A CHURCH due to mark the anniversary of a horrific attack that left three of its members dead has been targeted in an overnight ram raid that ended with a car set alight outside the building.
The Darkley Massacre on November 20, 1983, remains one of the most chilling acts of the Troubles.
Worshippers, mainly made up of families, at Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church in the small south Armagh village were singing the hymn ‘Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?’ when gunmen burst in and shot dead three of the church elders.
The men who were murdered, 44year-old David Wilson, 59-year-old Harold Brown and 39-year-old Victor Cunningham, were all Protestant and all married with children.
Seven others were injured and, as the killers fled the scene they began firing at the congregation and sprayed the exterior of the wooden hall with bullets.
Now, as the church prepares to mark the atrocity 27 years on, it has been the target of a ram raid.
A stolen car was driven at speed through its locked gates, round its grounds and back out through a second set of locked gates during the early hours of Friday. Both sets of gates were badly damaged and the car was then set ablaze on the road directly in front of the church.
Church pastor David Bell declined to comment but Newry and Armagh UUP assemblyman Danny Kennedy, who was 24 when the atrocity happened and lives just a few miles from the village, described the incident as “despicable”.
“I can’t condemn this strongly enough,” he said. “What was visited upon the members of that church and community is not forgotten and indeed is still deeply traumatic. It’s disgraceful that anyone would behave in such a way towards the church and I’m sure the entire community is as shocked and appalled at this as I am.”
Mr Kennedy added: “This is always a very traumatic time, when memories of the murder of three church elders and injury of seven more parishioners come to the fore.
“It is disappointing, and frankly a disgrace, that anyone would inflict further stress on the people of this area, most particularly at this sad time of year.”