Northern Ireland news

Belfast man one of last Grundig workers to talk to murdered boss Thomas Niedermayer

Thomas and Ingeborg Niedermayer with their daughters Renate and Gabriele. Picture by Belfast News Letter
Mairead Holland

ONE of the last workers to see murdered factory manager Thomas Niedermayer alive has spoken for the first time about his memories of the events of Christmas 1973.

Mr Niedermayer was kidnapped from his west Belfast bungalow by the IRA on December 27 and his body only discovered seven years later.

A newly-published book, The Killing of Thomas Niedermayer by David Blake Knox, has revealed how his death was the catalyst for a chain of tragedies which decimated the entire family.

And it has stirred memories for a Belfast man who worked in the Dunmurry electronics plant and was one of the last workers to speak to Mr Niedermayer .

The man, who has asked not to be identified, worked as a fault finder at the factory which made tape recorders and dictation machines, as well as being a shop steward.

He said: "It was hard work at Grundig but you always finished early at Christmas and everybody would have brought in drink.

"On the last day before the factory closed for Christmas, they asked if anybody wanted to stay to 7pm and get paid overtime, even though we weren't doing any work, so I said I would.

"I was sitting at the bench having a bottle of stout when Mr Niedermayer came along and sat down and had a chat with me.

"I remember him being very humorous, very nice and friendly."

Read more: IRA murder of businessman Thomas Niedermayer set off tragic chain of events

Ingeborg Niedermayer with her daughters Renate and Gabriele. Picture by Belfast Telegraph

The Belfast man knew nothing of what had happened to his boss until days later when he saw a TV news report and a clip of Mrs Ingeborg Niedermayer pleading for her husband's release.

He said: "It was heart-wrenching looking at that woman. I had never met her but I just thought, 'For God's sake, let him go'."

The IRA had planned to use the businessman - who was the Honorary German Consulate - to try to negotiate the transfer home of sisters Dolours and Marian Price, jailed in England for their part in a bombing campaign in London.

IRA leader Brian Keenan, who worked at Grundig's factory in Dunmurry, is thought to have planned the kidnap.

The Belfast man recalls Mr Keenan, who died in 2008, as being "an excellent foreman" and "the top electronics man in the country".

"All I know about him was that his knowledge was second-to-none," he said.

The former Grundig employee has mixed memories of his boss. "He could be bad-tempered and fly into a rage," he said. "But I never knew if that was just part of an act. The time I spoke to him, just days before he died, he was very friendly."

He also recalls that the businessman had a reputation for shooting at birds that got into the factory.

"I never saw him do it myself and I never saw any carcasses but I remember coming into work one morning and my work bench was covered in cartridge shells," he said.

"It was common knowledge in the factory that he took a rifle to the birds."

The man, who later moved to the Republic after work dried up at the factory, said that until last week he had been unaware of what had become of the Niedermayer family, and was shocked and saddened at the tragedies that unfolded.

In June 1990, Mrs Niedermayer drowned herself in the sea at Bray, Co Wicklow.

Her daughter Renate, who had opened the door to her father's killers and woken him from his sleep, moved to South Africa and within a year of her mother's death, she had also taken her own life.

Gabriele, the elder of his two children, also died by suicide, while a few years later her husband took his own life.

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