50 years of silence broken: sisters tell of anguish over IRA murdering their brother in bed

Denis Wilson and the cemetery of the Minterburn Presbyterian Church – his final resting place

On December 7, 1971 at 10:30 p.m. there was a knock on the front door. My brother-in-law opened it and immediately three men stormed in.

Two went upstairs and the other went into the living room where the rest of the family was. They were held at gunpoint.

Register to our daily newsletter

The i-newsletter cut through the noise

Denis was gunned down by the two men who went upstairs. Fortunately there was no one in the next room, otherwise they would have been killed too, because the bullets hit the wall in the next room and hit the mattress.

How can you be so bad and cruel as to shoot someone who is in bed? All I can say is that I would rather be in Denis’ shoes than in theirs. They will meet their Creator on Judgment Day.

Denis was an only son who went to bed early that evening because he hadn’t been feeling very well. He was a real gentleman who would never have harmed anyone. He was especially patient, generous, and thoughtful.

Denis was a member of the Minterburn Presbyterian Church, which he attended every Sunday unless the service was required on the farm.

Denis was an avid darts player and was involved in both the badminton club and bowling club of the Minterburn Presbyterian Church. He has won many trophies.

On Sunday, December 5th, 1971, Denis stood in his church for the last time. Days later he was carried into church, carried out again and buried in the family grave.

We can look back with fantastic memories. You are all we have until one day we’re all back together. We will never forget Denis.

On December 7, 1971, our lives and our hopes for the family business changed forever.

Hopes that it would be in the name of Wilson for years to come ended that night.

Denis’s death broke our dad’s heart and he died a few years later and mom had to move on.

We know Denis was one of the first of many to be killed and we will always wonder why.

He was a very caring person. No one has ever been convicted of Denis’ death and at this point it is unlikely to ever happen.

We miss Denis so much and think of him every day of our lives.

>> Maureen Maguire (Notes from a recent memorial service in Minterburn)

Denis served in the B Specials and joined the UDR as a part-time soldier in 1971 because he wanted to fulfill his duty to protect his country and its fellow citizens.

He began his service with the 6th (Co Tyrone) Battalion. A week before he was assassinated, he had been transferred to the 8th Battalion (Co Tyrone), which had been formed seven days earlier on December 1, 1971.

At the time of his death, Denis had been promoted to Lance Corporal.

Our only consolation is to know that he died instantly, so we can only hope that he did not suffer.

We have developed from a happy family to one that is constantly looking over our shoulders, suspicious of the world and our fellow human beings.

We couldn’t stop wondering why? What? Who?

Why did God allow this?

What harm had Denis or any of the rest of us done?

Who ordered this and who were the men who did it?

The days and weeks after his death were a fog; we just couldn’t believe he wasn’t there anymore.

We believe that Denis was murdered by the PIRA because he was an only son, a Protestant farmer who lived near the border and was a member of the UDR.

It was and still is tragic and cruel to think that Denis left us, but he left a life full of memories that we remember and cherish.

His death affected my parents in different ways.

My father returned to farming but sadly died heartbroken three and a half years later, while my mother became more reluctant and did not show that she was injured. Although she thought about Denis all the time, she only spoke about him occasionally, I think only because it hurt too much.

Martin Luther King Jr once said: “Faith takes the first step when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

I think that carried the family through those dark days. God gave us strength when ours were exhausted, He gave us hope in the dark when we couldn’t see the light, He walked by our side and gave us strength to move on, and He was with us when we took every step .

Faith in the Lord comes at a time like this because without him there is nothing. We had to believe, and still do, that Denis is in heaven, where he is at peace and no longer in pain.

We believe that our grandparents and now our parents will take care of him and we know that one day we will meet again.

This belief is the only way to go on living in order to survive each day. We can look back with fantastic memories, it’s all we have until one day we will all be together again.

We will never forget our big brother Denis.

Further news and opinions can be found on the homepage of the news letter >>> here <<

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request for you.

With the coronavirus bans having had a huge impact on many of our advertisers – and therefore the revenue we generate – we depend on you to get a digital subscription more than ever.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and in our app. With a digital subscription you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster loading times and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to support them. By helping each other, we can help you provide trustworthy, fact-checked content for this website.

Leave a Comment