My son Andrew Allen was penniless but killers claimed he was big drug dealer, says grieving mum
The mother of a Londonderry man murdered by dissident republicans six years ago today says she is not afraid of the men who took her son's life, insisting they can't hurt her any more than they already have.
Donna Smith's son Andy Allen (24) was shot dead in his home in Buncrana, Co Donegal, on February 9, 2012.
Eight months earlier, the father-of-two had fled his home city under threat from Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD). The group claimed Mr Allen was a drug dealer - an allegation strongly denied by his family.
This morning, 54-year-old Donna, her remaining five children and 16 grandchildren will gather at her Ballymagroarty home to remember the son, brother, father and uncle missed so sorely.
Donna says that far from getting easier, she is finding the years harder to bear.
"On the anniversary, we usually go to the cemetery in Altnagelvin where Andrew is buried alongside his grandfather," she said. "We light lanterns and we come home and reminisce about Andrew. It never gets easier. In fact it's got tougher. I'm finding this year very hard. I think watching his two children grow up without him makes it hard.
"His youngest daughter will be making her Confirmation in March, his son went to big school this year and their daddy was missing for those significant events. It's just so sad."
Andrew died after being shot a number of times through a window of his home in Links View in Buncrana by a group of three armed men. One of the bullets struck him on the head and he died instantly.
Donna says the painful memories of that night are seared on her memory.
"I was at home and got a phone call from my daughter," she explained.
"She said that Andrew had been shot. At that stage I didn't know that he had died. She hung the phone up, it was a panicked thing.
"Within minutes, one of my sons rang and said that Andrew was gone, he was dead.
"What I can remember within the next 10 minutes was the front door flying open and my children and grandchildren coming in, they were screaming and crying.
"We drove over the border to Buncrana to where Andrew was. I wanted to go in to him, but the gardai would not let me.
"I'm glad now that I didn't go in, to be honest, because the last memory I have of Andrew is him waving at me from his car on Spencer Road as he passed me. He always had a big smile on his face.
"That wouldn't have been my last memory if I had of got in to the house to him that night."
Andrew was under threat from RAAD, made up of former IRA members, who claimed to target drug dealers in the city. His mother vehemently denies the claim that Andrew was a drug dealer.
"Andrew and five others were told they were under threat by RAAD about eight months before he was murdered," she said.
"He was the only one who left the town. He went to Buncrana, where his girlfriend's sister had a house.
"When Andrew died, all the clothes he had belonged to his brothers. There were people coming into the wake house, chatting and saying that he owed them money.
"Andrew hadn't a penny. He was always borrowing money off the family.
"I'm not going to say that he was an angel and I'm not going to be one of these parents that say their child did no wrong.
"But there is no way he was the big, big drug dealer that they made him out to be. No way."
Police in the Republic have made a number of arrests in the case but no one has ever been charged with Andrew's murder.
Donna has vowed that she will never give up the fight for justice.
"Someone being arrested for Andrew's murder will not bring Andrew back," she said.
"What I would like to see happen is for these punishment shootings to stop and for no other family to go through what we have gone through, what we are still going through.
"Every time I hear of a punishment shooting it brings that night we lost Andrew back.
"I don't think that these groups have the support that they used to have, but it's like they are bullying the community.
"People are afraid. But I am not afraid. They took my son, there is nothing worse that they can do to me. They took part of me. If I feel I need to say it, I will say it. What are they going to do to me that they haven't already done?
"I have lived my life and sometimes I am just pure numb inside, but I will never give up the fight for justice for Andrew.
"I will always fight back against them."
Donna says thoughts of his killers haunt her as she walks through the streets of her own city.
"It is hard that no one has ever gone to jail for Andrew's murder," she added.
"I go through the town and I know that some of these people are involved in these organisations.
"And in my head I say 'was it you?'. I have three other sons and at the time I was trying to keep them calm and from acting on their anger.
"If I could face the people who did this I would ask them why they did this, and who gave them the right to do it."
Yesterday Garda renewed their appeal for information on the case.
A spokesman said: "Gardai believe that a number of people were involved in planning this murder, the destruction of evidence and subsequently sheltering of those involved.
"To date a number of people have been arrested and questioned in connection with the investigation including one during April 2017.
"An Garda Siochana are grateful for all the witnesses that have come forward and made statements but gardai believe that there are still people in both Buncrana and Derry city who have information that may assist with the investigation."
He made a specific appeal to anyone who saw suspicious activity around the scene of the shooting or where the burning car was located in Fahan.
Information can be passed to the incident room at Buncrana Garda Station on 074 93 20540, the garda confidential telephone line 1800 666 111 or any garda station.