The Murder of Seamus Ludlow in County Louth, May 1976. Towards a public inquiry?




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Table of Contents


  1. Who was Seamus Ludlow?

  2. Where can I find more information about Seamus Ludlow?

  3. Who killed Seamus Ludlow, and why ?

  4. Why was Seamus Ludlow's murder covered up?

  5. Who leads the Ludlow family's campaign for a public inquiry?

  6. Who supports the Ludlow family?

  7. How can the Ludlow Family be contacted?

  8. What is the latest information and developments in the campaign?


Who was Seamus Ludlow?

Seamus Ludlow was a 47-year-old Catholic bachelor who lived at Thistlecross, Mountpleasant, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland, just a short distance south of the  border and the Six Counties. Educated at the nearby old Faughart National School, Seamus had lived close to his family's roots until his murder in May 1976.

 The Ludlow family commemorated the 25th anniversary of this murder on 29th April 2001.

Seamus Ludlow was born 4 December 1929 and he was murdered on 2 May 1976.

Seamus lived at his life-long home with his elderly mother Mrs Annie Ludlow, and his married sister Mrs Nan Sharkey and her family. Seamus worked with his brother-in-law Tommy Fox (now deceased) as a forestry worker in the vicinity of his home.

Seamus Ludlow was murdered near his home in County Louth by Loyalists from the Six Counties in May 1976. His Loyalist killers have never been brought to justice, though they were identified by the RUC in 1977, and his family want to know why this is so.

Seamus Ludlow met his death on the night of 1st. and 2nd. May 1976. After spending the evening in various Dundalk public houses, Seamus left the Lisdoo Arms, on the N1 road just north of Dundalk, around 11.30 pm. He was last seen standing outside Smith's Garage nearby, thumbing a lift for the three mile distance to his home, at Thistle Cross, as he had done on many occasions before. The memorial, shown at the top of this page, marks the spot where Seamus Ludlow's body was found on Sunday 2nd. May 1976.

The body was found by a tourist from the North of Ireland who was walking a dog along this quiet country road just south of the border. Soon afterwards, Kevin and Paddy Ludlow, the victim's two brothers (the latter now deceased), who were searching for their missing brother, came upon a Gardai road block on the Bog Road. To their horror they were informed that a body had been found. It was lying on top of a ditch. Soon after, Kevin Ludlow formally identified the body as that of his brother.

See also: 

The Sunday World (Southern edition), 9 May 1976: Death in a lovers' lane...Who killed Santa Claus Gardai call us in to help

The Sunday World (Southern edition), 9 May 1976 (Continued): The spot where Santa Claus died

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Where can I find more information about Seamus Ludlow?

The Ludlow family has produced another web site The Seamus Ludlow Truth and Justice Campaign. This web site has detailed accounts of Seamus Ludlow's family background, the last day of his life, and the Ludlow family's unsavoury treatment by the Gardai in the aftermath of the murder. 

There are press reports of Seamus Ludlow's murder from the Sunday Press and a Special Report from the local Argus newspaper in 1985. There are accounts of recent revelations in the press about the arrest of four Loyalist suspects from County Down in February 1998 and the Irish Victims Commission's report of 1999. 

There is a copy of a Profile on Seamus Ludlow's death, compiled by a member of the family. There is also a copy of the text of an independent report produced by the respected human rights body British Irish RIGHTS WATCH (BIRW), London. These latter two documents can also be found on this web site (see the menu to the left of this page) and on its new domain name ( version.

Reports of recent developments in the Ludlow family's campaign can be followed on this site's Chronology and Latest Reports pages. Visitors can have information delivered straight to their computer by e-mail autoresponder, by filling in the form at the bottom of this site's home page

Further information about recent developments can be found on the web sites of the Pat Finucane Centre and BIRW. A new site has recently been launched by Relatives for Justice, giving information about Seamus Ludlow's murder and many other cases of state killings. The Ludlow family highly recommends these three organizations and appreciates the terrific work that they have done to help our cause. 

An extensive collection of press and media reports of Seamus Ludlow's murder and the Ludlow family campaign has recently been added to this site. Just click on Press Coverage.

A more extensive list of sites giving coverage to this campaign can be found on this site's Links page.

Read the Barron Report: Download the Barron Report from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)

See also: The Sunday Tribune, 8 March 1998: Ed Moloney The  killing of Seamus Ludlow: Northern Editor reports on how the RUC covered up the part played by members of the security forces in a loyalist gang murder in County Louth in 1976.

