Families of British soldiers killed in Hyde Park bomb at High Court

Families of four British soldiers killed in 1982 Hyde Park bomb begin battle for ‘justice’ in civil lawsuit against convicted IRA member John Downey – whose ‘fingerprints link him to attack’

  • Fingerprints belonging to IRA man John Downey were found in the Morris Marina
  • 2014 prosecution was dropped because of ‘letter of assurance’ sent in 2007
  • Blair government sent the same letter to 187 fugitives, including murderers
  • Families of four soldiers killed in 1982 start civil case against terrorist Downey 

Families of the four Royal Household Cavalrymen killed in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing said today they expect ‘justice’ as they started a civil case against the prime IRA suspect. 

Fingerprints belonging to republican terrorist John Downey were found on two parking tickets in the Morris Marina car that exploded and caused the ‘cold-blooded killing’ of British soldiers 37 years ago, the High Court in London heard. 

Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36, Lieutenant Dennis Daly, 23, Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, and Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, also 19, were killed by a car bomb as they rode through the central London park to attend the changing of the guard.  

Downey was charged with the murders but his prosecution at the Old Bailey collapsed in 2014 after it was revealed that he had received a written assurance from former prime minister Tony Blair’s government in 2007 that he was no longer wanted.

Family members of those killed launched legal action against Downey after the collapse of the trial and today arrived at the High Court in London where they are bringing a civil action against him and hope Mrs Justice Yip will say he was responsible. 

Downey is currently in prison in Northern Ireland, facing a criminal prosecution for a car bomb attack which killed Ulster Defence Regiment members Alfred Johnston and James Eames in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, in 1972. 

Sarah Jane Young, daughter of Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, Mark Tipper, brother of Trooper Simon Tipper, and Judith Jenkins, widow of Jeffrey Young, (left to right) arrive at the High Court where they are bringing a civil case against convicted IRA member John Downey over the Hyde Park bombing that took the lives of their loved-ones

Convicted member IRA member John Downey, pictured in October, faces a damages claim against him by families of the Hyde Park bombing victims brought at the High Court

A detachment of the Queen’s Household Cavalry lay dead along with their beloved horses, victims of a concealed car bomb detonated in London’s Hyde Park 37 years ago

Lieutenant Denis Daly 

The 23-year-old had been married for just 27 days when he died at the scene. The blast tragically happened as his mother was waiting in nearby Horse Guards for the mounted troop to arrive. Lt Daly had not long returned from a tour in Northern Ireland where his replacement was shot and killed by a sniper

Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright 

The 36-year-old was the standard bearer of the Blues and Royals, and died in hospital three days after being injured in the blast

Trooper Simon Tipper 

The 19-year-old had also been married for less than a month, and died at the scene

Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young 

The 19-year-old was married with two children, aged three and 22 months. He died the day after the blast – a week before his 20th birthday


Lawyers acting for Sarah-Jane Young, L/Cpl Young’s daughter, in whose name the action is being brought, told a hearing in London that the families of those killed expect ‘justice’ to be done. 

At the start of a three-day hearing in London on Wednesday, Lord Brennan QC said: ‘Thirty-seven years after, if justice can properly be done, as it can be in this case, then let it be done.

‘That will reflect the expectation of the bereaved families and the injured, it reflects the state of our law, it accords with the conviction of our community and the sentiment lying beneath it is deeply felt.’

He added: ‘Its (the bombing’s) objective was cold-blooded killing, with vicious brutality and maximum harm.

‘The claimant’s case is that these devastating consequences were intended, including the murder of these four soldiers.’

The barrister said there was ‘clear’ evidence of Downey’s involvement in the attack, including the fact that his fingerprints were found on two parking tickets used on the bomb car shortly before the explosion, adding: ‘That fingerprint evidence is damning against the defendant.’

Downey is not participating in the trial but has filed a written defence denying any involvement in the attack.

