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  • Christina Drummond

Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, 3rd Regiment, the Royal Horse Artillery

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1997, Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, 3rd Regiment, the Royal Horse Artillery, was killed by a sniper while manning a permanent vehicle check point at Bessbrook Mill Army base in Co. Armagh. He was five months into his second tour of duty in Northern Ireland. A woman motorist said that he was smiling at her as he handed back her driving licence, then she was struck by the same bullet that killed him. Later she commented on the eerie silence and how his death was the saddest thing she had ever seen.

Several years later a former soldier claimed that an SAS team had been on standby but then were ordered to stand down. The police ombudsman concluded that Lance Bombardier’s death could not have been prevented because not enough resources had been devoted to the task of surveillance that day despite a raised threat level.

In 1999, when Bernard McGinn was convicted of the killing of Lance Bombardier Restorick, he was sentenced to a total of 490 years in prison for 34 separate offences, including the murders of two other soldiers and several bombing campaigns. He was released sixteen months later under the Good Friday Agreement, and his conviction was later quashed when the Court of Appeal ruled that he had not been properly cautioned when arrested. Just before Christmas, 2013, his body was found in a house in Monaghan, but he was believed to have died from natural causes.

Lance Bombardier’s mother, Rita Restorick, who wrote a book about her experiences – “Death of a Soldier: A Mother's Search for Peace” - said only that it had been difficult "as it has been for other victims' families". She publicly asked that there be no retaliation, and sent a photograph of her son to Gerry Adams asking him to do what he could to restore the IRA ceasefire. She continued to take an interest in efforts to resolve the problems in Northern Ireland, speaking to the Sinn Fein delegation as they made their way to Downing Street, and donating a park bench to the village of Bessbrook in memory of all those who lost their lives in or near the village. Referring to the Good Friday Agreement, Mrs. Restorick said that what she wanted from it was that "no more mothers, no matter on what side, have to face the death of a son."

Stephen, from Underwood in Nottinghamshire, was 23 years old.

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