The Sunday Tribune, 15 March 1998: Questions raised over Ludlow Murder.

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Who killed Seamus Ludlow, and why. ?

The first part of this question is easier to answer than the second part. Despite false claims spread by the Gardai in southern Ireland and by the British Army in the Six Counties, to the effect that Seamus Ludlow was an informer who had been murdered by the IRA, forces of a different hue were responsible. The Ludlow family emphatically maintain that Seamus Ludlow was no informer. He was not killed by the IRA.

Recent revelations of an RUC and Gardai cover-up dating from the 1970s show how in fact it was known all along that Seamus Ludlow was the victim of a Loyalist/British Army  murder gang. It is now known that the RUC in Belfast received intelligence information on the killers as early as 1977 and that they handed a file on the killing to the Gardai in 1979. This information was confirmed at a meeting with the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. 

The names off the alleged killers have recently been published by a Dublin government report compiled by Mr Justice Henry Baron, and they have been named in many newspapers.

The RUC file from 1979 contained the names of at least three of the suspects who were arrested by the RUC nearly 20 years later, in February 1998. It is not known why the RUC held onto this information for eighteen months before passing it to the Gardai or indeed if the RUC took any action against the killers during that time.

It has also emerged, from statements made by one of the suspects, Paul Hosking, than a 19-year-old member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), that he was questioned about the murder by the RUC Special Branch , some eleven years later in 1987, and that he was told to say no more about Seamus Ludlow because it was "political". 

Paul Hosking believed that the Special Branch officer, whom he has named, already knew the full story behind Seamus Ludlow's murder. Could this be because one of the three Red Hand Command/UDR killers who had accompanied Hosking to Dundalk was an agent for the Special Branch or the British Army and that he had told the authorities very soon after the killing about the gang's involvement in this crime?

Why Seamus Ludlow was killed remains a mystery. Perhaps we should be asking what the four Loyalist suspects, including two members of the British Army's Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), from far off Comber and Newtownards in north Down, were really doing in Dundalk on the night in question. 

Were they engaged in a drinking spree as it has been suggested by the witness Paul Hosking, or were they on a mission of murder? Seamus Ludlow was totally unknown to them. Could it be that he was just another Catholic ripe for killing by a sectarian death squad or was he a victim of mistaken identity, killed instead of another intended victim, who may have been a republican? There have been persistent rumours that Seamus Ludlow bore a strong resemblance to one man in particular who may have been on a death list. 

The Ludlow family has received information that the gang came to Dundalk to murder another named individual, that they somehow were unable to find their target, and that they fell upon the unfortunate Seamus Ludlow as they drove north out of Dundalk. If this account is correct, then Seamus Ludlow was a random victim of sectarian killers. He was not a victim of mistaken identity, nor was he in any way their intended target. He just became a target of opportunity for crazed loyalist killers who wanted to make their mark on Dundalk!

Recently, the murder of Seamus Ludlow was the subject of a private judicial inquiry in Dublin  under Mr Justice Henry Barron and a fresh inquest which was held September 2005.

The Barron Report was published 3 November 2005. The report publicly names the four arrested suspects who were questioned by the RUC in 1998.

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Why was Seamus Ludlow's murder covered up?

This is the question that has yet to be answered, hopefully at a public inquiry. The Ludlow family rightfully feel that those (whoever they are) who participated in this shameful neglect of duty, and perverted justice, must be forced to answer for their abuse. Gardai officers were paid and sworn to uphold the law, solve or prevent crime, and to protect members of the public from crime. 

Were they trying to preserve the reputation of the controversial Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), because its members were involved in the murder of Seamus Ludlow? The UDR was a loyalist militia within the British Army which had long been feared and rejected by nationalists as a disreputable force whose members were often linked to loyalist murder gangs. Or were they attempting to conceal possible evidence of even deeper collusion, sanctioned from a high level in the Gardai or even the government, with the British Army's activities on both sides of the border?

Certainly in the case of Seamus Ludlow's murder, and in every other case where Loyalists committed murder in the Irish state - in Dundalk, Castleblaney, Dublin, Monaghan, Buncrana and Sallins - with perhaps fifty innocent victims - the Gardai have manifestly failed in that duty. Not one of the crimes has been solved. The Gardai have arrested nobody. They have sought the extradition of nobody.

In the case of Seamus Ludlow it is clear that there was a cover-up. Members of the Gardai have candidly admitted this to several members of the Ludlow family. A secret file containing the names of at least three suspects had been gathering dust for some twenty years, even while Gardai in Dundalk were constantly assuring members of the Ludlow family that there was no other file, and there were no other suspects - apart from the IRA or members of the Ludlow family.