The families of Household Cavalry soldiers Anthony ‘Denis’ Daly (left) and Roy Bright (right) said they ‘never ceased in their desire to see that justice be done’

Simon Tipper (left) and Jeffrey Young (right), the other two soldiers killed in the bombing in 1982

How amnesty letters from Blair’s government were sent to 187 IRA fugitives including MURDERERS

Nearly 200 suspected IRA terrorists on the run escaped prosecution after effectively being granted an amnesty in the same way as Downey.

Some 187 fugitives, including murderers, have received letters of assurance that they will not face arrest if they return to the UK.

The Old Bailey heard how then prime minister Tony Blair, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams conducted secret negotiations to deal with the so-called ‘on-the-runs’ – an issue said to be a crucial stumbling block to decommissioning of weapons.

Mr Blair promised Mr Adams on May 5, 2000, that the issue would be resolved, saying: ‘If you can provide details of a number of cases involving people ‘on the run’, we will arrange for them to be considered by the Attorney General.’

But the Attorney General, The Lord Williams of Mostyn, privately expressed concerns about Mr Blair’s repeated promises.

He wrote to the PM’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell, saying: ‘The integrity of the criminal justice system is a fragile thing and in reaching any decision about prosecution, acting outside Government as I do, I must not act for reasons of political convenience.’

On July 20, 2007, John Downey was sent a letter saying: ‘There are no warrants in existence, nor are you wanted in Northern Ireland for arrest, questioning or charge by the police. The Police Service of Northern Ireland are not aware of any interest in you from any other police force in the UK.’

Simon Utley was just 18 years old and riding through the central London park on his first guard duty with the Household Cavalry when a car bomb exploded on July 20 1982.

The blast killed Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36, Lieutenant Dennis Daly, 23, Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, and Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, also 19, as they rode to attend the changing of the guard.

L/Cpl Young’s daughter, Sarah Young, is bringing a High Court action on behalf of a number of the victims’ relatives against convicted IRA member John Downey over the attack.

Giving evidence in London on Wednesday, Mr Utley’s voice wavered with emotion as he told the court what happened at the time of the blast.

He said: ‘I was riding along, it was my first guard so I was excited.

‘I remember I was talking to the guy to my left, just asking about what I would be doing later on … and then the bomb went off.

‘It was a noise that I can’t describe, but it was a painful noise because it took my eardrum out.

‘Then I was aware of the heat and at that point my horse just took off into Hyde Park.

‘I couldn’t stop it, it just galloped off with me on it. It took me a fair way into the park before I managed to stop it.’

Mr Utley said he saw there was a hole ‘the size of a dustbin lid’ in the left-hand side of his horse, which later had to be put down.

He described looking towards the scene of the explosion, adding: ‘I turned round and all I could see was black smoke just billowing, because I was quite a distance away.’

Mr Utley described removing his uniform and finding a nail in his breast plate, and became upset as he added: ‘I just didn’t know what to do.’

He said he was eventually taken back to the barracks in a minibus before being transferred to hospital, where he had an operation to treat a shrapnel wound to his side.

He said he remained in hospital for three or four days and later returned to his duties after undergoing a further operation to repair his eardrum and rehabilitation.

Mr Utley told the court that members of the Household Cavalry continue to pay their respects to those who were killed during the course of their daily duties.

He said: ‘To this day, they recognise the site as they are coming down the road.

‘The ordinary officer on the day will give the order to carry swords and then an order will be given to give an eyes left to the memorial on the left-hand side.’

The 1982 car bomb killed four soldiers and seven horses and left 31 people injured (pictured)

The relatives initially asked for help with legal fees through crowdfunding after being refused legal aid five times, but it was revealed in February last year that they had been granted public funding to pursue the case.

Speaking outside court ahead of the hearing, Sgt Tipper’s brother, Mark Tipper, said: ‘It’s a long time to fight for justice. It’s taken a long process. We are here now.

