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Paper’s splash helps spark murder case review

An exclusive story by a weekly newspaper has helped lead to a review of a 30-year-old unsolved murder case.


The Londonderry Sentinel gained an exclusive interview with the husband of 29-year-old Joanne Mathers, who was shot dead as she collected census forms in April 1981.

Journalist Eamon Sweeney contacted her husband Lowry as this year’s census forms began dropping on doormats and he agreed to break his 30-year silence on the killing, which the IRA eventually admitted it was responsible for.

In the interview, her husband called on the police’s Historical Enquiries Team to revisit the investigation into her death and the body has now agreed to urgently review the case following a wave of support after the Sentinel’s story.


The Londonderry Sentinel's interview gained national media attention.



Lowry told the paper about the impact on him and the couple’s young son Shane after the killing, which no one has ever been brought to justice for – saying he only now felt able to talk about it.

He said: “I would now encourage the Historical Enquiries Team to revisit the murder.

“Forensics are amazing now compared to 30 years ago. It would be great if they could get somebody for it.”

Editor William Allen said the story was widely followed up by TV, radio and other newspapers and the call for the investigation to be reopened gained much support.

He said: “So strong was the wave of support for a renewed investigation into the senseless killing that just two days later the HET said it was reviewing the matter urgently.”

The shooting took place as Joanne was collecting census forms in the Gobnascale area of Londonderry during the 1981 IRA hunger strike as republicans tried to disrupt the census collection.