It has recently been reported that this RUC file had been passed to several high-ranking Gardai officers - including an Assistant Commissioner - yet no action was taken. Several officers, and others in retirement and still living, should have interesting answers to give when, or if, they are forced to testify.

It has been suggested that the cover-up was inspired by a need to protect one of the Loyalist killers who may have been an agent working within the death squad. If true, this agent, who may have been the actual killer, may well have reported back to his RUC Special Branch, British Army or MI5 handlers immediately. He may have given them a detailed report about the killing of Seam Ludlow. He may have used a British Army weapon.

The Gardai's handling of Seamus Ludlow's inquest on 19th August 1976 also leads to suspicions of a cover-up. No members of the Ludlow family were present, simply because no one within the family was given sufficient advance notice. Clearly, Ludlow family members were not wanted there. The inquest reports in the local press and the state pathologist's report say nothing about the calibre of weapon used to kill Seamus Ludlow. This neglect fuels suspicions that a British Army/UDR weapon was used. Such a weapon would have identified the killers immediately.

The Ludlow family demands a public inquiry to uncover the answers to all of the important questions raised about the official cover-up of the murder of Seamus Ludlow. These questions have been raised in previous communications between the Ludlow family and its legal representative and the authorities in Dublin and Belfast. 

The absolute necessity for the holding of a public inquiry has been argued vigorously. As this page was in construction, the Ludlow family was still waiting for an official response from the Irish Minister for Justice. There were indications that the Minister wanted the Ludlow family to agree to his extending the remit of the ongoing private Hamilton (now the Barron) Inquiry into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings to include an investigation of Seamus Ludlow's murder.

This idea was rejected by the Ludlow family who remained unswerving in their demand for a public inquiry, possibly on lines similar to the British Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings by the British Army in Derry on 30 January 1972. The Ludlow family maintained that there can be no obstacles left in the way of a public inquiry into the Seamus Ludlow murder, given that the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions has failed to bring charges against any of the four Loyalist suspects.

Ultimately, the Ludlow family did accept the Barron Inquiry, but only after it was made clear that the government was going to ahead with it anyway, regardless of the Ludlow family. The family still maintained their demand for a public inquiry. Now, that the Barron Report has finally been published, with many questions remaining unanswered, the demand for a public inquiry has intensified!

See also: The Belfast Telegraph, 8 November 2005: Victims group questions report into loyalist killing

The Irish Times, 8 November 2005: Ludlow family seeks sworn public inquiry

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Who leads the Ludlow family's campaign for a public inquiry.

A photograph of Kevin Ludlow.The Ludlow family's search for truth and justice is led by Kevin Ludlow, the only surviving brother of Seamus Ludlow. Kevin Ludlow has maintained close contacts with the Gardai ever since his brother was murdered in May 1976.

Kevin Ludlow formally identified the body of his dead brother at the murder scene on Sunday 2 May 1976, yet when the inquest was held on 19 August 1976, neither he nor any other members of the Ludlow family or their legal representative was present to witness the proceedings or ask questions. The family was excluded from the inquest, so they were reduced to reading what little emerged in the local press.

Kevin Ludlow and his family maintain their demands for a fully public inquiry into the murder of his brother Seamus and the failure of the Gardai and the RUC, who, despite their knowing of the real killers' identities since 1979, if not before, did absolutely nothing to bring these evil men to justice or to restore Seamus Ludlow's good name which had been smeared by these same authorities. 

Kevin Ludlow rejects the ongoing private Hamilton (Barron) Inquiry, established by the Dublin government, to look at the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings. The Irish authorities seem determined to push ahead with extending the remit of this private inquiry, so that it will also examine, behind closed doors, the murder of Seamus Ludlow. The Ludlow family has never accepted Hamilton because it falls far short of the open and public inquiry that they demand. The sudden resignation on health grounds of Mr. Justice Hamilton, the sole member of the private "Commission of Inquiry", and his replacement by Judge Henry Barron, in October 2000, did nothing to persuade the Ludlow family to accept this unsatisfactory process.

Many many questions arise from that behind-closed-doors inquest of 19 August 1976: the calibre and origins of the murder weapon and ammunition used in the killing come immediately to mind. The Gardai have never given Kevin Ludlow any satisfactory reasons for his and his family's exclusion from the inquest into their loved-one's murder. In an important recent development the Irish Attorney General has directed the coroner for County Louth to hold a fresh inquest into the death of Seamus Ludlow. 

