1973 - Brian McDermott was in my class in Nettlefield Primary School. He disappeared from a playground in Ormeau Park, Belfast on September 2, 1973. A week later his mutilated torso and arm were recovered from the River Lagan.
This sent shock waves around not only the Ravenhill area but the entire country. Yes, we murdered people in the names of the "Keep Ulster British" or "Free Ireland" causes, but children were never harmed deliberately, or particularly in this way. The murder of my classmate Brian reignited the memories of Ian Brady’s and Myra Hyndley's brutal murders of five children in Greater Manchester during the 1960s.
Many people in our area spoke of "Devil-Worshippers" and "Witchcraft" being the cause of the grotesque murder of my school-pal. All children were kept under close scrutiny by parents. No child was seen in the Ormeau Park for weeks after this traumatic event. I remember a strange happening about one week before Brian went missing;
As I meandered home from a day at Nettlefield Primary School, kicking a stone the whole way back to our house. It was a thing I did practically every day. The challenge was to see if I could kick the object the whole way home without losing it under a car or down a manhole. As I was engrossed in my stone-kicking task a car stopped alongside me and the window was wound down. A man leaned across the seat and asked me; "D'ya know where Gotha Street is son?"
I replied, "it's just up there” I pointed along London Road.
"Could you get in and show me where it is?" he asked. This request scared me.
"C’mon, get in and show me" he said as he opened the passenger door.
I really didn't want to get into this stranger's car, but I feared saying the word "no" to adults. This came from my father, who would completely go off in a rage if I ever said "no" to him or my mother. Unwillingly I climbed into the stranger's car, ignoring the voice in my head screaming at me “DON’T GET IN THAT CAR!”
The stranger drove up London Road and as we approached Gotha Street I said "It's just here on the right". The man ignored me and drove in silence past Gotha Street. By now I was petrified. Why was he driving on? Why was he saying nothing? I formed and executed a very quick plan. When he reached the end of London Road, I opened the car door and dived out tumbling onto the safety of the street. The stranger in the car sped away.
One week later Brian McDermott went missing from the same area. The two events may not have been connected, but I’m eternally relieved that I didn’t find out what this stranger wanted with me as he silently drove me away from my home.
Why oh why do adults hurt children?