‘I hoped and prayed Steve would be the last’

BANBRIDGE police widow Kate Carroll provided words of comfort to the mother of murdered PSNI officer Ronan Kerr in the hours following his death.

Kate, whose husband Stephen was shot dead during a call-out in Craigavon in March 2009, spoke to Nuala Kerr after the brutal murder of her 25-year-old son on Saturday afternoon.

Constable Kerr was killed almost instantly when a bomb exploded underneath his car as he set out for work at the weekend. No group has claimed responsibility for the Catholic police officer’s death but it is widely believed dissident republicans were responsible.

Stephen Carroll was the first PSNI officer to be murdered since the service was established in 2001, and now Constable Kerr’s death has plunged Kate back into that dark place of shock, sadness and anger.

“I just feel as if I am back at the point where I was told about Steve’s death,” Kate told the Leader. “All weekend I have been going through the motions and I just feel so heartbroken. But this time it’s almost as if it’s more real if that makes sense. It’s coming home to me more. When Steve died I was a mess, I didn’t know who I was or where I was. But now I just feel devastated.”

And Kate said she now feels an anger that wasn’t present when her husband was shot dead. “I didn’t stop crying all weekend,” she said. “I just feel such anger. After Steve’s death I was hoping and praying that his name would be the last one on that memorial plaque. I didn’t want anyone else going through what I went through.”

Nuala Kerr asked to speak to Kate Carroll on Sunday after her son’s death - to hear the words of another woman touched by a similar tragedy.

“Nuala wanted to speak to me,” said Kate. “She was just in absolute shock, utterly devastated at what had happened. How devastating could that be to hear that your son has been blown up outside his house?”

And, amid plans to attend the young policeman’s funeral, Kate renewed her pledge to speak to dissidents in a bid to end their reign of terror.

“I have tried to let people know what they have done to my life since Steve’s death,” said Kate. “I would do anything to bring about peace or try to make people understand where I am coming from.

“But then again what can you say to people like that? We are all trying to move on but there is this faction that’s making a laughing stock of all the good work that’s been done.”