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Why daughter of Real IRA bomb victim in Derry is still searching for truth from British spy

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 31/07/2022 Ciaran O'Neill

Gillian McFaul will tomorrow visit the grave of her father and try to remember the good times they had together. However, many of her memories are clouded by the brutal way in which he was murdered when she was just 14.

On August 1, 2002, David Caldwell went to work on a refurbishment project at a Territorial Army base in Derry. A short time after arriving at the Caw base, the digger driver suffered serious injuries after picking up a lunch box containing a booby-trap bomb. The device had been left in a workers’ hut on the site the previous night by members of the Real IRA.

Mr Caldwell (51), died a short time later at Altnagelvin Hospital.

Ms McFaul remembers receiving a call to say her father had been involved in an accident.

David Trimble knew securing the rights of his own sect meant securing a future that was not sectarian

“He had left his glasses at home that day and he needed his glasses to drive so we thought he had run into someone in the car,” she said.

“I remember seeing the police at the hospital but we still did not know what had happened.

“The medical staff came in around quarter past nine to say that he had died from his injuries. The police then told us about the bomb.”

No-one has ever been charged in connection with the attack.

The father-of-four’s murder was the first killing by the Real IRA following the Omagh bomb in August 1998 in which 29 people died.

Mr Caldwell, who had been a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment in the 1980s, lived in the village of Eglinton a few miles outside Derry city.

The killing sparked condemnation throughout Northern Ireland and Ms McFaul said her father’s death had a “devastating” impact on her family.

“I had to leave school to look after my mother because she took sick. I left school with no education and had to restart again when I was 17, 18,” she said.

“I kind of went off the rails and did not have a father figure. I was bitter for a long time but I had to learn that you don’t get anywhere by being bitter.” She added her parents had always stressed the importance of “treating everyone the same”.

In 2016, Mr Caldwell’s family were shocked when a book included alleged new information about his murder. Charlie One was described as the “true story of an Irishman in the British Army and his role in covert counter-terrorism operations in Northern Ireland”.

The author, who used the pseudonym Seán Hartnett and said he had grown up in Cork in the 1970s, claims to have been deployed to Northern Ireland in 2001. A year later, he writes, he was involved in a surveillance operation against key Real IRA suspects in the days before Mr Caldwell’s murder.

He claims the security forces were aware the key suspect’s car was being used to transport a bomb but did not know the intended target.

The suspect’s white Vauxhall Cavalier car was loaded with electronic surveillance equipment and tailed for days. Hartnett claims the vehicle travelled south before returning across the Border two days before the murder to meet another vehicle.

Hartnett, who was based with the North Det intelligence team in Co Derry, claims when the two cars parted, the officer in charge opted to maintain surveillance of the Vauxhall instead of following the other car. However, it appeared the killers “wrong-footed” the intelligence operatives and the other vehicle is believed to have been used in the attack that killed Mr Caldwell.

He writes: “Until now, no one had any knowledge of North Det’s involvement in the incident. David Caldwell’s daughter, Gillian McFaul, has been looking for answers ever since that day. I hope this provides some.”

However, the book raised more questions than answers for her and the family and she has appealed for Hartnett to pass on all the information he has to investigating officers.

“The police say they have been in contact with him through letters and they know who he is, but they say they have never actually got the chance to meet him,” Ms McFaul said.

“He does not have to make himself known to me or my family or come into the public eye but I would like him to contact the relevant authorities to try and help us get closure.

“This would help me get on with my life with my children. I don’t want something coming out in another 20 years. I don’t want that for them.”

She believes her father’s death has been “brushed under the carpet” because it happened at a time when the focus was on keeping the fragile peace process on track.

Tomorrow, the 20th anniversary of her father’s murder, she will visit his grave: “I will remember the good times and try not to remember the bad. At the minute I remember the bad memories more than the good.”

David Trimble knew securing the rights of his own sect meant securing a future that was not sectarian

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