Heartbroken widow’s plea for witness to come forward

Martin L'Estrange.
Martin L'Estrange.

The widow of a man murdered in Lurgan 20 years ago has issued an emotional plea for a witness in the case to come forward.

Maurica L’Estrange was left a heartbroken widow and her two children cruelly robbed of their father after a UFF murder gang gunned down Martin L’Estrange as he worked at Ronan Press at William Street on August 11, 1994.

His death came just weeks before the loyalist ceasefire, no one has ever been arrested in connection with his murder.

This week Maurica spoke frankly to the ‘MAIL’ and, fighting emotions, asked for a man who had called the confidential telephone in 1994 with descriptions of the killers and their vehicles to contact the police again.

In an emotional interview Maurica spoke of the husband she lost and the devastating impact his death had on her and her children.

The pair had been childhood sweethearts, going together since they were 14, brought up two streets apart from each other. they got engaged when they were 18, the pair returning from watching their beloved Manchester United play when Martin proposed, a double celebration as Martin had signed for Irish league side Larne that day.

They were married at age 20, Maurica said “He was just a great family man, a great worker,”

She revealed Martin (aged 36) had left the Belfast Telegraph night shift to take a lower paid job at Ronan Press on days so that he could spend more time with his family.

In a heartbreaking irony she revealed he had been working in Lurgan for just five weeks before he was murdered, having returned from a ‘second honeymoon’ just two days before.

They had two children, Leah and Paul, and she now has four grandsons and a granddaughter.

The eldest grandson is called Martin after his granddad and youngest granddaughter Maurica: “Paul had said to me whenever Maurica was born ‘Mummy that’s Martin and Maurica back together again. I was really chuffed to bits whenever they called her after me, I thought that was a lovely gesture.

“Martin would have loved the grand kids, I still hope that I get a wee Irish league footballer out of one of them, or maybe across the water playing for Manchester United.

“I loved football, Paul regrets now that he didn’t stay playing football. He was so young at the time he felt he couldn’t play football anymore. He played for Lisburn Youth, which had Catholics and Protestants, and in his wee mind as a 10-year-old at the time - even though he has lots of Protestant friends now - he just felt that ‘Protestants murdered my daddy and I don’t want to play football no more’. I tried and tried my best, I brought him to training, I was the only mummy there it was mainly daddies but whenever I lost my husband I had to try to be both mummy and daddy.

“Paul really regrets that now, he knows himself the talent he had was unbelievable, like his daddy. His wee son Corin, he’s quite a wee footballer and let’s hope he turns semi-professional or maybe even professional. My daughter’s three boys all play football, so you never know we might get a wee footballer following in their grandfather’s footsteps.”

Of that fateful day, when ‘the Troubles’ left their indelible scar, Maurica said: “I got up that morning, the children were off school for the summer holidays and even though my husband was very health conscious he still loved a fry so I made him a fry and whenever he was going out the door he gave me a kiss and told me he loved me and I told him I loved him.”

It was the last time she saw him alive - on his way to the rail halt to take him to Lurgan.

“The weekend previous, We went to Salthill where we’d had our honeymoon 16 years previous. We’d never been back to Salthill since and we went to the hotel we stayed in and he asked to see the book of residence from 1978 to see us signing in Mr and Mrs L’Estrange which was funny and strange in a way afterwards, We were only back two days when he went out to work that morning.

“The doorbell rang about 11.15am. Paul answered it and he came into me and said ‘Mummy it’s the police, they want to speak to you’. I thought my God what would the police want me for, and I sort of twigged we got a parking fine while we were away and I thought they were coming because of the parking fine. But it wasn’t. They asked to speak to me in private and they said to me we have some bad news for you. I was thinking God I wonder has something happened to my mummy or my daddy, were they in a car accident or did something happen to one of Martin’s family.

“I wasn’t thinking about Martin at all because to me he was safe in work. They said ‘it’s your husband Martin, he was shot at Ronan Press this morning’ and I went into hysterics and I jumped up and I kept asking the police is he alive or dead, the tears were tripping me,

“I came in to Leah and Paul and I put my arms around them and told them ‘bad boys shot your daddy dead, they’ve murdered your daddy’. Paul and Leah were clinging on to me. I was crying, Leah was crying and Paul was crying. Paul started to punch the wall and kick it in anger, It was just so awful to see the heartbreak in them right away and in myself.

“He was just the love of my life and I will love him for the rest of my life.

“My heart was just broke in a million pieces. To think someone can walk into your husband’s place of work and murder him because he’s a Catholic. It’s crazy.”

She went on: “I was really glad that the UFF didn’t use an excuse saying my husband was a member of some organisation, the UFF made a statement saying the reason he was murdered was because he printed the Republican News which was the greatest nonsense, the Republican News wasn’t printed at Ronan Press. He printed the Andersonstown News and the Shankill people. That was part of his job.”

Of the UFF she said: “I hate them from the bottom of my stomach. They robbed me of my husband, robbed my children of a good father. I will never in my life forgive them.

“The UFF robbed my husband Martin L’Estrange of his voice, they took his voice away from him, now to this day I am his voice. I hope they don’t think they’ve got away with this, I will fight if I have to till the last breath in my body I will fight that justice will be done. I want these people brought to justice, they committed a crime so they’ll do the time for it.”

And she issued this emotional appeal: “I would like to say to anyone reading this for to prick their conscience, if they know anything whatsoever about the people who murdered my husband in Ronan Press on Thursday, August 11, 1994. There was a man who actually rang Crimestoppers or the Confidential Telephone who was sitting parked at the back of Ronan Press when the murderers went in. I want to thank him for making that call. Please, please whoever this man is please there’s peace now, don’t be frightened to come forward and give a statement. I beg you to please come forward and give a statement to bring closure for me and my children and my little grandchildren who never got to know their grandda.

“And anyone else, if they know anything, the smallest of things, please phone the police and please, please tell them what you know to help me bring them to justice.”

To date she has felt let down by the police and says they did nothing to follow up on the crucial lead about the getaway cars, not even checking who may have owned a red Escort that could have had a connection.

The family have also pointed to possible collusion as the UDR had stopped Martin three weeks before and he had told her he had given too much information about himself. “He was set up.” Maurica said.