Belfast Telegraph

Butcher's owned by one of IRA's last victims Trelford Withers is to close

By Cate McCurry

A family-run butcher in Co Down where one of the final IRA victims of the Troubles was shot dead is to close its doors after three decades.

Trelford Withers was the last serving Royal Irish Regiment soldier to be murdered before the Provos declared their ceasefire in late August 1994.

The father-of-five was standing in the doorway of his shop in Crossgar when a gunman shot him dead.

Members of the Withers family continued to run the butchery business over the last 20 years despite the devastating memories of that tragic day on August 8, 1994.

His daughter Joyce, who has managed the shop with her husband John, has made the difficult decision to pull the shutters down for good tomorrow.

It appears the business has become a casualty of supermarkets opening up in the area.

Following the murder of the popular butcher, his wife Jean won widespread admiration by pleading for no retaliation.

She was presented with a special People of the Year award in Dublin later that year.

He left behind his five children: Joyce, Hazel, Claire, Mark, and Dawn.

At the inquest into his murder in 1996 an assistant in the Downpatrick Street shop said that he had enjoyed an ice cream with the victim shortly before the shooting.

He was standing in the shop with the owner at the doorway at around 2.15pm when the gunman approached.

The witness told the inquest: "Suddenly I just saw this arm reaching out holding a gun and heard two shots. I saw sparks coming from the gun.

"I saw Trelford falling off the step into the back room. I froze for a moment."

Five shots were fired and the victim was hit twice, in the side and in the head.

A year later Mrs Withers unveiled a memorial to her husband at Kilmore Presbyterian Church. She died in April 1996.

His daughter Claire also joined the Army, and in 2006, aged 30, she received the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross on behalf of the Royal Irish Regiment in a ceremony to honour those who served during the Troubles.

She said then that she thought about her father every day. "I was obviously thinking of him today as well, but I was also thinking of everyone else in the regimental family who has lost a loved one over the years," she said.

Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association chief executive Glyn Roberts said it was sad to see an independent retailer shut in a small community.

"A lot of independent retailers have had to close over the years due to various reasons, whether it be rates, out-of-town superstore developments or the recession," he explained.

"But we have also seen in recent years that people are going back to independent stores, people are not doing the big shop anymore, and butchers have been in the growth area, so it's sad this butcher wasn't able to carry on."

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