Belfast Telegraph

My brother’s killer is still at large, let soldiers live in peace too - sister calls for amnesty for veterans

Kerry Shenton Bamblett’s brother Private Christopher Shenton was gunned down by a sniper in in 1981
Kerry Shenton Bamblett’s brother Private Christopher Shenton was gunned down by a sniper in in 1981
Private Christopher Shenton
Private Shenton on patrol in Derry
Private Shenton’s funeral in 1981
Leona O'Neill

Leona O'Neill

The sister of a soldier shot dead by the IRA in Londonderry almost 40 years ago has said she does not want to know anything about his killers, but instead wants an amnesty for veterans to give her family "peace of mind".

Kerry Shenton Bamblett's brother Private Christopher Shenton (21) was gunned down by a sniper as he served with the Staffordshire Regiment in the city in 1981.

He was killed just two weeks before he was due to return home to get married.

Five people were arrested and charged in the early 1980s, but the case was dismissed and no one has been convicted of his murder.

Kerry (50), who is from Stoke, has long been a campaigner for Northern Ireland veterans.

She said the only justice she wants to see is that "Army veterans are left in peace to live out their lives".

Kerry said there is not a day that goes past that she doesn't think about her brother.

"Chris was my older brother," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He was our only brother, among us four girls. And I adored him. He was 10 years older than me. He was my idol.

"He joined the Army at 17. I remember getting these lovely postcards from far off places, where he was training in Cyprus and in Kenya.

"Chris was very shy, very handsome and very unassuming. He reminds me very much of my son Oliver, who's 17. It's lovely to get flashes of Chris in him from time to time."

After training, Chris' regiment was dispatched to Derry, during some of the worst days of the Troubles.

"I remember my mum was so nervous," she added.

"She was always fainting or in tears. She had a very nervous disposition and he was her boy."

Kerry said she will never forget January 20, 1981 - the day her brother died. "It was really late at night, maybe 11pm, when a knock came to our door at home," she recalled.

"It was a very serious knock. I stood at the top of the stairs and my mum and dad were at the door with two policemen.

"My mum just crumpled onto the floor and my dad stood there sobbing. The rest is a blur.

"Chris was on duty and had to close Castle Gates at 7pm.

"The IRA were waiting in a stolen ice cream van opposite the gate and when Sergeant Wright went to lock the gates, the IRA men fired through.

"Sergeant Wright was shot in the legs and the hip. There were eight men in the patrol and they ran forward to assist him and he told them to take cover.

"As Chris turned he was hit in the back, in his spine, and the bullet was apparently absorbed by his body.

There was no mess, so the other men thought he had just fainted and pulled him to the side to tend to the Sergeant, who was bleeding out on the ground. You can't imagine the scene. Some of these boys were only 17 years old, just kids."

Kerry said her brother's death had a huge impact on her family.

She continued: "We had so much to look forward to. Chris was due to get married in April when he came home. Our sister had just had a baby and our two other sisters were expecting babies, so there was so much joy.

"Chris hadn't been home for Christmas so we hadn't seen him since October. And I think the biggest pain has been for me that I never got to say goodbye to him. I didn't have that closure.

"I didn't see him after he died, only my dad did, the rest of us just couldn't handle seeing him like that. Dad said he looked so handsome and peaceful, that he looked like he was asleep.

"Chris' death had such a huge impact on our family. We were all broken, we have all had breakdowns, every one of us. I've had two breakdowns, actually.

"Dad died suddenly just last August aged 89 and my mum, who is 90 years old, has dementia, so it's like we have lost her too. They didn't have an easy life, he was never far from our minds, ever."

The fact that no one was convicted of Chris' murder is something that has haunted Kerry.

She added: "As a girl I was so traumatised by what happened. I would have a recurring dream that I would walk into a court and the people who murdered my brother would be there and I shot them all.

"Later I dreamt that Chris would come home and tell me that it was a mistake, that he was okay, and he would hug me.

"Even now I have that dream and I wake up and for a split second I think, thank God, it wasn't real. But then reality hits and it's like someone has booted me in the stomach."

Kerry said an amnesty for soldiers would give her some closure, and make her feel like she "did something for Chris".

"Nothing is ever going to heal my pain," she added. "But I just feel passionately that the veterans have suffered enough.

"They put their lives on the line every day for their 18-month tours.

"They just need peace of mind to know that their own government is backing them and that they can live out their retirement in peace without wondering if there is going to be a knock on the door.

"I don't hold on to hate. I don't want to know the names of the people who did it. That won't change anything.

"The greatest justice for me would be a change in the law and the veterans protected. That and knowing that there is peace in Ireland and that Chris was part of that peacekeeping.

"I am just really holding on to the hope that Boris Johnson, who seems like a principled and patriotic man, that he is true to his word and supports the veterans."

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