Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Personal journey of pain laid bare for the cameras

Kate Carroll's enduring anguish at her policeman husband's murder makes Stephen Nolan question how much we really understand victims' agony

The Story of a Lifetime series on BBC One Northern Ireland has profoundly affected me as a broadcaster.

I think it's because each of the interviewees has given me a unique insight into their very personal world. Kate Carroll is one of these people.

I've been very aware over recent times that the term 'victims of the Troubles' is used so often now that there is a danger we might forget to acknowledge the individual trauma behind those words.

I have learnt that victimhood is no respecter of creed, colour, or identity; for those left behind, the anguish of losing a loved-one is the same.

Whether they are the grieving relative of a police officer, a soldier, or a paramilitary, the long-term pain resides in their very pores.

On this week's Story of a Lifetime, Kate Carroll, the widow of Constable Stephen Carroll, talks to me about her enduring, profound grief.

Stephen was the first PSNI officer to be shot dead. He was a husband and a father. We all saw the headlines and we all heard the condemnation.

What we haven't seen until tonight is the extent to which Stephen's widow has been deeply traumatised.

Kate is strong and brave. She is also wrecked. She is traumatised.

I witnessed Kate inhaling the scent of her dead husband from a hairbrush in a freezer bag, struggling to hold onto his essence. It is one of the few things of his she has left.

It is deeply disturbing. It is also sad and lonely. For those who kill or maim, this image should be seared into their minds.

As you will also see in tonight's film, Kate returns to the murder-scene, where her husband was shot dead. It is deeply uncomfortable to watch.

It should be. It is another reminder of the pain that is cruelly forced upon too many members of our community.

Kate Carroll's Story of a Lifetime raises many questions for us in Northern Ireland.

In the new Northern Ireland, how much do we really care about the victims who are trapped in an ever-lasting grief?

Are we prepared to pay for ongoing counselling and practical support for every victim, no matter what their background is and no matter how much it costs?

Are we prepared to bring victims the answers to the questions of 'who', 'what' and 'why' in a truth commission? And, if not a truth commission, then what?

And what can we really put in place to bring closure for the thousands of others whom I could have made a similar programme about?

I care deeply about Northern Ireland, as I'm sure the readers of this newspaper do.

Many people here want our 'New Northern Ireland' to be the fantastic place that we know we all deserve.

But there is nothing 'new' for a victim still hurting so badly.

Kate has been remarkably courageous and selfless in sharing her own intimate love story with us.

She has talked candidly and honestly about her loss and pain and how she lives with these feelings day in, day out.

And she has told us how, as a widow, she has struggled to understand why her husband was taken from her.

We have just passed the fourth anniversary of Stephen Carroll's death and Kate's pain is as intense as ever.

This film tonight is an insight into her very personal world. By taking part, she may just open our eyes to the reality of what it means to be a victim.

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