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Scene of Donaldson killing - agent's bolthole remains same decade on

By Greg Harkin

Published 22/09/2016

Outside and inside the house
Outside and inside the house
Outside and inside the house
Outside and inside the house

As Denis Donaldson fell to his death behind the door of a run-down family cottage in Co Donegal, he reached out to the wall to his right, leaving a bloodied hand print on the whitewash.

Two shotgun blasts through the front door of the 19th century building in the townland of Classey, five miles from Glenties, had caught the former Sinn Fein leader and British spy in the chest and arm.

He died within seconds, leaving another smudge of blood at the bottom of the same wall. A representative of the Real IRA 'Army Council' said Donaldson didn't try to defend himself when the killers struck.

"The look on his face wasn't even one of shock. He seemed to know what was coming," he said in a newspaper interview in 2009.

The last person to see him alive before the killer was a census agent around 8.30pm on April 3, 2016.

It would be 5pm the next day before gardai would find the body of Denis Donaldson.

A local woman, driving past the cottage, had called the garda station in Glenties to report that the front door of the Donaldson cottage had been smashed in and a window had been broken. Within an hour of the killing, dissidents in Derry were boasting of their role in the death.

The cottage is extremely hard to find. There are no neighbours to ask for directions. In 2006, it looked derelict and abandoned. A decade later not much has changed.

Outside weeds grow two-feet high from the guttering, the front door lies open and windows still smashed. All three chimney pots are either missing or broken. The cottage was later sold by the Donaldson family.

They never returned there after the murder.

Now sheep trample through the living room of the three-roomed cottage which locals say is more than 200 years old.

The hallway where Denis Donaldson took his last breath is now covered in sheep dung.

In the bedroom to the left, bunk beds lie twisted, with old mattresses on top.

A plaque once-bearing the family name crest is now broken.

A few feet away, across the tiny hallway in the living room/kitchen the ancient stove - with a smashed portable television atop - has been ripped from the fireplace where it once stood. Dishes remain piled high in a basin set inside a Belfast sink.

It's like a home lost in time. The cottage has changed little from the time Denis Donaldson used it as a bolt-hole from unseen enemies on all sides in Belfast.

He lived here without running water or electricity for four months after dramatically telling a Belfast press conference he had been working as an agent of the RUC/British.

Now sporting a beard, he would make the short trip to Glenties for provisions, no-one recognising him from his notoriety just a few weeks earlier, but Denis Donaldson was no ordinary holidaymaker from the North.

Irish Independent

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