Belfast Telegraph

Give my son justice for IRA murder of mum he never got to know

By Donna Deeney

A man whose wife was murdered by the IRA 30 years ago has said he will never forgive the killer for robbing his baby son of his mother.

Lowry Mathers' wife Joanne (29) was shot dead in Gobnascale's Anderson Crescent in Derry as she collected census forms in 1981.

No-one was ever convicted of her murder and now her husband has called on the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team to reopen the investigation.

Joanne Mathers' son Shane was under two years of age when a police officer arrived at the family home in Bready to tell Mr Mathers his wife had been gunned down in broad daylight as she went door-to-door collecting completed census forms.

Shane has no memory of his mother, other than what his |father has told him. Mr Mathers says it is this more than anything else that means he will never be able to forgive the IRA members who murdered his wife.

Speaking from the same home he and Joanne shared as a newly married couple, Mr Mathers said he often wonders how the killers live with themselves.

He said: “Over the years I have wondered if they went on to have children of their own, and did they ever look at them and think about my son who was a year and 10 months when he was left with no mother?

“The simplest things have been the hardest for me, like watching other children running to their mothers at the school gate, but Shane missed out on that and so much more.

“Shane has no memories of Joanne except for what I have told him. I know she would have been so proud of him, but they took that away from her and from him, and for that I will never, ever forgive them.

“I want the HET to reinvestigate her death for Shane, more than anything else. Joanne deserves justice, even if it is 30 years later.”

Last night Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness — a former IRA leader in Derry — was challenged to help with a new investigation.

UUP leader Tom Elliott said: “It is long past time he came clean about what he knows about the crimes committed by the IRA in Londonderry whilst he was in command.”

In a shocking twist, Mr Mathers said he had discovered for himself that there may be new evidence that could lead to a conviction.

He said: “I found out recently that the gunman cut himself and his blood was found at the scene, so I can't understand how the police weren't able to do forensic tests on that, if it is the case. This could be sorted out so easily.”


During the census, Sinn Fein urged people not to complete forms to demonstrate support for the 1981 hunger strike. The move meant officials could not collect the forms from householders in republican areas. After Joanne Mathers’ murder, the census figures were skewed, with a large under-representation of Catholics. The population was recorded as 1,481,959 with 28% giving their religion as Catholic. Later estimates put the true figure at 38.5%.

Belfast Telegraph


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