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Tuesday, June 22, 1999 Published at 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK


Patrick Magee: The IRA Brighton bomber

The bomb blasted a hole in the Grand Hotel, Brighton

Patrick Magee plotted to kill former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet.

By planting the Brighton bomb at the Grand Hotel during the Tory party conference in 1984, he nearly succeeded.

The Search for Peace
Mrs Thatcher and her Cabinet escaped the blast, but it left five people dead and 34 injured.

'Cruel and inhumane'

At Magee's trial, the judge Mr Justice Boreham recommended that he serve a minimum of 35 years.

He branded Magee "a man of exceptional cruelty and inhumanity" who enjoyed terrorist activities.

[ image: Magee: Murder plans]
Magee: Murder plans
If Magee served the judge's recommended minimum sentence, he would be 70 before he tasted freedom.

In September 1986, Magee, who was then 35, received eight life sentences at the Old Bailey. Seven of them were for offences relating to the Brighton bombing on 12 October 1984.

He was sentenced for planting the bomb, exploding it, and five counts of murder.

The eighth life sentence was for a separate conspiracy to bomb 16 targets in London and resorts around Britain.

Four members of an IRA "active service unit" who worked with him on that project were also jailed.

Judge's satisfaction

When he sentenced Magee, Mr Justice Boreham voiced his satisfaction at the length of time Magee would serve.

He said: "You intended to wipe out a large part of the government and you nearly did.

"I must be grateful that in recent years legislators have raised the maximum sentence from a mere 20 years to life imprisonment for explosive offences."

[ image: Margaret Thatcher: Bomb target]
Margaret Thatcher: Bomb target
Three-and-a-half weeks before the bombing, Magee had checked into the hotel under the fictitious name Roy Walsh.

He stayed there from 14 to 17 September. In his room, he primed a 20-30lb bomb which he hid in a bathroom wall with a timing device set for 24 days ahead.

He had allegedly honed his skills at Libyan terrorist training camps.

At 2.54am on 12 October, the bomb blasted a gaping hole through the hotel's facade.

Mrs Thatcher was in the hotel working on her conference speech at the time of the explosion.

Five killed

The five people killed in the bombing were Sir Anthony Berry, 59, the MP for Enfield Southgate; Roberta Wakeham, 45, wife of the then Tory Chief Whip Lord Wakeham; The Tories' North West Area Chairman Eric Taylor, 54; Muriel Maclean, 54, wife of Scottish Chairman Sir Donald Maclean; and Jeanne Shattock, 52, wife of the Western Area Chairman.

One of the best-remembered images of the night was that of the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Norman Tebbit, who had to be rescued from the rubble. His wife was paralysed in the blast.

[ image: Norman Tebbit was rescued from the rubble]
Norman Tebbit was rescued from the rubble
Sussex police traced and eliminated 800 people from 50 countries who had stayed at the hotel in the month before the attack.

Only Roy Walsh could not be accounted for, but his true identity was finally revealed when a palm print on a hotel registration card matched a print taken from Magee years earlier when he was first arrested as a juvenile in Norwich, where he grew up.

Detectives did not want to issue a public alert, so they waited, hoping that Magee would eventually reappear on the mainland.

Police trailing another IRA suspect Peter Sherry arrested Magee in June 1995 at an IRA safe house in Glasgow, as he planned the attacks on British resorts.

When he was finally jailed, he gave a clenched fist salute as he was led off to start his sentence.

Magee was born in Belfast but moved with his family to Norwich when he was two. He returned to Belfast at the age of 18 in 1969, and joined the Provisional IRA soon afterwards.

Magee has made the headlines since his imprisonment. In September 1994, former Prime Minister John Major ordered an inquiry when four republican prisoners, including Magee, were transferred from English jails to prisons in Ulster only hours after the first IRA ceasefire.

He has used his time in prison to study for a PhD in "Troubles" fiction. In August 1997 he got married for a second time to novelist Barbara Byer after the couple struck up a relationship via correspondence.

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