‘We have had to fight the Legal Aid Agency, we’ve had to fight everyone.

‘For me personally, it’s been a long campaign. It takes its toll on you.’

He added: ‘We all deserve justice.’

The car bomb left in South Carriage Drive killed the four soldiers as they travelled from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.

Two were killed instantly, while L/Cpl Young and Maj Bright died from their injuries within days. Thirty-one other people were injured.

Seven horses had to be put down and another horse, Sefton, survived terrible injuries.

The criminal case against Downey, from Co Donegal, dramatically collapsed after it was revealed that he had received a written assurance from former prime minister Tony Blair’s government that he was no longer wanted.

The letter was issued under the terms of the controversial On The Runs (OTRs) Scheme.

Trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney ruled that Downey’s arrest at Gatwick Airport, as he passed through the UK on the way to a holiday in 2013, represented an abuse of process and he put a stay on any future prosecution. 

The High Court hearing, before Mrs Justice Yip, is to determine whether Downey is liable for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing.

If the judge concludes he is, a second stage of the case will consider the amount of damages to be awarded.

Timeline: After more than three decades there is still no justice for the Hyde Park bombing victims and their bereft families

May 21, 1974 – John Downey, then 22, is convicted in Dublin of membership of the IRA.

Tuesday July 20, 1982 – IRA Hyde Park bombing. A Morris Marina car containing 20-25 pounds of explosives with wire nails as shrapnel is left in South Carriage Drive. It killed four soldiers as they rode through the park to the changing of the guard. The explosion injured other members of the Royal Household Cavalry and killed seven horses as they travelled from their barracks to Buckingham Palace. An artist’s impression of a suspect is released by the police.

1983 – Downey is identified as the suspect and an arrest warrant is issued over the bombing.

October 21, 1984 – The Sunday Times publishes Downey’s picture and alleges he is wanted over the bombing. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard prepares to seek his extradition largely based on fingerprint evidence on parking tickets.

1985-1987 – The Sunday Times publishes three more articles repeating that Downey is wanted by police.

November 21, 1989 – The then attorney general Sir Patrick Mayhew considers Downey’s case and decides the finger print evidence is not compelling enough to seek extradition.

June 1991 – a review by Scotland Yard backs up the decision not to seek extradition.

1993 – Scotland Yard decide: ‘The subject is not extraditable but is obviously arrestable should he be detained within the UK jurisdiction…’

August 29, 1994 – the warrant for Downey’s arrest is accidentally removed.

October 31, 1994 – when the error is spotted the warrant is recirculated.

April 10, 1998 – the historic Good Friday Agreement is signed. It provides a framework for the early release of serving prisoners.

From July 1998 – as part of the extended negotiations between the British government, Sinn Fein, and the Northern Ireland government, the names of 187 On The Runs (OTRs) – including Downey – can be submitted by Sinn Fein for checks whether they are wanted by authorities in Northern Ireland or in the UK.

2001 – the UK makes a commitment not to pursue those who might benefit from early release schemes.

July 20, 2007 – Downey, 62, of County Donegal, receives a ‘letter of assurance’ from Tony Blair’s government that he is not wanted in Northern Ireland or the UK when in fact there is an outstanding warrant against him in the UK. The letter is sent by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on behalf of the secretary of state for Northern Ireland and the attorney general. The letter reassures Downey that he can visit his son and grandchild in Canada. He also travels several times to the UK and Northern Ireland.

2008 – a chain of emails between two PSNI officers indicates that the PSNI knew that Downey was wanted over the Hyde Park bombing by the Metropolitan Police and that this was not mentioned in the 2007 letter. In the summer, before travelling with his wife to Canada, Downey contacts the Canadian authorities for a temporary residence permit. He says: ‘The reason for the above application is that I served a term of imprisonment in Portlaoise prison in the Irish Republic in 1974…I was named in some British newspapers as being responsible for the Hyde Park & Regents Park bombings in 1982, which I strenuously deny. No warrant was ever issued by the British authorities to have me extradited and I understand from contacts which have taken place between British and Sinn Fein that they, the British, have no further interest in me. I have strongly supported the peace process from the very beginning of the talks and I believe that the only way forward for all people on the island of Ireland north and south is in peaceful co-operation and mutual respect and understanding for each other…’ The application is granted.

