Belfast Telegraph

'David's death still makes me so angry, you never get over it'

RUC officer David Reeve was killed in an explosion
RUC officer David Reeve was killed in an explosion

By Lisa Smyth

A retired PSNI inspector has described the devastation caused by the murder of his brother, blown up by an IRA booby-trap bomb while working as a detective in Londonderry.

David Reeves was just 24 when he died instantly in the blast as he investigated a haul of suspected stolen televisions found in a shed in Shantallow in Derry 36 years ago.

His brother Colin (50) said the family never recovered from the trauma.

Speaking out to coincide with National Police Memorial Day yesterday, Colin said his mother Ann, who died of cancer in 1994 when she was just 53, was heartbroken by the loss of her eldest child.

"I was only 13 when David died and I remember I would be woken up in the middle of the night by the noise of her crying," he said. "I'd go downstairs and she would be on her hands and knees on the kitchen floor with the grief of it and she was hysterical, it was shocking seeing your mother like that.

"My dad worked as an air traffic controller and he worked night shifts and also worked in England and Scotland for a while, but mum refused to let the family move because David was here.

"Mum would get herself in a terrible state at night and I remember getting her upstairs and putting her to bed; it was horrific."

Colin said he can recall the moment he learned of his brother's tragic death "like it was yesterday".

He was at school when he was summoned to see the principal.

"I'll never forget my teacher's face. She was called out first and when she came back in, just the look on her face and she had tears in her eyes and then she told me to go to the headmaster's office," he said.

"When I walked in there was a man in a long raincoat and he told me my parents wanted me home and he was there to take me.

"I knew something had happened to David, but I didn't ask.

"Before David was killed I used to go up and stay with him and we would play snooker and golf and do things brothers would do and he used to say to me that he'd lost colleagues and he had a feeling that something would happen to him too.

"On the way home that morning I was sat in the car with this man and we talked about football, but inside I was praying to God that David had just been hurt."

However, his world crumbled when he arrived at the family home in Portstewart.

His mum ran outside and shouted: "David is dead, they've killed him."

Colin said: "I'll never forget those words."

Despite what happened to David, Colin was determined to follow his dream and become a police officer himself.

However, within a few years of joining the RUC Colin was injured in an IRA bomb attack outside Girdwood Barracks in north Belfast.

"Mum and dad had that knock at the door again and mum said to me later when they came to see me in hospital that she thought they were going to tell her that her youngest child had been killed," said Colin.

"I subsequently found out after I had recovered and returned to work that mum had phoned my bosses and told them off for letting me out on foot patrol."

In 1999 Colin was promoted to sergeant and accepted a move to Strand Road station in Derry.

"I thought I would try and exorcise the ghosts, but it was the worst decision I made. I just didn't cope with it at all," he said. "I was fine for the first few weeks, but then it really started to get to me, David's name was up in the station, there were pictures of him up.

"It got to the stage that I would go out by myself on night duty and park up where he was killed and walk around taking it all in, at three in the morning. It was no good at all."

He added: "You never get over it. I have the flag that was draped over David's coffin in a drawer in my house; anniversaries, birthdays, days like today are hard.

"I still think about David and what he might have done with his life, it makes me angry that was taken away from him.

"I'm sure he would have been promoted, I'm sure he would have married and had children.

"He was very popular, very well thought of.

"As soon as he picked up the television, there was a sizzling noise and he knew, he tried to get out, his last words were to shout to the guy behind him to get out. He was injured but survived. David saved his life.

"He was a real extrovert. David was only 24 but he smoked a pipe. It used to drive my mum and dad crazy, but he was highly likeable and I'm sure he would have been very successful."

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