The families of two innocent boys who died when IRA bombs exploded in a sleepy Cheshire town have spoken of how their deaths remain a ‘symbol for peace’ – 25 years after the atrocity.
Schoolboy Tim Parry, 12, and three-year-old Johnathan Ball were both killed when two bombs hidden in separate cast-iron litter bins detonated on March 20, 1993.
Johnathan died at the scene while Tim passed away five days later when his life-support was switched off following the senseless tragedy.
Johnathan Ball (left), 3, and Tim Parry (right), 12, were killed in 1993 after IRA bombs exploded in the small town of Warrington, Cheshire
Tim Parry was caught in the full force of the blast after going into town to buy his mum a card – and a pair of Neville Southall Everton football shorts – died five days later in hospital (pictured: Tim’s parents Wendy and Colin Parry)
Today Warrington fell silent as its community remembered the tragic events which unfolded 25 years ago (pictured l-r: Paul Comeford, Colin Parry, Wendy Parry)
More than 50 other people were left with life-changing injuries after the two bombs were detonated within a minute of each other the day before Mother’s Day.
The atrocity in Warrington, Cheshire, shocked the world but no one has ever been prosecuted over Tim and Johnathan’s deaths.
This comes despite former IRA commander Martin McGuinness describing the bombings as a ‘shameful act’ and expressing his personal regret in 2013.
Over the past quarter of a century, the innocent victims’ names have become synonymous with the campaign for peace.
Warrington fell silent today as its community remembered the tragic events which unfolded 25 years ago.
The poignant commemoration service on Bridge Street was attended by HRH The Princess Royal and the ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom, Adrian O’Neill.
Johnathan’s brother, Paul Comerford (second from right) spoke of his family’s heartache: ‘The tragic events of that day broke all our hearts, but it shattered Johnathan’s mum’s into tiny pieces that would never be mended’
Emotional Paul said that Johnathan’s mother died 16 years after her son, and that he believes she died of a ‘broken heart’
Ahead of the 25th anniversary, Wendy Parry opened up about her ‘cheeky’ son who crammed a lifetime into 12 short years.
She said: ‘He was a normal 12-year-old who loved life.
‘He was having golf lessons, he played squash with his dad, he played football for a Sunday team and school, he was having guitar lessons and he was a sea scout and he just got his solo sailing certificate.
‘He wanted to do everything all the time.
‘He had so many friends because he was so bubbly.
‘He could be cheeky and rude sometimes but he loved everything. It was like he crammed a lifetime into 12 years.’
Johnathan’s brother Paul Comerford, 41, also reflected on his family’s heartache 25 years on.
HRH Princess Royal attended the memorial in Warrington town centre today, to mark 25 years since the tragedy
He said: ‘March 20, 1993, is a day none of us will ever forget.
‘It affected many, many people, none more so than our family.
‘The tragic events of that day broke all our hearts, but it shattered Johnathan’s mum’s into tiny pieces that would never be mended.
‘She died 16 years later almost to the day of a ‘broken heart’.
‘So we his surviving family including three brothers, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and cousins will be remembering him and the people affected on this 25th anniversary.’
On the day of the bomb, authorities said ‘inadequate’ warnings had been received.
Crews from 17 ambulances dealt with casualties and a team of four plastic surgeons travelled to Warrington Hospital from the regional burns unit at Whiston Hospital, Knowsley (pictured: A fireman in 1993 after the bombing)
A cordoned off street in Warrington after the IRA bombing which devastated the lives of two families
The IRA later confirmed it made two telephone bomb warnings, one to police and one to a charity helpline, although Cheshire police chiefs said there was no mention of Warrington, making predicting a location impossible.
Less than 30 minutes after the warnings, the blasts happened within a minute of each other.
Two bombs, hidden in separate cast-iron litter bins, exploded on Bridge Street just after 12.12pm, the first outside a British Gas showroom and the second near Argos and Boots.
The first explosion drove panicking shoppers into the path of the next blast just seconds later, with police describing the bins and shrapnel as ‘huge hand grenades’.
Colin and Wendy Parry pictured in 1993 at a memorial for their son, 12-year-old schoolboy Tim
Weeping passersby pause in 1993 to add their flowers and prayers at a memorial in Bridge Street
Buses were organised to ferry people away from the scene and 20 paramedics, some on motorcycles, were sent to administer on the spot treatment.
Crews from 17 ambulances dealt with casualties and a team of four plastic surgeons travelled to Warrington Hospital from the regional burns unit at Whiston Hospital, Knowsley.
Johnathan Ball, who was in town with his babysitter buying a Mother’s Day Card, was killed at the scene.
Tim Parry was caught in the full force of the blast after going into town to buy his mum a card – and a pair of Neville Southall Everton football shorts – died five days later in hospital.
Brave Tim fought for life with massive brain injuries at Liverpool’s Walton Hospital for five days before his life support was switched off.
Johnathan Ball, who was in town with his babysitter buying a Mother’s Day Card, was killed at the scene
The atrocity in Warrington, Cheshire, shocked the world but no one has ever been prosecuted over Tim and Johnathan’s deaths
In the last 18 years parents Colin and Wendy Parry have run the ‘Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace’, an internationally recognised conflict resolution centre.
Before the service, Colin penned a poignant letter to his son. He concluded it:
‘Rest easy Tim and be assured that you have touched the lives of many people, most of whom you never met, but they have met you and they thank you for what you have given them.
‘It is 25 long years since I last saw you, heard you and held you my son, but you are never far.
‘You will be with us all until the time comes for us to join you and see you, hear you and hold you once again.
Speaking at the commemoration service, Tim’s father Colin said: ‘My son has become a symbol for peace over the past 25 years’
Mother Wendy Parry also spoke of her beloved son: ‘He could be cheeky and rude sometimes but he loved everything. It was like he crammed a lifetime into 12 years’
‘With eternal love, Your Dad, who is proud that you are his Son x.’
At Cheshire Police Headquarters in Winsford, the file on the fateful day 25 years ago remains open.
Speaking at the commemoration service, Tim’s father Colin said: ‘This is a very poignant day for the victims of the bombing.
‘It’s also a day that we can reflect with great pride on how we responded.
‘Neither Tim nor Johnathan died in vain.
‘Over time, ceasefire was agreed and the Good Friday agreement was signed.
‘My son has become a symbol for peace over the past 25 years.
‘It means a great deal to the families that you have turned out in such great numbers, thank you all.’