Nov 1 2012
A prison officer with more than 30 years' service has been murdered by dissident republicans in Northern Ireland.
The man was ambushed by a gunman on the M1 motorway as he drove to begin duty at the top security Maghaberry jail near Lisburn, Co Antrim.
Politicians on all sides condemned the murder and even though no organisation has admitted responsibility, security chiefs believe republicans opposed to the peace process were involved.
The extremists have been involved in long-running protests against jail conditions inside Maghaberry. A car understood to have been used in the attack was later found burned out in Lurgan, Co Armagh, where supporters of dissidents have backed the jail protest campaign.
The man is the 30th prison officer killed in Northern Ireland since 1974, but the first murder victim in almost 20 years.
It is understood his service stretched back as far as the 1981 IRA hunger strike inside the Maze prison when 10 republicans starved themselves to death.
Finlay Spratt, the head of the Prison Officers' Association, knew the dead officer. "I found him to be a very nice fellow to work with," he said. "He always ensured he did his job to the letter. He was a very good officer, he certainly did his bit."
Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness condemned the murder, saying in a joint statement: "At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved family and we condemn this murder in the strongest possible terms.
"There can be no justification for this brutal attack as this man was going about his daily life. People who work for the Prison Service play a crucial role in our community and any attack on them is an attack on all of us.
"Actions like this have no place in society and those who carried out this murder have nothing positive to contribute, and we refuse to let the people behind this attack divert us from building a better and peaceful future for everyone. We appeal to anyone with any information on this murder to contact the PSNI."