Northern Ireland news

'I need truth about my teen brother's killer'

Johnny Watterson at the home he shared with his mother and brother above a newsagent on the corner of the Falls Road and Rockville Street.Picture by Hugh Russell.

A prominent Dublin sports journalist has appealed for help in identifying the sectarian killer of his teenage brother in a drive-by loyalist shooting.

Peter Watterson was just 14-years old when he was gunned down in a loyalist drive by shooting as he stood at the front of his mother's corner shop on the Falls Road in west Belfast.

The following morning the body of leading UDA man Francis 'Hatchet' Smith was discovered in an alleyway in Rodney Street off the Donegall Road.

From the nearby Village area, the IRA said they shot Smith, who was buried with full paramilitary trappings, claiming he had been responsible for killing the schoolboy.

One of two children the murder of the young grammar school pupil left his widowed mother Nuala broken.

Coming so soon after the death of her husband, iconic Antrim football captain George Watterson, the family went to stay with relatives in Dublin shortly after the funeral.

Peter Watterson who was murdered when he was just 14 years old

His brother Johnny Watterson, now a prominent sports writer for the Irish Times, was on the scene within minutes of the murder of his only sibling.

Speaking for the first time 45 years after his brother's death, Mr Watterson said he feels now is the right time to seek out the truth about the shooting.

"My mother never recovered, she was never the same, she just shut down and didn't want to talk about it, we just didn't talk about it", he said.

"My father died of a heart attack in 1969 when he when he was just 49, so there was just me, my mother and Peter.

"He was my big brother, there was less than two years between us, I followed him everywhere, after that day it was just me and my mother, it was lonely, I missed him constantly.

"Peter was just like every young lad at that time, mad into sport, mad into football, George Best was all the rage.

"We shared a bedroom, we were very close".

Iconic Gaelic footballer George Watterson, leading out the Antrim football team in 1946.

On the day of the shooting, January 29 1973, Mr Watterson said he was in the sitting room of the flat above the newsagents where his family lived when he heard gunfire.

"I heard the windows at the front of the shop coming in and ran downstairs.

"There was a lot of people, there had been maybe 20 people standing at Aldos chip shop at the time of the shooting, and so a lot arrived on the scene.

"I went to the person injured to see if I could help him when someone said 'your Peter has been hit' but they wouldn't let me go over to him, he was taken away to the Royal (hospital).

"My mum died in 2016, that's why I'm doing this appeal now, she couldn't have handled it, she didn't read anything about it at the time, people kept handing her newspapers but she just couldn't."

There is still a corner shop at the same spot where Watterson's newsagents stood on the Falls Road at the corner of Rockville Street.

Although no longer in the family's ownership, the acclaimed Dublin journalist said he visits the area often and has brought his two daughters Molly and Zoe to see where he grew up.

"I don't come at this with any agenda or animosity I just want to know what happened", he said.

"The information about Peter's killer being shot dead the same night was just a 'dogs in the street' story, it was never proven either way.

"There were lots of people about that day, so many witnesses, I'd like to know what happened, to piece it together. I was a child myself when Peter died, we were both just children but now feels like the right time.

"I understand why people didn't come forward then, they might have been afraid, but I hope they feel they can now", he added.

  • Anyone with information about the murder of Peter Watterson, or who witnessed the attack can contact the Pat Finucane Centre on 02837515191 or on 07920528509.

14-year-old Peter Watterson, shot dead by loyalists outside his mother's corner shop.

Peter Watterson on his confirmation day.

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