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Teebane massacre: 'Only an inquiry will give my brother David the justice he deserves'

By Claire McNeilly

The heartbroken sister of a victim of the 1992 Teebane massacre has said her family will never feel that justice has been done until there is a full inquiry into the atrocity.

Ruth Forrest was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph ahead of the 25th anniversary of the bombing that killed eight men -including her 24-year-old brother David Harkness - and injured another six.

The Protestant workers were murdered and maimed when the IRA blew up their minibus at Teebane crossroads on the road between Omagh and Cookstown on Friday January 17, 1992.

Their firm - Karl Construction - had been specifically targeted because they carried out work for the security forces.

Breaking her silence for the first time since the death of her beloved brother 25 years ago, Mrs Forrest, a mother-of-four, said she felt her family's pain had been overlooked.

"I don't feel as though we have got justice," she said.

"I'm angry that no-one has ever been convicted for what happened, or for taking my brother's life. He was so young. He has missed out on so much.

"There are still a lot of unanswered questions. A lot of men died but I believe their deaths could have been prevented. I would like a complete inquiry into what happened.

"You hear about other Troubles-related killings but you don't often hear about Teebane. There is a hierarchy of victims and we are the forgotten ones."

The Historical Enquiries Team conducted an investigation into the attack and provided a report to the families of the victims.

Among other things, the HET report said that bad weather on the day of the attack prevented the IRA from detonating the bomb as the men went to work at Lisanelly Army Barracks, waiting instead until they were returning home that fateful afternoon.

Mrs Forrest (50), a hairdresser, revealed that David - who had celebrated his birthday just six days before he died - had considered taking the day off on the Friday he brutally lost his life.

"He'd been off work for a couple of days and when I phoned him on the Thursday night he said he wasn't sure he was going in the next day," she recalled.

"The last thing he said to me was that if the blinds were down the following morning I was to call in because he'd decided to stay at home but when I drove past the blinds were up..."

She added: "The worst thing was that David would normally have taken mummy's car to work but that day, for whatever reason, he caught the minibus."

David, a joiner and the youngest of six children, was staying at his parents' Cookstown home for what was supposed to be a few months before returning to Australia, where he'd been working.

Ruth - the youngest of his five sisters, who was extremely close to the baby of the family - said he had only come back to visit their mother Annie, who had been ill with pneumonia.

Their mother and father, Cyril, [who passed away in 2012 and 2006 respectively] had been staying with relatives in England the day David was taken in the most horrific of circumstances.

"Around 5.10pm I heard a bang. I opened the door and looked out and a neighbour shouted that a bomb had gone off somewhere," recalled Ruth.

"I could hear sirens and they were coming from the direction of my parents' house ... then I heard a news bulletin saying workmen were feared dead in an IRA bomb and I fell to my knees.

"I told my husband Adrian that David was caught up in it. It was just a gut instinct. My sisters had that same gut instinct. We all knew something was wrong."

She added: "At 9pm daddy's sister Heather phoned to tell us David was dead. My parents were on a flight back when we learned it was all over."

The grandmother-of-five said her parents - who had lost their policewoman daughter Doreen (22) in a car accident a decade earlier - were devastated, yet stoic, about their only son's death.

Her sisters - Heather Moffett (then aged 34), Doro thea Trainor (31) and Louise Hall (29) - and her 26-year-old self, were traumatically thrust into the profound grief they felt when they lost their other sibling. "Part of me died with my brother," Ruth admitted.

"We were the two youngest. I was always watching out for him. To this day I still feel as though I failed him because I wasn't there when he needed me the most."

Ruth, who has four sons - Aaron (32), Clarke (29), Luke (27) and Stuart (23) - with husband Adrian (53), a butcher, said that Aaron, who was seven at the time of David's murder, remembers him well. "Of the eight men who died David was the only one with an open coffin and Aaron insisted on seeing him," she said. "Miraculously, he was only scratched and bruised."

David was buried in the family plot at Cookstown Cemetery on January 20 - the day after Ruth's birthday and just nine days after he had celebrated his own.

She said: "Only justice - via an inquiry - would be a fitting tribute to my brother and his colleagues who died."

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