John Doherty: Memorial for RUC man stolen from Donegal grave

John Doherty in RUC uniform
Image caption,John Doherty was 31 and based in Omagh, County Tyrone when he was murdered

A memorial to the first Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer killed in the Republic of Ireland during the Troubles has been removed about a week after it was first unveiled, his family have said.

John Doherty was shot by the IRA while visiting his mother in Lifford in 1973.

The memorial stone was unveiled at Castlefinn cemetery, where he is buried, in County Donegal.

His brother Terry Doherty said a “sacred space” had been “invaded”.

Mr Doherty said he believed the memorial and a poppy wreath had been taken “just because John was a member of the RUC”.

“The individuals who took the stone, and the poppy wreath, I don’t know who they represent or what they represent,” he told BBC Radio Foyle’s The North West Today programme.

Two men kneel beside the grave of their brother in a cemetery
Image caption,Terry Doherty (left) and his brother, William, at the grave of their late brother, John, in Castlefinn, County Donegal

“The proverbial saying is they came like a thief in the night, the wreath and stone soft targets.”

John Doherty was a 31-year-old, Catholic man who was part of the CID team based in Omagh, County Tyrone.

On 28 October 1973, he crossed the border to visit his widowed mother, Annie, at the family home in Ballindrait, near Lifford.

He and his girlfriend were targeted by an IRA gang at 20:40 GMT, as he turned his car in a narrow laneway.

His mother rushed out and found him lying in the car.

John Doherty
Image caption,No one has ever been convicted of John Doherty’s murder

The memorial stone was dedicated at a special service in County Donegal on 28 October.

John’s brother Terry said the family would “rise above” the theft and “keep our heads held high”.

He said the RUC George Cross Association had offered to replace the stone, but the family do not want that to happen.

“I won’t give these criminals the chance to steal another stone from John’s grave, I won’t give them the opportunity or the satisfaction,” he said.

“John will always be remembered for who he was and for what he represented.”

Terry Doherty
Image caption,Terry Doherty says the family do not wish to have the stone replaced

‘Inflict further pain’

East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell, was among those who attended the unveiling of the memorial stone in Castlefinn. He said its removal “defies belief”.

“It’s appalling,” Mr Campbell told BBC News NI.

“He [John] was murdered as he was walking about in life 50 years ago. And now, even in death, they can’t allow him to rest in peace in the cemetery.

“It just defies logic of any kind that some individual stooped to this depth… and inflicted further pain on the family.”

He spoke of the comfort Mr Doherty’s http://roketgubuk.com/ family drew from those who attended the stone’s unveiling around a week ago. And he called on the community in the area to rally around them.

John Doherty had served in the Metropolitan Police for two years before returning to Northern Ireland in 1969 as the Troubles broke out.

He was first stationed in Belfast and then in Omagh.

His girlfriend survived the attack. Nobody has ever been convicted of the murder.

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