believe they'd kill him, and he might have been a willing hostage."

The trial was "one of the worst experiences of my life. It was the last time I heard my mother's voice."

Mrs Gilmour had stood up in the public gallery and said: "Raymond, Raymond, don't you know your mother's here? I can't listen anymore to you saying those things about your friends. God forgive you." The judge threw out the case, calling Gilmour a liar. The informer branded that "a political decision".

Years later, the police informed him of his parents' deaths. "I heard my father wanted to see me before he died, but MI5 said that was dangerous. I sent a wreath to the house when my mother died. 'From your loving son', I wrote. It probably went in the bin."

Gilmour saw himself as very British and voted Tory.

When Princess Diana died, he went to Mass to pray for her soul.

He laid a wreath at the monument on the Mull of Kintyre for the senior security figures who died in the 1994 Chinook crash. Every November, he wore a poppy and displayed one on his car windscreen too.

After our 2008 meeting, Gilmour rang me regularly to give me stories, talk politics, or just chat.

He was always asking after my children, telling me to cherish them. Every conversation ended with the words, "God Bless".

In more recent years, the phone calls became problematic. He'd be drunk and talking gibberish. Once he rang as he walked his dog on the beach on Boxing Day. He was crying.

To the end, he was a tortured soul.

He told me of a nightmare he had.

"I dreamt I went back to Derry and a huge crowd chased after me to kill me - not just IRA men but ordinary people too," he said.

"Living a lie wrecks your life. When I die, I won't even have my real name on my gravestone."

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