Belfast Telegraph

Narrow Water widow says 'I'll never forgive the evil people who took my husband's life'

 

Josette Foster and her husband Walter Beardon their wedding day
Josette Foster and her husband Walter Beardon their wedding day
Josette Foster and her husband Walter Beard with their two young daughters Claire and Vreny weeks before Walter died
Emergency workers and soldiers at the scene of the bomb attacks at Narrow Water in 1979
Emergency workers and soldiers at the scene of the bomb attacks at Narrow Water in 1979
Lord Louis Mountbatten
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

The wife of a soldier murdered by the IRA at Narrow Water has said she will "never forgive those evil people" who took her husband away.

Walter Beard's wife Josette Foster (71), a former personal trainer in the Army, was living in Ballykinler Barracks' married quarters at the time of the atrocity. Mr Beard was among 18 soldiers killed in two bomb attacks at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint on August 27, 1979.

He died in the second explosion, intended to kill those at the scene helping with casualties of the initial blast.

Mr Beard was so badly injured that his coffin did not contain a body.

It came hours after the attack in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, which killed Lord Mountbatten and three others, one of whom died the next day.

Amid the chaos of Warrenpoint, an innocent tourist was also killed by soldiers convinced they were being shot at from the other side of the border.

Ahead of tomorrow's 40th anniversary Mrs Foster recalled the horror of that day.

She and her two little girls - aged just three and 17 months - were awaiting Walter's return home when they got the news.

Mrs Foster, who has since remarried, is a grandmother and is living in Cyprus. She said she "will never get over" the pain of that day.

"Walter was 33 years old when he was killed," she said. "We had been married for under five years and had our two little girls.

"Walter joined the Army when he was 17 years old. He loved it. It was his life.

"I was in the Army too; I served nine years and was a sergeant major, the same as Walter.

"Walter had been away for nearly two weeks on the day that he died. He had been due to come home the next day.

"We talked over the phone every day. The last time we spoke was the night before he died. He spoke to the girls. He just loved them so much.

"And I told him I was making him his favourite dinner, that I had bought all the ingredients. I never got to cook it."

On the day her husband was murdered Mrs Foster recalls how she got the dreaded knock on her front door. She added: "That day I went out shopping, chatted to some of the other wives, the usual stuff.

"I was really looking forward to Walter coming home. I had put the girls to bed and I looked out the window and saw my friend Gerry, who was also a sergeant major, coming into the close and I said to myself: 'Oh no, someone in the close has lost their husband'.

"And then they came to my door. And I was shouting: 'No, don't come to my door!' I was so devastated that it was me.

"Gerry didn't say anything. He just looked at me and gave me a big hug and I just screamed.

"I didn't want to hear it because I knew what they were going to say. I just collapsed on the floor at the door.

"Walter and I were soulmates. It was a disaster and I just couldn't believe that it was happening."

Mrs Foster said she struggled with the fact that the IRA had targeted her husband, who had come to the aid of the injured and dying. "What I couldn't come to terms with was that Walter was there to rescue people," she added.

"It is so hard to come to terms with the fact of people wanting to kill people who were the rescuers. That was the pits, as far as I'm concerned. It was just so evil an act.

"To wait for a lot of rescuers to come in and then blow them up as well. I asked the Army about his body. They told me that his body was intact so I buried what I thought was my husband in the coffin.

"I later found out that his body had completely disintegrated and the coffin was empty and there was no body at all. I found that out two years later and it was the biggest blow. That was another trauma to go through."

The twin bomb attacks took place on the afternoon of August 27, 1979. The IRA first exploded a bomb concealed in hay on a trailer, killing six soldiers.

Half-an-hour later the IRA exploded a second bomb close to the scene where it had anticipated soldiers would seek cover.

Mrs Foster added: "My husband was going to the scene with Major Ferguson. The IRA waited until there were as many of them as possible on the scene to blow up the second bomb.

"My husband and the father of our girls was just blown to pieces."

Mrs Foster said the years that followed her husband's death were "a nightmare". She added: "I am a strong person. I always was. After Walter died I went and stayed with my sister. I would go and put the washing out and it would take hours. I was so slow, I was like a robot almost.

"It was weird. But when you have two young children, that keeps you sane.

"I didn't tell my girls the truth at that stage, just that their Daddy wasn't coming back. I find it really sad that they never knew this dad that loved them so much.

"But we've got grandchildren now and they talk about him and they keep pictures of him. They keep his memory alive.

"He missed so much in life and he is missed so much.

"Our girls have grown up and had all their life events without him. I used to find it heartbreaking watching them doing things like joining the Brownies and I know he would have loved to have seen them doing all that.

"But he never got to see any of it. And one of the girls asked me one morning when they were small: 'Why haven't I got a Daddy to take me to school?' It just broke my heart, I wish she did. But I couldn't change that."

Mrs Foster said she is "furious" that no one was ever convicted of her husband's murder and that she would still like to see justice.

She added: "It makes me feel very angry. And I also find it unbelievable that people can be released after committing crimes, like for example killing children, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. I think the people who killed Walter and his colleagues are very evil people. I think what they did was so evil that they don't deserve to be on this Earth.

"I could never forgive the people who murdered him. I know some people do, but I could never. They are not worth forgiveness, they don't deserve it. They were terrorists, they were not soldiers.

"They are not worthy of my husband. He was wonderful. Everyone who knew him loved him. He was one of the most well-liked people there ever was.

"I wouldn't waste my energy saying anything to those who murdered him."

Mrs Foster said the terrorists who set off the two bombs were without conscience.

She added: "I don't think someone who could do what they did could have a conscience. There is no way that someone with a conscience could wait for people who are racing to help people who are in agony and screaming with pain and then blow them up as well. What sort of people do that? They are not people at all.

"I still want to see someone go to jail for Warrenpoint. I don't think anything will ever give me closure to what happened.

"I have moved on, I have another life. I have remarried to my lovely husband.

"But things do come back to haunt me about it all the time and I still feel the pain of it and I don't think that will ever change."

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