Unsolved Murders

John A Cleatheroe

Age: 25

Sex: male

Date: 22 Sep 1989

Place: Royal Marines Barracks, Deal, Kent

Eleven members of the Royal Marines Band Service were killed in an IRA bomb explosion at the Royal Marines Barracks in Deal, Kent on the morning of 22 September 1989.

They were:

  • Mark Petch 24.
  • Robert Simmonds 34, played clarinet and violin.
  • Timothy John Reeves 24.
  • Dean Pavey 31, Corporal.
  • David McMillan 26, Corporal.
  • Richard Jones 27.
  • Richard Fice 22.
  • Trevor Davis 39, Corporal. He had been mustering the band and was only a yard or two from where the bomb was and died from severe blast injuries.
  • John A Cleatheroe 25.
  • Michael Ball 24.
  • Christopher Robert Nolan 21, played saxophone and violin.

All but one of them died at the scene with Christopher Robert Nolan later dying in hospital on 18 October 1989.

It was reported that six of the men had been married and that between them they had had nine children who were left fatherless.

The bomb had gone off in the Coffee Boat rest area of the Royal Marines School of Music building at the barracks at 8.22am. It had been planted in a toilet that was left unlocked because the key was broken.

The IRA claimed responsibility for the bombing.

There had been 25 soldiers in the room at the time although ordinarily there would have been 75, but the musicians had been allowed to lie in that morning.

The explosion caused the three-storey building to collapse. 21 other people were also injured. Although most of the soldiers died in the building when it collapsed, the body of one of them was found on the roof of a nearby house.

It was said that the bomb had been a 6.8kg (15lb) Semtex time bomb and the explosion was heard several kilometres away. It was initially considered that it might have been a gas explosion. The explosion blew in the widows of nearby houses and showered debris all around. The roof of a woman's house next to the barracks was also blown off.

The bomb was thought to have been planted by three IRA members, and a holiday home in Campbell Road, Walmer near Deal was examined in the belief that the bombers had stayed there. The holiday home was said to have been owned by English people, and that they had recently rented it out to two or three men with Irish accents for two to three weeks. The police said that they knew when the men had arrived, and knew when they left, saying that they left several days before the explosion.

It was also noted that when they rented the holiday home on 2 September 1989 that they had told the man that they rented it from that they had needed to get their car repaired that day and the police appealed for garage owners to check their records and see if they had carried out repairs to cars owned by Irish people on that date.

One of the men had given the name Mr Richard and a false address in Leyton High Road, east London. He had booked the house over the telephone and had met the man that he rented it from on 2 September 1989. The landlord said that he had arranged to meet the man, Mr Richards, at 12 noon on 2 September 989 but that he failed to show up and that after waiting for an hour he went home but said that shortly after getting home Mr Richards called him again and they arranged a later meeting at 3pm. He said that when the man called him, he said, 'Sorry I am late. The car has broken down and my two mates have taken the car to a local garage to get it fixed'. The landlord said that when he turned up as arranged at 3pm he met two of the men and handed them the keys to the house.

It was noted that there was some confusion over whether there had been two or three men that rented the property, with two being seen, and one other thought to have joined them.

Drawings of the two men were later published in the newspapers. Their descriptions were:

Mr Richards

  • Age: 30 to 32.
  • Height: 5ft 11in.
  • Build: Proportionate.
  • Hair: Brown, clean shaven.
  • Complexion: Fresh.
  • Accent: Irish.

Second Man

  • Age: 28 to 30.
  • Height: 6ft.
  • Build: Proportionate.
  • Hair: Dark brown with a natural wave, clean shaven.
  • Complexion: Fresh.
  • Accent: Irish.

Forensics experts went to the holiday home to examine it for traces of explosives but refused to say anything more than that. The police said that they would be combing the house for two or three days.

There were three barracks at the school and the bomb had been placed in the Coffee Boat rest area which was next to a boiler room and some offices.

A Corporal that survived said that he had been in the Coffee Boat rest area moments before the bomb went off. He said that he had been talking to the other soldiers and had just left to look at the notice board when there was 'an almighty explosion'. He said, 'The wall I was looking at looked as if it was a sheet that was rippling in front of me. I was being blown forwards and down at the same time. Its amazing nothing came down on top of me. I was just travelling with it all at the same time. When I got up and turned round and looked behind me, the building I was in wasn't there any more'.

