Sunday 19 November 2017

Father's disgust as metal thieves steal memorial to children killed by IRA bomb

Thieves targeted the River of Life memorial after it was erected to commemorate the lives of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry
Thieves targeted the River of Life memorial after it was erected to commemorate the lives of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry
Warrington IRA bomb victims Johnathan Ball (left) and Tim Parry. Photo: PA
Debris and blood litter the scene outside the boots store in Warrington after a bomb exploded in a litter bin. Photo:
Colin and Wendy Parry outside No 10 Downing Street, where they had a private meeting with the then Prime Minister John Major. Photo: PA

Andrew Hough and Murray Wardrop

THE father of a child murdered by the IRA in the Warrington bombing has spoken of his "utter disgust" after a bronze memorial plaque was stolen by metal thieves.

The River of Life memorial, in Warrington, Cheshire, commemorated the lives of Timothy Parry, 12, and three-year-old Johnathan Ball who died in the 1993 blast.

Another 54 others were injured when two bombs exploded in litter bins in the crowded shopping precinct on Bridge Street the day before Mothering Sunday.

Johnathan died at the scene and Timothy, who had been buying football shorts, died almost a week later.

The atrocity sparked a major campaign, with Tim's parents Colin and Wendy establishing a Peace Centre in the town and helping with the Peace Process in Northern Ireland.

On Thursday, Cheshire police disclosed that the A3-size bronze plaque could have been sold for scrap for as little as £30 (€37).

The plaque, erected alongside a water feature, was unveiled by the Duchess of Kent on 14th November 1996.

Detectives said the plaque was stolen between April 20 and May 5 just weeks after thieves unsuccessfully attempted to steal it during a failed raid.

Mr Parry, a 65 year-old human resources consultant who received an OBE in 2004 for his peace campaign, disclosed his “utter disgust” at the thieves’ “despicable” crime.

"It makes me feel utter disgust and it is reprehensible that someone should disfigure what is a memorial to two young boys and see it as something they can make money from without any consideration for the families who lost loved ones,” he said.

“It beggars belief that people can be so heartless and I don’t expect that they have any conscience.

“It really upsets me that they have disfigured something which symbolises a horror which took place in our town.”

His 54 year-old wife said it was “really sad” that anyone would deface a memorial.

"It's a sign of the times, I suppose, but there are ways to make money without hurting those who had the misfortune to be caught-up in that dreadful day,” she added.

The Warrington bombings were made up of two separate attacks – the first in February when a bomb exploded at a district pressure gas storage facility.

No one was injured but a policeman was shot and wounded by one of the bombers when he stopped a van connected to the attacks.

The second bombing occurred on March 23 after The Samaritans received a coded message wrongly stating a bomb would be detonated outside a Boots shop in Liverpool.

Johnathan’s parents, Wilf Ball, 69, and Marie Comerford never recovered from the death of their son and they separated shortly after the blast. They have both since died.

On Thursday night, Police Constable Graham Davies urged witnesses to come forward.

He added: "This plaque forms part of a memorial and is of great significance to the town. It is upsetting for people to see that the plaque has been taken.”

Official figures have shown that more than 1,000 metal theft offences are occurring every week in Britain. It is estimated to cost the economy up to £1 billion a year.

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