Northern Ireland news

Cops on the Frontline hears rare RUC testimonies from the Troubles

Retired RUC officer Dessie McCormac whose two brothers were murdered, one by loyalists and one by the IRA.

A FORMER member of the RUC has spoken publicly for the first time about how his two brothers were killed during the Troubles - one by a notorious loyalist killer and the other by the IRA.

Dessie McCormac joined the RUC in 1971 and served until 2001 when the force was disbanded and replaced with the PSNI.

He is among a number of officers who have been interviewed for the BBC One - On the Front Line series which looks at how various professions, from firefighters to nurses and bus drivers carried out their duties during the conflict.

The retired RUC officer says when he joined the service he was originally stationed at Rosemount PSNI station in Derry.

His brother Hugh was already a serving member of the RUC.

A second brother John worked for social services in west Belfast and was shot dead in a random sectarian attack on what would have been his 30th birthday.

Loyalist hitman Frankie Curry was responsible for the murder. Curry was later killed in 1999 during a loyalist feud.

"They didn't know if he was a Catholic or a Protestant, but yes he was Catholic and in their eyes that was sufficient," the retired RUC officer said.

Mr McCormac later tells how his brother Hugh, a sergeant in the RUC training centre, was shot dead by the IRA as he attended Mass at St Gabriel's Monastery near Enniskillen with his wife and three children.

"Hugh was hit and then another gunman came up and fired more rounds into his body as he was lying on the ground.

"The impact it had on the whole family was horrendous. My mother now had two sons murdered for absolutely no reason," he said.

Another former officer Anne Graham tells how when she joined the RUC in 1976 she was first stationed at Tennent Street in north Belfast, which was at that time said to be the busiest police station in western Europe.

While on duty on the Ballygomartin Road she said a well-known loyalist, Alex Calderwood, known as Oso, stopped her patrol car and asked her to take him to Tennent Street station where he confessed to a brutal sectarian murder.

"He said 'I killed that young boy Alexander 'Speedy' Reid from the Ardoyne'."

The body of the 20-year-old had been found in a derelict garage off the Shankill Road in January 1980.

After drinking in the city centre with a friend, the victim got into a black taxi. The driver, recognising they were Catholics, took them to the loyalist Shankill and handed them over to a gang of men.

While his friend managed to run away he was taken to the derelict building and beaten to death with bricks.

"A taxi driver took him into the Shankill and give him to the likes of Oso and said 'Do what you want with him'. Oso was sent to the Maze and he served 16-years for that," recalled Ms Graham.

Glynnis Breen, who joined the RUC in 1980, survived an IRA gun attack that claimed the life of her colleague Alan Caskey. She was shot in the back as she was running away. She says that two members of the IRA tried later tried to kill her as she recovered from her injuries in hospital but were thwarted.

"It was all I could do to run and get out of there. Alan has remained in my thoughts and prayers every day. I sometimes feel guilty that I survived it and he didn't," Ms Breen says.

Cops On The Frontline will be shown on BBC One at 9pm on Monday, November 11 and is available to watch on the iPlayer.

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