Belfast Telegraph

Widow of first RUC officer killed in Troubles speaks of impact of killing 50 years on

RUC constable Victor Arbuckle who was shot during street disturbances on the Shankill Road Belfast. He was the first RUC man killed in the troubles. October 1969
RUC constable Victor Arbuckle who was shot during street disturbances on the Shankill Road Belfast. He was the first RUC man killed in the troubles. October 1969

The wife of the first RUC officer to be killed during the Troubles has spoken about her memories of her husband 50 years after his murder.

Victor Arbuckle (29) was one of three people shot dead in the Shankill area of Belfast on October 11 1969. He was shot by the UVF while the two Protestant men, George Dickie and Herbert Hawe, were gunned down by the Army.

Mr Arbuckle's wife Dorothy said her immediate focus in the aftermath of her husband's death was for their toddler son Clive.

He was two-and-a-half at the time of his father's death and now lives in Scotland with his family. Dorothy, in an interview with The Irish News said at the age of 52, he is "much, much older than his daddy ever got to be".

The widow, who never remarried, went on to found a support group for other RUC wives who lost their husbands.

She said she made sure there were "always photographs" of her husband in the house, although her son doesn't remember his father.

"We were only married for five years, after which our son arrived," Mrs Arbuckle said.

"We were both very, very happy. He was so proud of his son. I will never forget him. I think about him every day - how things would have been so different if he had been alive today."

Three-hundred-and-two RUC officers were killed between 1969 and 1998.

Constable Arbuckle was shot as he stood beside other officers. Alongside him was Sergeant Dermot Hurley, who was shot dead by the IRA just two years later. He was the first Catholic RUC officer to be killed in the Troubles.

The 250 uniformed colleagues who walked behind Mr Arbuckle's coffin after the funeral service in east Belfast formed one of the biggest processions ever seen in that part of of the city.

The family said they were proud of their oldest brother when he joined the police and he enjoyed his work.

"The night he was shot, I got the news, I couldn't believe it," younger sister Laura Martin said, "I thought out of all the men in the police force why did it have to be Victor? He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Three men were later found not guilty of his murder but were given jail terms ranging from six to 10 years for arms offences on the night of Mr Arbuckle's death.

Stephen White, chairman of the RUC George Cross Foundation, said the scale of the loss of life yet to come was unimaginable at the time.

The former PSNI assistant chief constable added: "In the past there had been sporadic violence where those killed were less than the fingers of one hand, I suspect no one would have ever guessed the Troubles would last over 30 years and more than 300 officers would be killed and thousands more injured."

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said Mr Arbuckle had been "doing his duty when gunned down by loyalists".

"It is a tragic irony that it was those who professed to uphold British values were responsible for committing the first murder of an RUC officer," he said.

"Like all the others on the roll of honour, 29-year-old Constable Arbuckle didn't deserve to have his life cut short. Their loss, and the anguish that it caused their family circles, still weighs heavily on the here-and-now.

"In an ultimately futile campaign waged by both republican and loyalist terrorists, they paid the ultimate price for policing communities torn apart and left brutalised.

"Their contribution was courageous and commitment undoubted. Constable Arbuckle, and all the others who were murdered, will never be forgotten."

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