Last prison officer to die had strong links to Ballymoney area

THE murder of prison officer, David Black, on the MI motorway early last Thursday morning will bring back painful memories for the family of Mr. Jim Peacock, the last officer to die at the hands of terrorists.

Mr. Peacock, (44), whose family had links with Ballymoney, died on September 1, 1993 while at home with his wife and daughter. He joined the Northern Ireland Prison Service in 1977 and served for over 16 years. His burial took place at Ballymoney cemetery following a service.

Prior to his death, Mr Peacock was an officer in Belfast prison. The attack was one of five carried out against members of the Prison Service on that day and followed a UVF threat against staff following disturbances in Loyalist wings at Maze. Mr Peacock was survived by his wife and children.

Another local officer, Thomas Graham Fenton, from Cloughmills, was just 20 years old when he was murdered by the IRA as he enjoyed an off duty evening at Molloy’s bar near the village.

Officer Fenton was a member of the Northern Ireland Prison Service from October 1976 until 22 July 1977.

The latest victim was from Cookstown and had been working at Maghaberry. Dissident republicans were immediately blamed for the killing.

A car with Dublin registration plates drove up beside him and fired a number of shots. His car veered into a ditch.

The Black’s family minister, Rev Tom Greer, said his family has appealed for no retaliation “from any quarter”.

“David’s wife Yvonne is broken by the loss of her husband,” he said.

“His children Kyle and Kyra are in a state of shock and are unable to comprehend what has happened, the brutal murder of their father.”

It is the second tragedy to strike the family in the past year. In November last year, Mrs Black lost her father in a slurry tank accident at his farm in Maghera.

Mr Black was attacked on the motorway between Portadown and Lurgan.

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said he sustained very serious and probably fatal gunshot wounds.

The car with Dublin registration plates was later found burned out at Inglewood, Lurgan.

There has been widespread condemnation of the murder. Prime Minister David Cameron said the Westminster government would do whatever it could to help the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) bring the killers to justice.

“First and foremost this is a dreadful tragedy for the family and friends of David Black who has been so brutally murdered as he went about his work keeping the people of Northern Ireland safe,” he said.

“My heart goes out to them. These killers will not succeed in denying the people of Northern Ireland the peaceful, shared future they so desperately want.”

First Minister Peter Robinson said those responsible for Mr Black’s murder were “flat earth fanatics” and “deviants”.

He added that the murder would only serve to galvanise and unify the community and its leaders.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness unreservedly condemned the murder and said those responsible could not kill the peace process.