Monday 27 March 2017

The inside story of the brutal killing of Wood and Howes

As a young student from Cork with Republican links, Sean Hartnett considered joining the IRA. But he stunned his family when he ended up joining the British Army. Posted to Northern Ireland in 2001, he worked in the British Army's most covert surveillance units as a member of the Joint Communications Unit - Northern Ireland. Its function was the "covert surveillance and apprehension of terrorist suspects, both republican and loyalist". For the next three years, using a vast network of cameras and hi-tech equipment, his unit, known as 'the Det', worked to stop armed paramilitaries, succeeding in many cases. But he also witnessed some of the biggest blunders in British intelligence. In his new memoir Charlie One - the call sign for the British Army's most wanted targets - he gives a detailed insider account of the secret war fought on the streets of the North.

These pictures show what happened when David Howes and Derek Wood, inadvertently drove on to a street where the funeral cortege of an IRA volunteer was passing. The two were dead just 12 minutes later. Photos: Pacemaker/ Press Association
These pictures show what happened when David Howes and Derek Wood, inadvertently drove on to a street where the funeral cortege of an IRA volunteer was passing. The two were dead just 12 minutes later. Photos: Pacemaker/ Press Association

Sean Hartnett

During his training to work in surveillance in Northern Ireland, Sean Hartnett was given the inside story from British Intelligence of how Corporals Derek Wood and David Howes were killed by the IRA when they were caught in a funeral cortege in Belfast in 1988. It was one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles.

Like anyone my age with even the slightest awareness of Northern Ireland, I didn't need to be told the story of what happened to Corporals Derek Wood and David Howes, but one morning we were given the graphic, no-holds-barred version in a briefing.

I could feel my stomach tighten and my nerves on edge throughout.

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