Warrington remembers boys whose deaths in 1993 IRA bomb became a catalyst for peace
The families of two children who died when IRA bombs exploded in a sleepy Cheshire town have spoken of how their deaths remain a "symbol for peace", 25 years after the atrocity.
Tim Parry (12) and three-year-old Johnathan Ball were killed when two devices hidden in litter bins were detonated without warning on March 20, 1993.
Johnathan died at the scene while Tim passed away five days later when his life-support was switched off.
More than 50 other people were left with life-changing injuries after the bombs exploded within a minute of each other the day before Mother's Day.
The atrocity in Warrington shocked the world but no one has ever been prosecuted over Tim and Johnathan's deaths.
This comes despite Martin McGuinness having described the bombings as a "shameful act" and expressing his personal regret in 2013.
Yesterday, Warrington fell silent as its community remembered the tragic events of 25 years ago.
The poignant commemoration service on Bridge Street was attended by HRH The Princess Royal and the Irish ambassador to the United Kingdom, Adrian O'Neill.
Ahead of the 25th anniversary, Wendy Parry opened up about her "cheeky" son who crammed a lifetime into 12 short years.
She said: "He was a normal 12-year-old who loved life.
"He was having golf lessons, he played squash with his dad, he played football for a Sunday team and school, he was having guitar lessons and he was a Sea Scout and he just got his solo sailing certificate.
"He wanted to do everything all the time.
"He had so many friends because he was so bubbly.
"He could be cheeky and rude sometimes but he loved everything. It was like he crammed a lifetime into 12 years."
Johnathan's brother Paul Comerford (41) also reflected on his family's heartache 25 years on.
He said: "March 20, 1993, is a day none of us will ever forget.
"It affected many, many people, none more so than our family. The tragic events of that day broke all our hearts, but it shattered Johnathan's mum's into tiny pieces that would never be mended.
"She died 16 years later almost to the day of a 'broken heart'.
"So we, his surviving family, including three brothers, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and cousins, will be remembering him and the people affected on this 25th anniversary." On the day of the bombs, authorities said "inadequate" warnings had been received.
The IRA later confirmed it made two telephone bomb warnings, one to police and one to a charity helpline, although Cheshire police chiefs said there was no mention of Warrington, which meant that predicting a location was impossible.
Less than 30 minutes after the warnings the blasts happened within a minute of each other. Two bombs, hidden in separate cast-iron litter bins, exploded on Bridge Street just after 12.12pm, the first outside a British Gas showroom and the second near branches of Argos and Boots.
The first explosion drove panicking shoppers into the path of the next blast just seconds later, with police describing the bins and shrapnel as "huge hand grenades".
Buses were organised to ferry people away from the scene and 20 paramedics, some on motorcycles, were sent to administer on-the-spot treatment.
Crews from 17 ambulances dealt with casualties and a team of four plastic surgeons travelled to Warrington Hospital from the regional burns unit at Whiston Hospital, Knowsley.
Johnathan, who was in town with his babysitter buying a Mother's Day Card, was killed at the scene.
Tim was caught in the full force of the blast after going into town to buy his mum a card - and a pair of Neville Southall Everton football shorts - and he died five days later in hospital.
At Cheshire Police Headquarters in Winsford, the file on that fateful day 25 years ago remains open.
Speaking at the commemoration service, Tim's father Colin said: "This is a very poignant day for the victims of the bombing.
"It's also a day that we can reflect with great pride on how we responded.
"Neither Tim nor Johnathan died in vain.
"Over time, a ceasefire was agreed and the Good Friday Agreement was signed.
"My son has become a symbol for peace over the past 25 years.
"It means a great deal to the families that you have turned out in such great numbers, thank you all."
Local councillors reflected on how the Warrington bombing was a catalyst for change and reconciliation.
Councillor Mike Hannon commented: "You always look back and think where have the years gone.
"It's hard to believe it's been 25 years but you see the turnout here today and you know that people will never forget that dreadful day."