2009 – Downey visits Londonderry and Belfast in his role to promote greater understanding between Republican and Loyalist ex prisoners.

2010-2013 – he visits the United Kingdom seven times without incident and in 2012 attends the National Commemoration of the Hunger Strikes in Northern Ireland.

May 19, 2013 – Downey is arrested at Gatwick Airport en route to Greece. He allegedly told police: ‘I am surprised that this had come up as I have travelled in and out of the UK on a number of occasions to see family and I have travelled to Canada from Dublin. When I went to Canada I contact the UK government to check it would be OK as I didn’t want any problems. They said that would be fine.’ He is subsequently charged over the murder of four British soldiers and causing an explosion.

January 2014 – a trial date is listed at the Old Bailey before Mr Justice Sweeney. Instead, Downey’s defence team launch an 11th hour bid for the case to be thrown out due to an ‘abuse of process’.

February 2014 – Trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney throws out the case because of the PSNI error in sending the letter and not correcting the false impression it gives Downey (pictured outside court). The final ruling was handed down on Friday February 21 but could not be reported until the prosecution had decided in discussion with the Attorney General not to appeal.

December 11, 2019 – the families of the dead soldiers get their day in the High Court – but Downey denies any involvement 

Slaughter in Hyde Park: Car bomb killed four soldiers and seven horses and left 31 people injured

On July 20, 1982, a car bomb left on South Carriage Drive killed the soldiers as they rode through Hyde Park in Central London to the changing of the guard.

The explosion killed Roy Bright, Dennis Daly, Simon Tipper and Jeffrey Young and injured other members of the Royal Household Cavalry. Some 31 people were injured in total.

Seven horses were also killed as the soldiers travelled from their barracks to Buckingham Palace. Another horse, Sefton, survived terrible injuries and became a national hero. 

The evidence centred around NCP parking tickets with Downey’s fingerprints on them, according to an overview of the case set out in his judgment by Mr Justice Sweeney.

The scene following the IRA car bomb blast in Hyde Park, London, on July 20, 1982

Police forensic officers work in 1982 on the remains of the IRA bought Morris Marina car which housed the giant bomb

The bomb killed four soldiers as they rode through the park to the changing of the guard – seven horses were slaughtered

The Duke of Edinburgh’s car passing the site of the Hyde Park bomb after a visit from nearby Buckingham Palace

A police photographer at the scene of the car bomb, in which four soldiers died

Downey, of County Donegal in Northern Ireland, has always strenuously denied he was involved in the bombing which killed four soldiers and seven horses, and injured 31 more people.

It was caused by a remote control improvised explosive device which contained 20-25 pounds of commercial high explosive with wire nails as shrapnel.

The bomb was hidden in the boot of a blue Morris Marina car parked in South Carriage Drive and detonated as the guard was passing en route to the changing of the guard.

The victims were Lieutenant Denis Daly, 23, Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, 19, and Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36.

The Marina had been bought the week before at a car auction in Enfield by a man with an Irish accent who gave false details, according to the court document.

The prosecution case was based on the fact Downey had been convicted in 1974 of being a member of the IRA, according to the judgment.

His appearance in 1982 was allegedly consistent with photofits and artist’s impressions created from three witnesses who reported two men carrying out reconnaissance in South Carriage Drive on June 30 and July 1 1982.

Furthermore, three of Downey’s fingerprints were found on a ticket dispensed when the Marina was driven into an NCP car park in Portman Square, London, on July 17 1982 and surrendered when the car was driven away the following day – two days before the bombing.

