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Families of soldiers murdered by IRA in 1982 Hyde Park bombing seek substantial damages

Martin Evans
·3-min read
Four soldiers were killed and 31 people injured in the Hyde Park bombing of 1982 - PA
Four soldiers were killed and 31 people injured in the Hyde Park bombing of 1982 - PA

The daughter of one of the soldiers killed by the IRA in the Hyde Park bombing is demanding more than £750,000 in damages from the prime suspect, after recalling how as a four-year-old child she watched her father leave the barracks on horseback, never to return.

Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, 19, was one of four members of the Royal Household Cavalry to be killed when Republican terrorists detonated a car bomb close to the Changing of the Guard in July 1982.

Yesterday his daughter, Sarah Jane Young, was joined by relatives of the other murdered soldiers as they went to the High Court to demand "substantial damages" from convicted IRA member John Downey.

The 68-year-old had been due to stand trial in 2014 for the atrocity, but the case collapsed when it emerged that he had been given a 'comfort' or 'on the run letter', as part of the peace process, which gave him immunity from prosecution.

Last year a judge ruled that Downey, who now lives in a luxury lakeside house in County Donegal, was an "active participant" in the bombing and was jointly responsible for the attack, which left 31 other people injured.

John Downey is taking no part in the proceedings - Eddie Mulholland
John Downey is taking no part in the proceedings - Eddie Mulholland

Lawyers for the families argued that the damages would "mark society's condemnation" of the terrorists and would help vindicate the relatives of those killed who had not been able to achieve resolution through the criminal courts.

In addition to exemplary damages, Ms Young is also seeking £750,000 for psychiatric damage she suffered as a result of her father's murder.

Her barrister, Anne Studd QC, told the court that, as a four-year-old, Ms Young watched from her nursery window as her father left on horseback, never to return.

She heard the blast and recalled seeing injured soldiers return to the Knightsbridge barracks.

Ms Studd told the court: "The murder of four members of the Household Cavalry on 20 July 1982 in Hyde Park, on their way to the Changing of the Guard, was a defining moment in the IRA attacks on the British establishment.

"The claimant is but one victim of those attacks but she brings this claim for assessment of damages arising from the brutal murder of her father, to vindicate herself and others who have been unable to achieve any resolution of their claims though the state's more usual channels of prosecution and the imprisonment of those responsible.

"In their case the state failed and their situation was grossly exacerbated by the wrongful issue of an 'on the run' letter which resulted in Mr Justice Sweeney staying the indictment against the defendant on grounds of abuse of process."

Ms Studd explained that Downey had been notified about the damages assessment taking place, but had not responded and is not involved in the hearing.

In August 2018, the Telegraph revealed how Downey had transferred the ownership of his £300,000 luxury home into his wife's name ahead of any possible civil claim against him.

The families of those who were murdered are seeking damages from John Downey
The families of those who were murdered are seeking damages from John Downey

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

Two were killed instantly while L/Cpl Young and Maj Bright died within days.

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