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Ian Gowe's widow hits out at 'hounding' ex-soldiers

By Angela Rainey

The wife of a Conservative MP murdered by the IRA has hit out at plans for legacy inquests to question veteran soldiers over their actions during the Troubles.

Ian Gow, a father of two, was 53 when he was killed by a bomb that exploded under his car at his East Sussex home in 1990.

Dame Jane Whiteley (73), who had not spoken publicly about her first husband's murder, has now broken her silence.

"Every time I have read about soldiers being investigated, I quietly boil," she told the Daily Mail.

"I have always felt it, and I have always resisted the temptation to say it.

"Now, elderly veterans are being asked to give new witness statements for a fresh wave of new inquests into killings during the Troubles.

"These are likely to include killings of suspected IRA terrorists that have been repeatedly investigated. I am very sympathetic to soldiers and servicemen. They do a very difficult job. I think it's incredibly tough that they should be hounded."

Mr Gow, who was Margaret Thatcher's parliamentary private secretary, died in the blast on July 30, 1990.

The bomb was detonated in the driveway of his East Sussex home.

To date no one has been brought to justice. One of the two suspects received an "on-the-run letter", providing immunity against prosecution.

The on-the-run letters, also known as "comfort letters", were secretly agreed in a deal struck between Tony Blair and Sinn Fein following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Their existence did not emerge until 2014, sparking controversy amongst senior military officials who argue that many of the veterans are aged now above 60 years old. Dame Jane added: "People who committed terrible crimes, like the two suspected of being responsible for the bomb that killed Ian, have been given a sort of 'amnesty'.

"But the poor soldiers haven't. It seems so unjust and unfair."

More than 300,000 soldiers served in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2007 - 1,441 were killed while serving.

Dame Jane said she still finds it extremely painful to recall the fateful day her husband kissed her goodbye then seconds later was blown up.

"I can't bear to think about it really, but what happened to Ian was premeditated, cold-blooded murder," she added.

"To put soldiers, who were doing their duty in very difficult conditions, through the stress of further investigations, while allowing two known bombers to live without threat of arrest, seems like a nonsense.

"It's madness. It's standing the law on its head."

Dame Jane agrees with the former head of the Army, General Lord Dannatt, who said veteran soldiers should not be obliged to co-operate with the legacy inquests and recall events because they have previously given evidence on the assurance of no further action being taken.

An MOD spokesman said it played an "active role supporting coroners with legacy inquests and part of the process involves contacting and supporting veterans".

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