And two more fingerprints were found on the ticket dispensed when the Marina was driven into the NCP car park at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, west London, at 6.39pm on Sunday July 18 1982 and driven away at 6.51am on Tuesday July 20, just four hours before the bombing, the judgment said.

Downey became a suspect when police allegedly matched his fingerprints on the Royal Garden Hotel ticket with prints taken by the Garda in the Irish Republic in July 1980.

A photograph of Downey was found from a ‘delicate source’ and believed to match a photofit from one of the witnesses, the judgment said.

After he was arrested last year at Gatwick Airport, Downey was charged with the four murders and with causing an explosion.

Members of the victims’ families had sat in the public gallery as lawyers for the prosecution and defence argued over whether a trial should go ahead.

After Mr Justice Sweeney gave his judgment, throwing out the case, Downey declined to comment to reporters in Court One at the Old Bailey.

An arrest warrant was issued, but it was decided not to seek Downey’s extradition from the Irish Republic in 1989, in part due to the lack of strong evidence against him, the court was told.

Then in 2007, Downey received assurance he was not at risk of prosecution as part of a scheme run by the Northern Ireland police.

He was one of 187 On the Runs (OTRs) to seek clarification from the authorities in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement. 

More than 100 IRA victims and their families write to Jeremy Corbyn demanding a meeting over his ‘support for violent republicanism’ and accuse him of ‘supporting terrorists more than the victims’ 

More than 100 victims of IRA terrorism today demanded a showdown with Jeremy Corbyn over his ‘support for violent republicanism’.

In a public letter to the Labour leader they accuse him of not responding to an appeal in October for him to ‘unequivocally condemn IRA terrorists’.

Mr Corbyn is a long-term supporter of Irish unity who has hosted Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness –  a former IRA commander – in Parliament.

But the Labour Party insisted today that he ‘was never a supporter of the IRA’.

Among the 102 people demanding a meeting are victims of the Enniskillen and Hyde Park atrocities.

Mark Tipper, whose brother Simon was one of four soldiers killed in the attack in Hyde Park in 1982, said: ‘We could wake up on Friday morning and Corbyn could be prime minister.

‘But to people like me, and to other victims, it feels like he supports terrorists more than the victims and more than the ordinary people of this country.’

Mr Corbyn, then a backbench Labour MP, with Gerry Adams in the House of Commons in 1995, before the Good Friday Agreement

Mr Corbyn met with senior Sinn Fein leaders incluing Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in Parliament as recently as 2015, the year he became Labour leader

The letter is supported by the political activism group Mainstream, which has produced a report highlighting Mr Corbyn’s support for dissident republicanism.

In 1984, he hosted Linda Quigley and Gerard McLoughlin in Parliament less than a fortnight after the Brighton bombing that killed 13 Tory delegates visiting the party conference. Both were convicted IRA terrorists.

In 1986, Mr Corbyn was arrested as he took part in a protest outside the Old Bailey trial of the Brighton bomber Patrick Magee. 

He met Gerry Adams in Parliament in 1995 – before the Good Friday Agreement – and again in 2015, along with Martin McGuinness and other Sinn Fein leaders.

And in 2000 the now Labour leader shared a platform with Brendan McKenna, who had been was jailed for a bombing in Portadown, at an event commemorating Bloody Sunday.  

Boris Johnson has used Jeremy Corbyn’s longstanding support for the IRA to undermine the Labour leader’s security credentials as the race for Number 10 enters the home stretch.

In a fiery exchange during last Friday’s BBC head-to-head in Maidstone, the PM used a question about the Union to dredge up his rival’s sympathies with the terrorist nationalists.

He said: ‘I do find it slightly curious to be lectured about the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland by a man who all his political life has campaigned to break up that Union and who supported for four decades the IRA in their campaign violently to destroy it. I must say I find it a curiosity.’


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