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Tracey's murder is something you never get over...community work at least took my mind off it

Mum of policewoman (21) killed in IRA blast is honoured by Queen for her voluntary service

By Gareth Fullerton

A Coleraine woman recognised in the Queen's New Year Honours has told how her voluntary work helped her cope with the devastation of her daughter's murder.

Eighty-year-old Jean Doak was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for voluntary service to the community.

She was one of 105 honoured from a broad spectrum of society in Northern Ireland.

Jean - who is originally from Banbridge - moved in 1966 to Coleraine, where she immersed herself in various voluntary roles.

She was president of Coleraine Soroptomist Club and a former director of the local Abbeyfield Society and also worked in Sandelford Special Care School and Coleraine Gateway Club.

The proud octogenarian believes working in the community helped her get through the dark days after the murder of her daughter Tracy in May 1985.

Tracy was one of four RUC officers who were blown up by an IRA bomb as they were escorting a Brinks-Mat security van at the border on the main Belfast to Dublin road.

The 21-year-old was killed alongside colleagues William Wilson (28), Stephen Rodgers (19) and David Baird (22).

"It was devastating when Tracy died, and it changes your life forever," Jean said.

"Tracy was an officer in the RUC when she was murdered back in 1985. It is something you never get over.

"I think the community work I did helped keep me busy over the years. It lifted my mind off things a bit. It was sort of a distraction and I believe it did help me.

"Family is obviously very important. I also have a son, Alistair, and two other daughters, Amanda and Alison, and they have all been fantastic over the years."

Jean spoke of her pride at being recognised in the New Year Honours, but was quick to deflect any praise onto the colleagues she worked with over the years.

"I was in total shock when I was told of the BEM. You don't expect to be recognised in this way when you are my age," she said.

"I was involved in a lot of community work over the years, but I was always part of a bigger team. That's why I am a little bit embarrassed about being singled out in this way. I was secretary of the Coleraine Abbeyfield Society for over 20 years and I also worked in the Sandelford Special Care School and also the Coleraine Gateway Club.

"I also worked with the Coleraine Irish Dancing Festival as secretary for over 20 years. But, like I said, I didn't do any of these roles on my own. There were other people who worked with me and they deserve a lot of praise."

Jean's husband Beattie has also been honoured by the Queen, receiving an MBE in 2007 for services to police welfare.

Beattie - a retired police officer - was a founder member of the RUC George Cross Parents' Association, a voluntary group set up in 2003 to promote fellowship between parents of RUC officers killed by terrorists.

"It seems bizarre that we have both received honours. We are now equal," Jean joked.

"I found out about my BEM around October or November time. I really didn't know what to think when I opened the letter. I was a bit overwhelmed.

"I had received an award one time before for my community work from Coleraine Borough Council. But that was a long time ago. I am now 80 years of age, so I didn't expect to be receiving any awards.

"I believe I will receive my award at Hillsborough Castle, so that will be a wonderful day. I am looking forward to it."

Jean is now retired and spends time with her family, including her 103-year-old mother.

"My brother and I help look after my mother Sarah who is a wonderful lady," Jean said.

"She is now 103 years old, and she is still mentally sharp. She received a telegram from the Queen when she turned 100 and she receives a letter every year from the president of Ireland."

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