It was heard that after the explosion, Gateway Foodstores removed Irish products from their shelves after receiving three complaints. This resulted in churchmen and politicians in Dover appealing against anti-Irish hysteria. When Gateway Foodstores was questioned over the move they said that they had removed items such as Kerrygold butter, Irish cheese and Irish whisky from their shelves but had returned them within 24 hours. However, they added that they were prepared to remove them again if public opinion merited it.

It was later noted that part of the barracks security had been provided by a private security firm, Reliance Security, which caused controversy and which was soon after replaced at the barracks by Royal Marine guards. The managing director of the security company that had guarded Deal Barracks defended the way they had done their job, stating, 'Our duties start and stop at observation and advising the military as required'. It was later reported that relatives of some of the men killed were considering seeking legal damages from the Ministry of Defence and the private security firm that had been jointly responsible for guarding the barracks. It was said that the move was made after the four-day inquest at Dover revealed the lax security arrangements at the Royal Marines School of Music facilities.

A solicitor acting on behalf of the family of Richard Fice condemned the MoD following the inquest for limiting the inquest's ability to examine why security at the barracks had been so lax even though Deal had been on a terrorist high alert for the previous 18-months. The solicitor said, 'We say it was foreseeable that an attack would occur and they failed to take the necessary degree of precaution'. The inquest heard that although the barracks had been on a high security alert, the restroom where the bomb was planted had been left unlocked because the key was broken. It was further noted that there were at least two points nearby where an intruder could have easily climbed into the north barracks over a low wall and could have been in the toilet within 30 seconds.

It was noted that security improvements had been planned, including improved perimeter fencing, but had not been carried out.

The inquest heard that the security arrangements had been designed to allow the bandsmen to lead as normal a life as possible.

The barracks had been used in part by The Royal Marines School of Music for training members of the Royal Marines Band Service.

A memorial service was held at Canterbury Cathedral on Wednesday 22 November 1989 for the dead soldiers and was attended by the Duke of Edinburgh who was the Captain General of the Royal Marines. The service included performances by members of the Royal Marines Orchestra which included survivors from the Deal Barracks bombing.

The inquest into the soldier’s deaths was held in Dover, Kent and concluded on Thursday 13 December 1990 returning verdicts of unlawful killings in all of the eleven deaths.

The inquest heard that two watches that were pulled from out of the rubble had stopped at 8.26am or 8.27am.

The bombing was part of a long period of IRA terrorist activity across mainland England throughout the period known as the 'Troubles', and there were countless other incidents. One such incident that took place in June 1991 similarly targetted a military band at the Beck Theatre in Hayes where a 20lb bomb was left in a holdall near the theatre. However, it was discovered by a woman walking her dog. The Blues and Royals had been playing at the time and it was stated that the explosion would have been greater than that at Deal Barracks.

Other high-profile bombings carried out by the IRA included:

  • 1972: Parachute Regiment officers mess bombing in Aldershot.
  • 1973: Yorkshire barracks canteen bombing.
  • 1974: Birmingham pub bombings.
  • 1974: Guildford pub bombing.
  • 1974: Woolwich pub bombing opposite Woolwich Barracks.
  • 1981: Chelsea Barracks nail bomb. It had been planted in a laundry van.
  • 1982: Hyde Park bombing.
  • 1982: Regents Park bombing.
  • 1984: Brighton Hotel bombing.
  • 1992: Baltic Exchange bombing.

Following the murders, a memorial bandstand was erected at Walmer Green which displayed the names of the dead. A memorial in the Deal Barracks chapel was put up, but it burnt down in 2003 and the area was converted into a memorial garden.

Deal Barracks were later converted into flats in 1996 after being decommissioned and The Royal Marines School of Music was transferred to Portsmouth.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see en.wikipedia.org

see ULST

see Kent Online

see BBC

see Belfast Telegraph

see Canturbury Christcurch University

see Sunday Life - Sunday 24 September 1989

see Irish Independent - Thursday 28 September 1989

see Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Wednesday 22 November 1989

see Irish Independent - Wednesday 27 September 1989

see Sandwell Evening Mail - Thursday 19 October 1989

see Sandwell Evening Mail - Friday 22 September 1989

see Irish Independent - Wednesday 04 October 1989

see Newcastle Journal - Saturday 23 September 1989

see Evening Herald (Dublin) - Tuesday 03 October 1989

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Thursday 28 September 1989

see Sandwell Evening Mail - Wednesday 15 November 1989