On several occasions Kevin Ludlow was deliberately misled. He was told that a member of his own family was involved in his late brother's murder! He was even given the name of a particular relative. With his nephew Jimmy Sharkey, he has worked tirelessly to uncover the full truth behind his brother's murder and the reasons for the Gardai's failure to solve  the crime. 

The Ludlow family has established an Appeal Fund (see below) to help with securing the necessary funds for a campaign which will continue to drain available resources for some time to come. Any donations, to the Appeal's account at the Bank of Ireland, Dundalk, of whatever size, will be deeply appreciated.

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Who supports the Ludlow family?

The Ludlow family continues to enjoy the active support of respected human rights groups like British Irish Rights Watch , London; the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), Derry; Relatives for Justice, Belfast; and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Dublin. BIRW has produced an independent report on Seamus Ludlow's death and its esteemed Director Jane Winter has twice flown to Ireland to accompany members of the Ludlow family on important occasions - the most recent being a meeting with the Irish  Minister for Justice. Jane Winter has also kindly contributed to this web site a special message of support for the Ludlow family.

The Pat Finucane Centre, Derry, and Relatives for Justice, Belfast,  have been particularly supportive, having invited the family to their recent conferences for relatives of victims of state violence. PFC has featured the Seamus Ludlow case on its own website, including much of the recent output of journalist Ed Moloney for the Sunday Tribune newspaper. The Pat Finucane Centre published this site on its website and on its e-mail newsletter. Through PFC's efforts, this site has gained a considerable hit rate in a very short time. Relatives for Justice kindly invited the Ludlow family to send a representative to join their deputation for a meeting with Taoiseach Mr. Bertie Ahern in Dublin.

The Ludlow family is also delighted to have the support of Amnesty International and the Celtic League. Both organizations have spoken out in support of the family's demands for a public inquiry. The Celtic League has added its voice in support of the Ludlow family following the announcement, in July 2002, by the Irish Attorney General, of a new inquest into the death of Seamus Ludlow.

Both Newry and Mourne District Council and Louth County Council have supported the Ludlow family's demand for a public inquiry into the death of Seamus Ludlow. Members of the Ludlow family have addressed both elected bodies and they were accorded with a sympathetic hearing by all councillors.

The Ludlow family is also supported by a number of Irish TDs and senators and British MPs.

Since the launch of this second Ludlow family website, it has been obvious that the Ludlow family's campaign for truth and justice has many good friends at home and abroad. This is obvious from a visit to the site's new Bravenet guestmap Guest Book. Visitors can also view previous kind messages posted by supporters on our original   guestbook.

Members of the Irish Organisations United in Pennsylvania and Massachussetts are now actively campaigning on the Ludlow family's behalf. The Ludlow family's campaign is also supported by members of Friends of Irish Freedom in the United States. The campaign has also secured support from members of the Connolly Association, the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee and the James Connolly Republican Flute Band, Glasgow,

Most of all, the Ludlow family is pleased to report that their concerns and their demands for truth and justice are widely supported in their local community on both sides of the border. 

Invaluable support has also been offered by Karl Winn, a good friend in the web business who has assisted beyond all expectations in the production of a special domain name edition of this site. The Ludlow family has accepted with gratitude the professional advice and assistance that Karl has kindly offered. Karl has donated free of charge web space and other services,  which have been an important asset to this Ludlow family campaign.

The Ludlow family is pleased to report strong and helpful links with the families of the late Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters, who were murdered by a no warning Loyalist car bomb explosion outside Kay's Tavern public house, Crowe Street, Dundalk, on 19 December 1975. The Ludlow family have assisted Dundalk bombing campaign by setting up another site on their behalf. Supporters are requested to visit that site and demonstrate support by leaving a message on the guestbook.

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How can the Ludlow Family be contacted?

The Ludlow Family can be contacted  at any one of  five e-mail addresses, for which there are links at the bottom of this and all other pages in this site. The Ludlow Family particularly welcomes messages of support for their ongoing campaign for a public inquiry in Dublin. 

Messages may be left on the site's Guest Book. The Ludlow family appreciates the help and support already offered by many good people. Wherever possible, such messages are answered personally by a member of the Ludlow family. Visitors are requested to leave a valid e-mail address.

Supporters may also use a special e-mail form for this purpose.  A Fax number is also provided. Supporters are also invited to join our mailing list or tell their friends about this site and our campaign by using the special forms provided.

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What is the latest information and developments in the campaign?

