Peter McBride, an 18-year-old father of two young daughters, was stopped and searched by members of a patrol of Scots Guards on Sept. 4, 1992 in the New Lodge area of Belfast.
Having been searched, he ran away from the patrol. Two soldiers, Guardsmen Mark Wright and Jim Fisher, then fired a number of shots at McBride, hitting him twice in the back from a range of some 70 yards. He died shortly afterward.
McBride was walking to his sister’s home when shot. The two soldiers were convicted of murder, and branded liars, by the court. Despite their conviction for murder and life sentences, however, they remained paid members of the British Army during their prison terms and were received back into the ranks as serving soldiers on their release.
The dead youth’s mother, Jean, commenting on the anniversary, said: “The British government is hoping we will go away. It is an ongoing insult to the memory of my son to allow the two men convicted of his murder to remain in the British Army.
“This campaign will go on each and every day that they remain serving soldiers. I have said it before and I repeat it on Peter’s anniversary, I will haunt Tony Blair until he does the decent thing. Then and only then can my family find peace.”
At their trial, Guardsmen Fisher and Wright claimed that they believed that McBride was going to throw a coffee-jar bomb at them. The judge found that they were lying. They could not have believed this since they had already searched McBride and he did not have a bomb on him.
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In September 1998, the Guardsmen were given early release from prison. Two months later, an Army Board decided that they should be allowed to continue their careers in the services.
To mark the anniversary of the shooting supporters of the McBride family took to the streets in London, Belfast and Sheffield. In London, protesters distributed “An Unauthorized Guide to the Tower of London” in and around the famous landmark.
The guide highlights the case through reference to one of the regiments responsible for ceremonial duties at the Tower, the Scots Guards, of which the two murderers are members.
In Sheffield supporters picketed the local Armed Forces Recruitment Office and in Belfast a vigil was held at the City Hall.
The SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, sharply criticized the British government’s handling of his case. “Peter McBride was an innocent father of two,” he said. “He was shot in the back by soldiers as he ran away from an army checkpoint. They lied on oath in court claiming that he was carrying a coffee-jar bomb. The judge found that this was completely untrue and convicted them of murder. Despite this, the soldiers responsible have remained in the British Army for every single day of the last 10 years.
“Seeing the soldiers being given early release from prison was difficult for the McBride family, but they accepted it in the context of the peace process. But what they cannot accept — and should never have to accept — is that the two murderers have been kept on in the British Army. It is an outrage to suggest that murderers should serve in any army.”
Commenting on the exchange of letters between Blair and Durkan, the senior British backbench Labor MP, Kevin McNamara, said he was deeply sorry that the British government and Ministry of Defense has “had such little regard for a mother’s grief and displayed a stubborn and callous insensitivity to the feelings of the community of the New Lodge. I am shocked that Tony Blair cannot act to end this contemptible injustice.”
The Alliance Party also strongly criticized the British government’s handling of the case. Seamus Close, its deputy leader, said that the two soldiers convicted of the murder were not fit to continue to serve in the British Army.