“Liberty still has its vigilant defenders”
Alan Ross and his twin Norris Dewar McWhirter created and edited The Guinness Book of Records. In 1974, IRA bombers were plaguing London and there had been 40 attacks in a year, including the accidental murder of cancer specialist Gordon Hamilton-Fairey in Campden Hill Square on the morning of 23 October 1975 (the car bomb was intended for his next door neighbour, the Tory MP Sir Hugh Fraser). Ross, of whom the Daily Mirror once said, “Liberty still has its vigilant defenders”, decided to shame the Home Secretary and his advisors into taking action. He offered £50,000 to anyone who could give information that would lead to the capture of the Irish bombers.
Three weeks later, on 27 November, Ross and his wife, Rosemary, were intending to go to the theatre with some friends. Mrs McWhirter drove off to fill her car with petrol. As she returned home at 6.50pm, two men ambushed her and took her car keys.
She ran to her front door to get help from her husband and rang the doorbell. As he opened the door, she pushed past him into the hallway and he stood outlined in the doorframe. An IRA gunman shot him in the body and then again in the head. Ross McWhirter was pronounced dead on arrival at Chase Farm Hospital. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Southgate Cemetery, North London.
50 Village Road, Enfield, Middlesex, England
6.50pm Thursday 27 November 1975
On 6 December 1975, following a police chase through the streets of London, four IRA terrorists including the two responsible for the death of Ross McWhirter – burst into the council flat home of John Matthews, 54, and his wife Sheila, 53.
Thus began the Balcombe Street siege that was to last for six days. Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Imbert oversaw the police operation. At 2.54pm on 12 December, shortly after Mrs Matthews’s negotiated release, police sent in hot sausages, Brussels sprouts and potatoes, peaches and cream.
This was the first food the terrorists had eaten since the siege began. At 4.15pm, the terrorists agreed to surrender. One by one they left the flat with their hands in the air. The siege had lasted 138 hours. The gang members, Hugh Doherty, aged 27, Eddie Butler, 28, Harry Duggan, 25, and Martin O’Connell, 22, were given 47 life sentences at the Old Bailey in February 1977. All four men were released on 14 April 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement and were greeted as heroes by Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams who, disgustingly, referred to them as “our Nelson Mandelas”.