In July 2002 the Irish Attorney General ordered the Louth County Coroner  to conduct a fresh inquest into the death of Seamus Ludlow. This followed a legal submission from the Ludlow family's lawyer.

This inquest came one step closer in March 2003 when the Louth County Coroner Mr Ronan Maguire released to the Ludlow family a copy of the original Garda investigation report. This report had been withheld from the Ludlow family throughout the previous 27 years of the search for truth. Unfortunately, the file, consisting of witness statements from family members, friends of the late Seamus Ludlow, people who saw him during his last hours, as well as garda witnesses has not been very helpful. The file is incomplete, much of it is barely legible and there are no signs of the vital ballistics and forensics reports.

The Inquest

In fact, the inquest would face many delays before a date was set for the autumn of 2005. 

The gardai continued to appear obstructive in delaying the handing over of vital files requested by the coroner Ronan Maguire. The files, particularly the above mentioned gardai's internal Murphy files from 1998, were only produced when the coroner threatened to report this obstruction to the Attorney General. Still, there were conditions attached: the files were marked confidential and were not to be seen by the Ludlow family or their lawyers. It was agreed that the coroner could produce sections of the files as written submissions to the inquest.

The fresh inquest began as planned on the morning of 5 September 2005 and was concluded on the evening of the 6 September 2005. The inquest attracted considerable interest from press and broadcast media. 

Disappointingly, the Murphy files remained hidden from the inquest and important information long demanded by the Ludlow family remains out of sight. The shroud secrecy and cover-up still remains hanging over  the Ludlow family's search for truth.

 A jury of 6 men and four women at Dundalk courthouse unanimously returned a verdict that Seamus Ludlow's death was an Unlawful Killing, caused by gunshot wounds, with the medical cause of death being shock and haemorrhage.

A number of important points also emerged from the inquest:

Retired Dt Supt. John Courtney, who received a file naming four loyalist suspects, from the RUC in Belfast in February 1979, stated that he was made aware of the four strong suspects in 1979 but was not given permission from Garda headquarters to pursue the investigation further. This was the first public admission that the murder investigation had been blocked by the Garda authorities in Dublin.

The same four loyalist suspects were questioned by the RUC for the one and only time in 1998 and two of the men gave similar accounts of their involvement in the crime. Again, this was a first public admission.

No Garda was recorded as being given responsibility for contacting the Ludlow family for the first inquest in August 1976.

Seamus Ludlow was not murdered by the IRA nor was he a member of the IRA. The suspicion of IRA involvement had been eliminated from the garda murder investigation within three months of the murder, though the Ludlow family were never informed. Indeed, family members were still being told this lie nearly twenty years later!

No trace of the victim's clothing or of two of the fatal bullets can be found.

Mr Justice Barron , who was conducting a private inquiry into the Seamus Ludlow murder for the Dublin government, wrote a letter to the Ludlow family's lawyer on 27 February 2003. The letter referred to matters that were raised at the previous meetings the family had with Mr Justice Barron, as well as statements made to him by unidentified witnesses.

Points raised by Mr Justice Barron included:

It has been said that although there were several possibilities considered as to how Seamus Ludlow came to his death, there was no evidence to support any of them.

The inquiry has seen intelligence passed to the security section of an garda Siochana suggesting that Seamus Ludlow was murdered because he was an informer. Gardai to whom the Inquiry has spoken do not accept this.

It has been suggested that there were murders of persons in the Dundalk area who had accidentally come across information or had spoken a word out of turn.

At present the progress of the Inquiry has been slowed owing to the absence of any information being received from outside the jurisdiction.

The above points indicate that there were indeed elements within the Gardai who helped spread lies about Seamus Ludlow being an informer who was murdered by the IRA - claims that were privately made to members of the Ludlow family by individual gardai on several occasions. Sometimes this lie was amended to a claim that Seamus Ludlow was murdered by the IRA perhaps because he saw something while he was engaged in his work at Ravensdale Forest. Yet another lie that has been bandied about for a number of years.

The final statement reveals the continued indifference to truth and justice in this sad affair that exists within the British PSNI police force and the British Army in the Six Counties, who are giving no assistance to Mr Justice Barron. 

The PSNI (then the RUC) had a file on the known killers of Seamus Ludlow since at least 1977, and it is clear that they have important evidence that could be of help to Mr Justice Barron. Since at least two of Seamus Ludlow's killers were members of the British Army's Ulster Defence Regiment it is clear that the British army could also be helpful if they were so inclined.

The private Barron Report was finally published on 3 November 2005, more than thirteen months after it was completed and passed to the government.

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