Profile prepared by a member of the
On the 1st May 1976, Seamus Ludlow
returned from work at 1.15p.m. It was a lovely sunny day on a Saturday
afternoon. Seamus was employed by Mr. Danny Philips, Timber Merchant, in
Ravensdale, Co. Louth. His brother-in-law, Tommy Fox, also worked there as a
tree feller. Both men got on very well with each other and enjoyed a bit of 'craic'.
Seamus cleaned himself up and headed for Dundalk at about
3.00p.m. which was his customary routine on a Saturday afternoon, where he would
enjoy a few pints and play a few games of darts and rings with his friends,
frequenting two or three pubs in the town.
This is a photograph of the Lisdoo Arms.
It was known he drank in the Lisdoo Arms Pub. Leaving at about
11.30p.m. to hitch a lift home to his home at Thistle Cross, Mountpleasant, he
was spotted by a number of people hitching a lift between the Lisdoo Arms
(photographed here) and Smith's Garage on the Newry Road. Sometime between
11.40p.m. and 12.30a.m. a strange car with strange men stopped and gave him a
lift. The journey to his home would have taken 8-10 minutes, depending on the
traffic, Seamus never returned home.
On Sunday morning, 2nd May 1976, his sister Nan Sharkey, whom
Seamus lived with along with his mother, was getting her children ready to
attend Mass at 8.00a.m. in the local Convent when she noticed Seamus had not
returned home from Dundalk from the previous day. She became quite agitated and
upset as this was not what Seamus would have ever done. On returning from Mass
at about 9.00a.m. she contacted his two brothers in Dundalk to see if he had
stayed with them. His two sisters were also contacted to see if he had stayed
with them, but they also had not seen him. At about 11.30a.m. the Gardai were
informed that Seamus was missing. A large search party was organised by family,
friends and Gardai to look for him.
At about 3.00p.m. two people from Northern Ireland were out
walking down the bog road which leads to the back entrance to Ballymascanlon
House Hotel and one mile from Seamus Ludlow's home. They turned left down a lane
off the bog road about 25 ft. down the lane on the right hand side the two
people notice a group of cattle in the field standing close to the ditch. The
cattle were quite agitated and they were looking at something lying on the ditch
in the field. One of the two people climbed up on the ditch from the laneside of
the field. They noticed a body of a man lying prone on the ditch on the field
The two people made their way to a nearby house to phone the
Gardai. The Gardai arrived within 10 minutes and, on inspection, of the man's
body noticed a lot of blood and what seemed to be gunshot wounds or stab wounds.
Immediately the area was sealed off and a murder inquiry began. Members of the
Ludlow family were informed of the discovery of a body. Kevin Ludlow, the
deceased's brother, Tommy Fox and John Sharkey, both brothers-in-law of the
deceased, went to the murder scene. Positive identification was made by Mr.
Kevin Ludlow of his brother at this time, approximately 4.15p.m. News had spread
fast of the gruesome discovery and a large crowd of neighbours had gathered
close to the scene at about 6.00p.m. Dr. John Harbison, the newly appointed
State Pathologist, arrived to examine the body and the murder scene. At about
7.30p.m. the body of Seamus Ludlow was removed to the Louth County Hospital for
a more thorough examination by Dr. Harbison. The murder scene was sealed off and
the murder squad took over the case. An incident room was set up in the Garda
Station in Dundalk. The murder Squad was lead by Detective Chief Superintendent
Dan Murphy (now deceased) and his team of 30 Detectives comprising Detectives
from Dublin and Dundalk.
The murder investigation got into full
swing with over 2,000 people questioned. 1,700 homes were visited and 1,000 cars
stopped at vehicle checkpoints over the coming four weeks. The Gardai
concentrated their investigation on the Provisional I.R.A. In the area where
Seamus Ludlow lived there were up to 40/50 top I.R.A. men domicile.
