Son of RUC officer killed by rocket recalls 'devastating' impact of IRA attack on family 50 years on

A service of remembrance will take place at Tubrid Parish Church on Sunday. Credit: SEFF Victims & Survivors

The son of a policeman killed in an IRA rocket attack in Fermanagh 50 years ago has spoken of the devastating impact it had on the family.

Father-of-six Robert Keys was 55 when he died in the attack at Belleek RUC station, near the border with the Republic of Ireland, on November 28 1972.

A service of remembrance will take place at Tubrid Parish Church on Sunday.

His youngest son Bertie Keys remembered the day his father died, saying: "Dad was in Belleek RUC station on duty, and my mum Lily was busy at home organising the family and farm at Bannaghmore.

"Mum would have started with the winter farming chores when everyone had left for school or work.

"Dad had just finished his night duty and was going up the stairs at 9.25am.

He met a young soldier, Sergeant Bob Causer, from the Queen's Royal Lancers.

They had a brief chat before continuing.

"As Dad passed a steel-reinforced window, an RPG rocket was fired from a wooded area in the Republic of Ireland known locally as Smugglers Lane.

"The station immediately came under sustained attack for about 20 minutes.

"The rocket penetrated the reinforced steel window and exploded. Dad was thrown down the stairs. He was already dead when Sgt Causer went to his aid.

"The impact on the family was devastating, I will never forget the pain on mum's face when I returned from school.

"Mum passed away on December 4 1996. I feel mum's coping ability stemmed from the fact she held no thoughts of recrimination or bitterness towards anyone.

"She never understood why or how these criminal gangs could decide when another innocent human being was to be murdered."

Kenny Donaldson, from victims' organisation the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), said he hoped the local community would join the Keys family at the service this weekend.

He said: "Robert Keys was a hardworking and devoted family man and servant of the community and was viewed as an excellent policeman.

"He left behind his wife Lillian and six children.

"His murder brought a sense of shock and revulsion across the community and consigned his wife to raise their six children alone.

"On Sunday November 27 there will be a special service of remembrance and thanksgiving marking the 50th anniversary since Bobby's murder.

"The service will take place in Tubrid Parish Church at 2.30pm. We call upon the community to join the family in honouring Bobby's memory."

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