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Twenty years of pain for IRA victim's family

By RIC CLARK

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Twenty years on, the story still rings with tragedy.

Two weeks after he married his Belfast sweetheart, Brian Shaw went out to pay for the wedding flowers. Several hours later he was dead, murdered by the Irish Republican Army.

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Life in July 1974 couldn't have been too bad for Shaw. He was 21, with a new bride. He had just left the Royal Green Jackets after a couple of years service and managed to land work as a lorry driver in his wife's hometown.

There was a future for Shaw, and when he met an old comrade in Cornmarket, he was undoubtedly in the mood for a drink. It would cost him his life.

Hours later, a woman in the Lower Falls area of Belfast was out searching for her cat. When she peered into a derelict house at Arundel Street, she saw Brian Shaw, a hood over his head and two bullets in his brain.

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Shaw had accompanied his friend to the Glengeen Bar, in the nationalist Divis area in West Belfast.

His Nottinghamshire English accent did not take much time to be noticed, and while his companion sat and watched, two men took Shaw by the arms and led him from the pub.

The friend said no one spoke a word. With the exception of his killers, that was the last time anyone saw Brian Shaw alive.

Across town, the parents of Shaw's young wife returned from a holiday to their home at the top of the Castlereagh Road. The police called at the house for her father, who went to identify the body of his new son- in-law.

Two weeks after becoming a bride -- probably before she got used to hearing herself called Mrs. Shaw -- Maureen Ashwood was a widow.

'My brother was only there (in Belfast) because he fell in love with a lovely Irish girl and agreed to live in her hometown,' said Malcolm Shaw from his home in England. 'He did nothing to deserve this.'

Maureen's brother, Sammy, added, 'Brian was a good lad. I was the best man at their wedding, because I got to know him very well.

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'During the two years he was courting Maureen, he spent all his home leave at our house. It was an absolute tragedy.'

Two decades later the pain goes on. Maureen has remarried and has a family in another part of Belfast, and cannot bring herself to talk about losing her young husband.

Shaw's mother was recently widowed herself, and her surviving children have taken her away from her home for the next couple of weeks.

The families have thrown up protective rings around both women, because, long after he was buried, the sorry episode of Brian Shaw's death will again be dragged into court.

There has already been a trial, in 1975, but like the majority of terrorist murder cases in Belfast, it was over and then forgotten for the public at large.

That case concluded that an IRA member named Martin Skillen killed Shaw. Skillen was not before the court, having been shot dead by the army three weeks after Shaw's death as he raised an Aramalite rifle.

But Paul Hill, allegedly the other man who took Shaw from the Glengeen Bar, was there for the trial. He was jailed for life on the basis of a confession, and then returned to England to await trial for pub bombings that killed nine in Guildford and Woolwich.

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For 15 years, Shaw's relations believed one of the men responsible for his death had been brought to justice.

Then in 1989, the Guildford Four were cleared because of questions about their confessions. Three -- Gerry Conlon, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson -- walked free from the Old Bailey.

Because of the Shaw conviction, Paul Hill had to be brought back to Belfast to apply for bail. It was granted, and the five-year preparation for his appeal began.

This week he walks into the Court of Appeal for the final phase of his legal battle, accompanied by his famous American in-laws, the Kennedys. Shaw's relatives will also be there.

'We want to be there,' said Sammy Ashwood. 'The family felt that Paul Hill has sort of stolen the show.'

Malcolm Shaw is bitter about Hill's present position as media celebrity and a member of the Kennedy clan.

'It's very difficult,' he said. 'From a family view we have mixed feelings about what's going on at the moment.

'We've come to terms with what happened to Brian, but my brother, who was completely innocent, has been dead for 20 years, while Paul Hill is now reputed, I don't know if it's true, to be a millionaire.

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'Where's the justice in that?'

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