All family members were questioned vigorously by the Special
Branch about the murder. In fact, the Special Branch became very hostile towards
family members and showed no sign of sympathy or compassion towards the family.
Family members, at the time, could not believe the behaviour of the Special
Branch (but there was a method in the behaviour as time was to tell.)
On Wednesday the 5th May 1976, Seamus Ludlow was buried in
Calvary Cemetery in Ravensdale, Co. Louth. An estimated 2,500 people attended
the removal and burial. The largest funeral seen in Ravensdale in living memory.
About four weeks after the murder, abruptly and suddenly, the
investigation came to a halt. No reason was ever given to the family by the
Gardai or the Special Branch as to why this happened, in fact, relations between
the family and the Gardai deteriorated. Individual Gardai who were on good terms
with the family, stopped talking to the family members to the amazement and
surprise of the family members.
The Gardai or Special Branch never came back to the family to
explain how far their investigation had got - this was very strange indeed.
Some old family members approached the Gardai soon after the
investigation ended and they were told a variety of reasons as to why Seamus
Ludlow was murdered, but nothing concrete. The Gardai were pointing the finger
firmly at the Provisional I.R.A. and over the coming years Kevin Ludlow, who
called to the Gardai Station in Dundalk on a yearly basis to see if any new
information had come to light on the murder, was repeatedly told by a Special
Branch Detective whom, he (Kevin) was friendly with, that it was the I.R.A. and,
in fact, named names to Kevin, saying "We will 'f......' get them for this
The family now know that this was part of the propaganda
machine orchestrated by the Gardai to divide the family and to dishonour
Seamus's good name, which they did for 22 years and are still trying to do.
The inquest into the murder of Seamus Ludlow was held on
Thursday 19th August 1976 in Dundalk. The Coroner that day was Dr. Scully. No
member of the family were ever told that the inquest was to be held.
Kevin Ludlow received a phone call that morning at 10.15a.m.
that the inquest was to be held at 11.00a.m. Kevin was working on the
Warrenpoint Road in Newry, Co. Down, when he received the phone call. It would
have taken Kevin one and a half hours to get home and dressed to attend the
inquest. He phoned his wife in Dundalk asking her to try and get the inquest put
back, but she was told it was first on the list. Sergeant Jim Gannon said he
spoke for the family which was not true. Again, this was further proof of the
behaviour of the Gardai at that time.
The Coroner's Report showed that Seamus Ludlow was shot three
times in the lung, liver and the fatal shot to the heart. He also had a bullet
wound to his left hand where he had put up his hand to stop a bullet. Seamus had
been shot at point blank range, possibly 2 ft., and he was in a seated position
when he was shot. Seamus's clothing and shoes were clean, given that the lane
where the murder took place was wet and mucky, indicating that he was shot
elsewhere, possibly, in the back of a car.
For 20 years the murder remained a mystery. The Gardai
repeatedly told Kevin Ludlow "no new evidence" had come to light on
the murder and the only organisation they were looking at was Provisional I.R.A.
Then in October 1995 an investigative
journalist who worked in Northern Ireland approached members of the family,
saying he had new information about the "Ludlow Murder". (The same
journalist came to see Mrs. Sharkey about 1985 but she did not entertain him). A
meeting was set up between him and the family. He told the family that Loyalist
paramilitaries from Northern Ireland (and not Republicans) murdered Seamus
Ludlow and that the Gardai knew this all along.
A series of meetings was held between the journalist and the
family over the coming months. Jimmy Sharkey, a nephew of Seamus Ludlow, asked
the journalist where he got this information. He said he had a source (a retired
Detective), whom he trusted for 12 years and his source told him that the men
who murdered Seamus Ludlow were from Dundonald, east of Belfast in North Down
and were known to the Gardai all along. With this information the family held a
Press Conference in the Buswells Hotel in Dublin on 2nd May 1996, the 20th
Anniversary of the murder. They called on the then Gardai Commissioner, Mr.
