Belfast Telegraph

Guilt may have led to INLA killer’s suicide says soldier who served with victim

Everyone's at rest now, he says of INLA man's death

Lance Bombardier Kevin Waller
Lance Bombardier Kevin Waller
Lance Bombardier Kevin Waller's former soldier John Blackwood
Martin McElkerney, who was jailed for his role in the 1982 booby-trap explosion
Police search the scene where McElkerney was found in Milltown Cemetery
Police search the scene where McElkerney was found in Milltown Cemetery
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

A former soldier who served with one of INLA child killer Martin McElkerney’s three victims has said that guilt may have been behind his decision to shoot himself in a Belfast graveyard.

The 57-year-old ex-prisoner and former leader of the INLA in Belfast died yesterday in hospital, almost 24 hours after he turned a gun on himself at the republican plot in Milltown Cemetery.

He was discovered with a bullet wound after 2pm on Thursday and airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he was placed on life support before later passing away with family members by his side.

Police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the shooting.

The west Belfast man was jailed in 1987 for his role in a 1982 booby-trap explosion that killed two local schoolboys and a soldier. McElkerney was identified in court as the lookout for the INLA bomber who planted the device at Divis Flats. Kevin Valliday (11), his friend Stephen Bennet (14) and 20-year-old Lance Bombardier Kevin Waller all died as a result of the blast.

Lance Bombardier Waller, who served with the Royal Artillery Regiment, died of his injuries four days after the explosion, just hours after the funeral of Kevin Valliday, who died from his wounds the day after the attack. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Mr Waller’s colleague John Blackwood (56), who left the Army in 1986, paid tribute to his friend as “a great soldier and a really nice man”.

“Killing the two schoolchildren and Kevin has obviously been on this guy’s conscience and that guilt has maybe been at the back of his mind,” claimed Mr Blackwood. “It’s sad. I don’t hate McElkerney or any of the terrorists; they were just doing what they thought was right.

“It’s sad it has ended this way, but everyone’s at rest now, I suppose.”

Mr Blackwood, who revealed that he had only avoided being posted to Northern Ireland as a result of an accident, said that the death of Bradford man Mr Waller had been a terrible blow.

But he said he believed that it must have been even more traumatic for the families of the schoolboys.

“I was in Germany when we learned that he’d been killed; we were devastated, it was horrendous,” he said.

“The worst part of the whole scenario, the most horrific aspect of it all, was the schoolchildren getting killed.

“Yes, Kevin was killed, but he was there to do a job and he knew the risks.

“He was trained and he lost his life, but that’s what happens in conflict.

“But the two schoolboys were completely innocent victims — their deaths must have been so difficult for their families to understand.”

A spokeswoman last night told the Belfast Telegraph that the Valliday family did not wish to comment on McElkerney’s death.

In 1999 McElkerney was among the first INLA prisoners to be released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

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