Drumahoe author told story of a family broken by IRA and Army

Susan McKay, author of 'Bear In Mind These Dead.'
Susan McKay, author of 'Bear In Mind These Dead.'

Drumahoe journalist Susan McKay recorded how Bernard Teggart’s mother Bella was ‘suicidal’ and his brother, Gerard, deeply traumatised, after his brutal murder by the IRA in 1973.

The case of the 15-year-old schoolboy’s abduction and murder is currently being heard at the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.

It has been described as the most ‘horrific case’ to come before the tribunal.

In her harrowing archive of atrocity and misery, ‘Bear in Mind These Dead,’ published in 2008, Ms McKay, reported how the Teggarts were still coming to terms with the murder of their husband and father Daniel, aged 44, in the Ballymurphy massacre of 1971, when more cruelty was visited upon them on a cold November night in 1973.

Bernard’s twin Gerard, “arrived at his mother’s door, crying and incoherent in a coat that wasn’t his,” she wrote.

“He kept saying, ‘Bad men came and took us away in a black taxi,’” their sister Alice told Ms McKay.

“Gradually, the women gathered that Gerard was saying that these men had forced him and his twin, Bernard, to come with them, and that they’d taken them to several different houses and through an army checkpoint in parts of the city the boys didn’t know.

“At the last house there were women, too. They left Gerard downstairs and took Bernard upstairs. He could hear his brother screaming and the people beating him.

“After a while one of the women came down. She put a coat around Gerard’s shoulders, gave him money to get the bus and told him to go home and say nothing,” recorded the Londonderry journalist.

Bernard, though fifteen had the mental age of nine. Both boys had been sent to St Patrick’s Detention Centre for truancy.

The family rang St Pat’s and a Brother said he would call back but didn’t.

“It was half past two in the morning when British soldiers came to the house and banged on the door.

“One of them said, ‘Can I come in?’ said Alice. This was unusual in itself - the preferred army method of entering Catholic homes in this part of Belfast at that time was to break the door down,” wrote Ms McKay.

“‘He put his arm around Mummy. He was only about eighteen and he was crying. She said, What’s wrong with you, son? He said, I have very bad news for you. You have been through enough without what I have to tell you.’

“The soldier told Bella that a UDR foot patrol had found Bernard. He was lying on the steps of the Floral Hall, an old dance hall in the north of the city, near the zoo.

“The child was dead. His hands and feet has been tied and he had been shot in the back of the head.

“His killers had hung a cardboard sign around his neck with the word ‘tout’ - meaning informer - written on it,” reported the Drumahoe-native.

The book reports how the murder almost tipped the family over the edge.

“Her mother, Bella, had been ‘doing fine,’ Alice said after her husband’s murder, but she became suicidal after the murder of her son.

“‘She said to me, Your daddy was my husband and my soulmate, but Bernard was my son. He was part of me. I carried him for nine months.’”

No definitive answer was ever given as to why he was killed.

There were rumours that he had stumbled upon and IRA arms stash, But a pub doorman told the family he had seen Bernard interrupt a hijacking.

“He was walking to his mother’s house and reached the top of the Whiterock Road when he saw a man putting a gun to the head of the driver of a drinks lorry,” reported Ms McKay.

“He rushed over and said to the gunman, ‘Hey mister, leave, that man alone. I’m going to tell on you.’

“‘Just the way a nine year old would do,’ said Alice. ‘The doorman heard our child.’

“The Army had, in fact, witnessed the attempted hijacking, and soldiers had surrounded the area and arrested the gang responsible.

“Bernard had never told anyone.

“He went back into St Patrick’s that evening,

“‘Around 8pm these ones in a black taxi went to the school and took the twins. They couldn’t tell them apart so they took them both. The priests never told us,’ said Alice.

“‘When we brought Bernard’s body home, it was terrible in the house.

“‘Every time you turned around, Gerard was lifting the body out and holding it in his arms. He couldn’t sleep. We had to put pills in his food and then we’d carry him up to bed.

“‘One day, we were walking through an army checkpoint, me and him, and he went white, as if he’d seen a ghost. He started to run, and the soldiers cocked their guns. I think he’d seen one of the IRA ones on the street that took them away that day.’”