UK failing Hyde Park atrocity families, says brother of Cavalryman
Slain soldiers' relatives appeal for cash to help fund civil case
A man whose teenage brother was killed in the IRA's Hyde Park bombing has accused the British Government of "talking the talk about fighting terrorism but abandoning victims".
Mark Tipper will today address the Ulster Unionist Party conference in Armagh about his struggle to raise funds to take a civil case against the chief suspect in the July 1982 attack.
Four soldiers of the Royal Household Cavalry were killed after the nail bomb exploded in London.
Their families have so far raised £85,000 of the £600,000 they say they need to pursue the court action against Donegal man John Downey.
"We have been repeatedly refused legal aid and the Government has so far been unwilling to give us funding," Mr Tipper told the Belfast Telegraph.
"John Downey walked free from the Old Bailey in 2014 because of a shameful secret deal between Tony Blair and Sinn Fein. Blair was like a puppet on a string dancing to Sinn Fein's tune. Government after government have turned their back on us."
Mr Tipper said 19-year-old Simon and the three other soldiers deserved far better.
"They pledged their lives to their country yet they've been treated so shabbily," he said.
"Simon was back only two days from honeymoon in Greece when he was murdered.
"We are ordinary, working-class families who don't have a lot of money, but we're determined to fight for justice for our loved ones until the day we die."
Mr Downey has always denied involvement in the bombing.
He was arrested and charged with the Hyde Park murders in 2013.
But the case dramatically collapsed the following year after it emerged that he had mistakenly received a written assurance in 2007 from Mr Blair's government that he was no longer a wanted man. The letter was issued under the terms of the controversial On The Runs (OTR) scheme. Trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney ruled that Mr Downey's arrest at Gatwick Airport, as he passed through Britain on the way to a holiday, represented an abuse of process and he put a stay on any future prosecutions.
However, the families are determined to pursue the Donegal man through the civil courts and have employed the same legal team behind the landmark Omagh bomb civil case against prominent republicans.
Trooper Simon Tipper, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young (19), and Lieutenant Anthony Daly (23) were killed instantly in the blast. Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright (36) died in hospital four days later.
Seven cavalry horses were killed and 31 people were injured. The Household Cavalrymen were riding through Hyde Park on their way to the Changing of the Guard when the bomb exploded. The device was inside a blue Morris Minor and police believed it was triggered remotely by an IRA member inside Hyde Park.
Mr Tipper said he recalled hearing news of the bomb on the radio and praying that his younger brother was safe. "I was two years older than Simon. We shared a bedroom in our house in Stourbridge in the West Midlands. I can still see the room and our wee single beds and the condensation on the window. I can see our fishing rods and our bikes. We didn't have a lot, there wasn't much money in our house. The electricity would often be cut off. Our school uniform was our best clothes. But we were great friends and to this day I miss him," he said.
Mr Tipper recalled how his brother had married his childhood sweetheart Louise just a week before he died.
"I think of her and the children they never had," he said.
"We have all been robbed. I lost a brother. My son lost out on having an uncle. And my parents lost their youngest son."
Mr Tipper said his mother Jean had struggled to cope after the bombing. "She had been a beautiful woman but she was so distraught at losing Simon that she just withered before our eyes. She aged overnight. She started drinking and smoking too much and her health deteriorated. Mum lost her sparkle. She became another woman," he added.
Mrs Tipper died five years ago but her son said his father had a stroke in April and he was determined to progress the legal case before he died.
"If the British Government granted us discretionary funding on public interest grounds that would speed up the whole process and lift such a weight of our shoulders," he said.
The Hyde Park relatives are supported by ex-UUP MP Danny Kinahan, a former captain in the Household Cavalry and best man at Lt Daly's wedding.
Mr Kinahan said that the families deserved justice and that a civil action would help them "find a way forward".
He criticised the failure to grant them legal aid.