Patrick Culligan, to reopen the murder case, which he did.
On the 16th May 1996 the family held their first meeting with
the Gardai and there was several meetings over the next two years between them.
The Gardai liaised with their counterparts in Northern Ireland, the R.U.C. and
on Tuesday 17th February 1998, four prime suspects were arrested and taken to
Castlereagh Holding Centre in Belfast. One of the suspects was arrested in his
home in Staffordshire in England and flown to Belfast. All four were questioned
for six days. On the sixth day, all four were released without charge and a file
sent to the D.P.P. in Northern Ireland for consideration.
On hearing the news that all four prime suspects were released
without charge, the family though disappointed, were not disheartened. As the
pressure was kept on the Gardai and the R.U.C. to come up with some answers,
both the Gardai and the R.U.C. told the family that these four prime suspects
were the ones involved in the murder of Seamus Ludlow and they were 100% sure of
The car used in the murder that night was a two door yellow
Datsun, sporty type - the gun used was a .38 revolver.
On Thursday 5th March 1998, Mr. Ed Moloney contacted Kevin
Ludlow and Jimmy Sharkey. Ed Moloney is the Northern Ireland Editor of the
"Sunday Tribune" newspaper. He told them that one of the suspects, a
Mr. Paul Hosking from Newtownards, Co. Down, wanted to tell his story to Ed
Moloney and on Sunday the 8th March 1998, the "Tribune"
printed the full text of Hosking's gruesome story.
A short time after the murder was committed in 1976, possibly
3/4 months, the Gardai had 60 - 70% of this information. In 1979 two Senior
Detectives travelled to R.U.C. Headquarters in Belfast and received all relative
information to the murder. The information was put in the murder file and never
acted upon, but this did not stop the Gardai from telling lies to the family.
The Detective who got the information in 1979 and put it in the file, Chief
Supt. John Courtney, is now retired, and living in Dublin.
On Thursday 20th August 1998, Kevin Ludlow and Jimmy Sharkey
travelled to Dublin to meet Mr. Courtney. On hearing the name
men, using very threatening language to them. Mr. Courtney then entered his
house and would not come out.
This was the action of a guilty man.
The R.U.C. have said the file would be submitted to the D.P.P.
by the end of September 1998.
In the mid-seventies, the Northern Ireland troubles were at
their peak, especially so around the border areas. Portadown, in Mid-Ulster was
a staunchly Loyalist town. Dundalk was seen as a staunchly Republican town. It
was at this time that the troubles had spilled over into the south. Loyalist
paramilitaries made some spectacular attacks across the border into the Irish
Republic - chief amongst these were:-
Dublin and Monaghan bombings 1974.
The shooting of I.R.A. Commander John Francis Green near
Castleblayney in January 1975.
Car bomb in Castleblayney March 1976 - one killed, Patrick
Murder of Mr. Christy Phelan in Sallins in Co. Kildare in 1975
- stabbed 57 times with a dagger.
Car bomb in Dundalk town centre in December 1975 - two dead -
Hugh Watters and Mr. Rooney.
Murder of Seamus Ludlow 2nd May 1976
As can be seen, Loyalist paramilitaries were very active at
this time i.e. U.V.F. and Red Hand Commandos, also the S.A.S were operating
covertly along the South Armagh, North Louth Border and they murdered and
abducted 2/3 well known Republicans in and around the South Armagh and Dundalk
area. In fact, three days after Seamus Ludlow was murdered, on the 5/6th May
1976, eight heavily armed S.A.S men were arrested by the Gardai on the southside
of the border at a place called 'Flagstaff' near Omeath, in Co. Louth.
It is also important to point out that the Government at that
time was the Coalition Government of Mr. Liam Cosgrove TD - it ran from 1973 -
This Government was very Pro-British and was very
* This Profile was prepared by Jimmy Sharkey, a nephew of the late Seamus
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